Sunday, September 7, 2014

# 54 Bobby Charles & Paul Butterfield

   Excellent songwriters are always in demand as a sub trade within the music industry. A singer may be a great interpreter of song, but a terrible songwriter, very few are good at both. History shows that most of the great singers from every generation use songwriters to create material for their own repertoire. Elvis, Sinatra, Muddy Waters, and Little Walter are only a few pre-sixties examples. 

   However, when Bob Dylan arrives on the mainstream pop scene in the early '60's, the role of the songwriter changes forever. Suddenly, the songwriters are center stage, and after Dylan, audiences expect their favourite singer to also perform songs their own material. 

    This new expectation is a very important development for popular music in the 60's. While it comes with new pressures for artists it also provides financial rewards for artists who are destined for brief careers as performers. The royalties generated from the recording of successful songs can, and often do, act as a pension plan for musicians. For example, one successful pop song can provide enough income for an artist to retire early from the grind of life on the road, and live a relatively comfortable lifestyle for their remaining  years.  

   Butterfield is a songwriter, but he isn't prolific, and none of his songs seem to capture the imagination of his audience, so he is a good candidate for a outside help. This is where his meeting of Bobby Charles proves to be so fortuitous. 

   Charles is born Robert Charles Guidry, grows up as a Cajun in AbbevilleLouisiana during the 40's. (Most of the Louisiana Cajuns are of French descent. During the 16 and 17 th century they settle in the Canadian maritime region, and live peaceful lives as Acadians. However, when the British take over the area in the 1700's they demand that the Acadians submit to their rule. When the Acadians refuse, they are executed or banished from Canada. This expulsion is an early example of ethnic cleansing in North American.The Band's performance of Robbie Robertson's song Acadian Driftwood is based on this experience) While the Acadians resettled in several different locations,  Louisiana is an important one. It is in this state that the word Acadian evolves into Cajun, their new culture flourishes. It is a brutal history of a people, and their culture, but one which gives birth to the artistry of Bobby Charles.

   So, as a Cajun, Charles grows listening to the music of his environment, but everything changes for him when, at 15, he hears Fats Domino for the first time. Years later he will recall that the experience changed my life forever. During the '50', he starts to write songs which are a combination of Cajun
and country music, the local industry even labels his work Swamp Pop. It is while working on his early career that he writes, and records songs like See You Later Alligator, Walkin' to New Orleans, Ain't Got No Home and But I Do, but unfortunately, none of his own recordings resonate with the mainstream audience. 

   However, in '56, Bill Haley and His Comets do have a hit with See You Later Alligator, and Charles' career as a songwriter is established. (Fat Domino will have success with another Charles song, Walkin' to New Orleans in '60, and then in '61, Clarence Frogman Henry will chart with the Charles composition But I Do).

   While Charles' success as a songwriter is growing by the late '50's, his career as a performer is not keeping stride, and so he leaves Louisiana to try his luck in L.A.. It is while in Los Angeles that a local record store owner hears his version of See You Later Alligator, and is so impressed with the young Cajun's work he contacts his friend Leonard Chess of Chess Records. The Chess Brothers  audition Charles over the phone, and immediately present him with a recording contract offer. However, after hearing Charles' vocal style; the Chess Brothers assume he is black, and are confounded when they finally meet the Cajun in the flesh. So, in an effort to repackage his public profile, the Chess Brothers decide to change his name from Robert Charles Guidry to Bobby Charles. Unfortunately, this does not help his career, his vocal interpretations do not resonate with the mainstream audience and so, he is released from contract by '57. He is disappointed, but regroups, and briefly records with the Imperial label, but that too ends in failure. The frustration leads Charles to retreat from the industry, and seek out other means of employment. 

   By 1972, Bobby Charles is living in New Mexico when he decides to move to the small town of Jeffersonville, New York. He isn't in their long before he decides that he doesn't like the vibes, and randomly chooses to move to Woodstock, New York. He is out of touch with the music business for a few years now, so according to him, he knows nothing about the Woodstock music scene. He isn't even aware that the Woodstock Music festival has made history. Charles also doesn't know that his move to Woodstock will change his life forever. 

