Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Son of a lawyer, Butterfield grew up in Chicago and in his teens joined with blues loving, University of Chicago student Elvin Bishop (later of “Fool Around and Fell In Love” fame), and the two started hanging with blues musicians like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Junior Wells on Chicago’s South Side.
In 1963, a watershed event in introducing blues to white America occurred when Butterfield’s racially mixed band was made the house band at Chicago blues club, Big John’s.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band was signed to Elektra Records after adding Michael Bloomfield (who at 16 was regarded on Chicago's South Side as a blues guitar wunderkind) as lead guitarist. Their original debut album was scrapped and re-recorded after adding organist Mark Naftalin and playing at the Newport Folk Festival, where they backed-up Bob Dylan as he "plugged-in".
At 1965's Newport Folk Festival, the revolutionary electric performance of The Butterfield Blues Band with Bloomfield on guitar, and their song “Born In Chicago” stirred debate. Closing the festival, Dylan played the first half acoustic, and then went “electric” backed by Bloomfield and the Butterfield Band. The crowd booed Dylan off the stage. He returned to the stage and played an acoustic “The Times Are A Changing.” Bloomfield went on to back Dylan on the classic Highway 61 Revisited album.
The self-titled debut, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band released in 1965 (1965 in music). Soon after the release, Lay became sick and was replaced by Billy Davenport on drums. Influenced by Ravi Shankar and other Eastern musicians, the band's second album was East-West (1966 in music), a critically acclaimed hit.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band album and the song “Born In Chicago,” dramatically influenced rock and roll by introducing young white America to the blues, by influencing bands from the Grateful Dead to the Allman Brothers, by helping motivate Bob Dylan to "go electric”, and launched Michael Bloomfield as an influential guitarist of the mid-1960s.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is said to have changed music forever. Along with their second album “East-West,” it popularized blues in America, became the genesis of folk rock, psychedelic/acid rock, and anything that rejected 1960s teen idol pop. Listening to Michael Bloomfield is believed to have influenced guitarists Duanne Allman , Jerry Garcia, Steve Miller, and Carlos Santana. The group is believed to be uniquely responsible for making the blues something other than a forgotten musical footnote, and Michael Bloomfield stands along with Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Brian Setzer, and Eddie Van Halen as some of America’s greatest blues influenced rock guitarists.
At the height of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's success, Mike Bloomfield formed Electric Flag with Nick Gravenites and Bishop began playing lead guitar for The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw (1967 in music). The album included David Sanborn, Bugsy Maugh and Phil Wilson , and was a commercial failure that stunted the band's career.
Paul Butterfield died of long-term alcohol abuse in 1987.
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