   So, when he starts house hunting in Woodstock, he hires a real estate agent, and specifically instructs him to not show me any houses with the people living there because I don't want to take anyone's roof. However, the agent takes him to a house being occupied by Norman Smart 3rd, Jim Colgrove, and Paul Butterfield. (Charles, claims Butterfield is living in the back of the house.) He feels uncomfortable at first, but the mood changes when he sees the instruments set up in the house. The chance meeting sparks a conversation between the four musicians, and marks the beginning of a prosperous relationship for Charles, and Butterfield

  It is Butterfield who introduces Charles to industry giant Albert Grossman, and sets a new course for the songwriter. According to Charles, they all met at Grossman's restaurant, and then continued the evening at his Bearsville home. At the house party, Butterfield and Maria Muldaur are there to witness Grossman's first impressions, and the birth of Charles revived career. 

   The the new business relationship between Grossman, and Charles will prove to be significant for several singers in the 70's, but it is Butterfield's new band that reaps the initial rewards of the his talent. Charles will become an unofficial member of Better Days, and is often, according to Charles, inaccurately credited with giving them their name Better Days. He thinks that Butterfield already has the name, but concedes that it could come from a toast that he frequently uses, There ain't no love, where there ain't no wine, Better Days are coming. 

       Regardless of the speculation, Charles will either collaborate, or pen several songs for Butterfield's
new band. He writes Done A Lot of Wrong Things for the first Better Days album, and for the It All Comes Back release he contributes half of the material: Win or Lose, Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It , Small Town Talk, and the title track It All Comes BackHe also composes a song, Better Days for the band, but laments they busted up before they could record it. In addition, Butterfield will use Charles' He's Got All The Whiskey as part of his concert setlist. After Paul Butterfield's Better Days dissolves, Butterfield will use Charles song Here I Go Again on his first solo effort, Put It In Your Ear.

   Bobby Charles is one of those songwriters who is probably heard by millions, but too few know his name. His songs are interpreted by many of a generation's greatest singers. Artists such as: Joe CockerDelbert McClintonLou RawlsRay CharlesTom Jones, Kris KristoffersonRita CoolidgeEtta James, Junior Wells, Clarence Gatemouth BrownBo DiddleyDavid Allan CoeMuddy Waters, and UB40 all record and perform Charles material. 

     However, in spite of his success as a songwriter his own vocals never seem to gain traction with a mainstream audience. Even his performance of Down South In New Orleans at the Band's farewell concert The Last Waltz ends up on the cutting room floor. After the 70's Charles will once again, retreat from music industry.

   It must be frustrating for frustrating and disappointing, but at least the royalties from his songs allow him to retire to a house back in Abbeville, Louisiana. It is here that he continues to write songs, periodically releasing them on his own label Rice 'n 'Gravy

   In his last decade, Bobby Charles experiences a string of really devastating events: his house burns down, and then, after rebuilding the second house, it blows away in a hurricane, then in the 2000s, he is diagnosed with cancer, and dies after collapsing in his new home in January 2010. 

   In spite of not attaining his initial goal of becoming a successful singer Bobby Charles leaves behind a really rich legacy of timeless pop songs which are still being recorded, and performed today. As a testament to this legacy, have a listen to Shannon McNally's tribute album, Small Town Talk: (Songs of Bobby Charles) (2013), you'll love it!


Monday, August 4, 2014

# 53 Paul Butterfield's Better Days in the Steelyard Blues

    It isn't always a popular notion, but musicians who try to make a living selling their work are very similar to small businesses. They need to constantly produce new product, and then promote if they hope to survive. Even then, they need a well connected manager, and an established record label willing to distribute their product to have a chance at a successful career.

    Most of a musician's income comes from live performances, (very few can just rely on recorded music), so the need for incessant travel paramount.  The dynamic of the young, talented troubadour traveling the world is often romanticized in the entertainment media, but there is an element which is consciously omitted from this story. When an artist is no longer young, and the novelty of life on the road has worn off; the lifestyle of the road is less hospitable, and turns into an emotionally taxing grind.

   When the Butterfield Blues Band ends in '71, it is the end of an era in popular music, and potentially the end of Paul Butterfield's career as a musician, and bandleader. The critics are generally kind toward his seven albums, as well as his hundreds of live performances. The news of the demise of his band cause many critics speculate on the causes with full articles in national trades,  Butterfield started out (at least record wise) with the licks down pat, the emotional sympathy and perfect fodder for artistic growth.  But to his inevitable commercial defeat, he lacked the aforementioned proclivity for the machinations of rock stardom.  Others say things like There’s a certain excitement only Paul Butterfield’s Blues Band can create. It’s a foot-stomping, hand clapping type of excitement that is generated from the wails of the three saxophones, the pounding drums, the screech of electric guitars.....the Elektra artists held their audience in a very tight, polished performance....  The New York Times says: Paul Butterfield is today the creator of a new idiom, and Rock impresarioBill Graham refers to the band as the house band  for his Fillmore venues. However, by 'the end of '71 all of these accolades from the industries most influential voices are fading.

   The death of his big band must bring psychological release for Butterfield though, at least he doesn't have to answer the silly questions from interviewers about why his band is called a blues band anymore. He also doesn't need to act as the leader of one of the biggest, influential Rock bands on the touring circuit, or worry about meeting the demands for a hit record from Elektra. The pressure of being a leader in the popular culture of a generation, let alone an innovator, must be emotionally exhausting.

    By the end of '71, Butterfield isn't touring much, and instead is growing domestic roots in WoodstockN.Y.. Some historians compare the rural musician's colony to the Quartier Latin in Paris during the early 20th century. In the '60's and '70's, the little town is home to many of the greatest artists of the '60's generation. Nestled just outside Woodstock, off route 212, Butterfield has a young family, two horses, two dogs, and a house on a ten acre spread. He counts Van Morrisonthe Band, and Bob Dylan and many other influential artists as his friends and neighbours.  Maria Muldaur remembers those days, .... we'd go over to Paul's house -- Kathy was pregnant with Lee at the time -- and we'd have dinner and sit around the piano and sing and jam; Paul and Geoffrey would mostly be playing tunes and exchanging ideas. At a certain point Kathy would have to go up to bed, and we'd be jamming away. But after she got upstairs she'd lower this little microphone through a grate in the ceiling and she'd turn a mic on and be recording us! The creative juices would be flowing far out to the night. Butterfield is closing in on his thirtieth birthday, and he has spent the past six years on the road, so the domestic lifestyle is new to him, and seductive.

    Professionally, his career as a creative force is established, and temporarily secure. He has a new recording contract with his very well connected manager Albert Grossman, and owner of the new label, Bearsville Records. In addition, Grossman has opened up a recording studio which which also provides him with plenty of studio work. There are also several local venues like Cafe Expresso which provide all the local musicians with opportunities to socialize, try new ideas, and keep their chops in good shape. The Woodstock music community has become a world insulated from the reality of being a working musician. There are all the material trappings of success within a small area, but they all need to leave the colony at some point to pay for the lifestyle.

    Butterfield still wants to write, record and perform music, but he is getting tired of the demands associated with his career, and just wants the freedom to act on his own schedule. He wants a new band, but doesn't want to repeat the experiences of the big band, so he consciously thinks of ways to make his new band different from his previous groups. As Geoff Muldaur recalls,  That band had gotten bigger and crazier, and it was capable of generating some tremendous grooves, but I think after it ended Paul was looking for something very different. The big bands he leads in the past are an impressive creative force, but they required a lot of leadership. Keep in mind that it is a unique skill to be a bandleader. As the leader you are not only a contributor to the music, but you are the driving force, the representative to the industry, and your fan base. A good bandleader needs to be one of us and one of them.

   Similar to ButterfieldGeoff & Maria  Muldaur are without a band. Their marriage is over, and so is their professional union. As Maria recalls, At that time we -- Paul, Geoff and me -- were all basically unemployed and not involved in any sort of project,.... My recollection is that Paul and Geoff and I were all hanging out at Deanie's. Albert may have been there too. And we all just decided to put a band together. If Grossman wasn't there, he was quick to give the project his blessing. As the project takes shape, Butterfield's role as the sole leader and instead, the three have many discussions about material, potential musicians, and musical directions. They decide that the new Butterfield sound will be a less urban sound, and more reflective of the current rural environment.

   So, the process of building a new Butterfield Band begins with Butterfield, Maria and Geoff Muldaur, and then a search for a drummer (Butterfield has an obsession with strong drummers and especially the foot). After a few weeks, and many visits to local bars, he asks Christopher Parker to become the band's drummer. Nineteen year old Parker is a Woodstock drummer who acts as a hired gun for many of the local Rock, Gospel, Blues,and Jazz, bands. His willingness and ability to adapt to any musical situation is an important factor in his selection for the position. Butterfield recognizes the significance of a strong drummer, but in the '70's, a guitarist is essential.

   In the popular music of the 60's and into the '70's, it is important for all bands to showcase a guitar stylist with the ability to solo. Amos Garrett, is actually a native of Detroit, but learns to play while growing up in Canada. He is a Canadian citizen, and earns his chops touring with various bands in the Windsor to Quebec City corridor before landing a job with the Canadian folk duo Ian and Sylvia (managed by Grossman). Garrett is definitely a stylist. He has a well developed string bending technique that distinguishes him from every other guitarist in the industry, and creates very tasteful solos.

    Another Canadian living in Woodstock is a close friend, and neighbor of Butterfield's. Rick Danko's lyrical bass lines, and emotive voice will be an excellent addition to the new sound, but the timing is not good because of his responsibilities to the Band, so his tenure is brief. As the pressures for Butterfield to take a new band on the road grow he hires San Francisco bassist John Kahn who has be working on coast with Bloomfield, Naftalin and Jerry Garcia to complete the rhythm section.

   To fill out the front line of the new Butter band, West Coast organist Merle Saunders is asked to join the band. Saunders will be an important component of the new sound. Butterfield is attracted to the sounds of cross-over artist Jimmy Smith, so Saunders is a real coup. As Parker recalls,  Paul wanted that B-3 jazz sound with Merle, like Jimmy Smith, under solos. And Kahn was totally into Ray Brown and Milt Hinton and could lay that big fat sound on the bottom.  So, in the summer of '72, the first configuration of Paul Butterfield's Better Days start working the concert circuit throughout the U.S. with the goal of refining the new sound, and planning a first album.

   While on the West Coast most of the new band (Geoff Muldaur is excluded) go into the studio in L.A. to record the soundtrack for the recent counter culture film starring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland (another Canadian) Steelyard Blues. All the songs are Bloomfield/ Gravenites compositions with Gravenites doubling as producer. Notice that Butterfield's name is important enough that it appears in large print on the front cover of the album. He only has one song to sing  Here I Come (There She Goes), but adds his harmonica to every track. The film is now quite dated, and most of the songwriting is not timeless, but Butterfield's harmonica is still considered some of his best work.

   It is an excellent, and lucrative beginning for Butterfield's new band, but after a summer of tours and recording, both Kahn and Saunders have had enough of life on the road, and to return to San Francisco. A disappointing development for Butterfield, but he needs to be working, and so returns to Woodstock to regroup. He knows that if he doesn't continue, he risks losing everything he has build in Woodstock, and there is always competition for his job.

    Artists must remain current, and continuously produce new product, or they run the very real risk of being forgotten. By '71, there are many singer/harmonica players recording, and touring, all of them working toward achieving the same success Butterfield temporarily owns. Charlie Musselwhite is recording and working the West Coast, Taj Mahal is releasing his fifth album, Boston's J. Geils Band is showcasing the heavily amplified sounds of Magic Dick, on the lickin' stick, and up in CanadaRichard Newell a.k.a. The King Biscuit Boy has left Ronnie Hawkins' band to front a loud blues/rock band called Crowbar. All of them are working toward achieving the same position Butterfield is currently enjoying.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

# 52 The Muldaurs and Paul Butterfield

   There are many short biographies of Paul Butterfield that profess he is a product of the 1960's South Side of Chicago Blues Scene, but this not true. He never actually lives in the neighbourhood that houses the poor and working poor of the city. Actually, Butterfield grows up in the cosmopolitan, middle to upper middle income neighborhood of Hyde Park. It sits like an oasis in the middle of the South Side of Chicago, but has none of its visible socio-economic sores. In spite of his hillbilly hair cut, and reputation as a South Side bluesmanButterfield is actually product of the very white, middle class, socially liberal Folk Revival of the late fifties, and early sixties.

   The original motivation of the Folk Revival is for young people to demonstrate their discontent with the mainstream corporate values which govern popular music of the 1950's by reviving traditional acoustic American folk music. The revival resonates within thousands of young people in several Western countries, as millions rediscover traditional folk music. Unfortunately, the success of the Folk Revival will become a victim of corporate values it is designed to reject, and Traditional Folk Music will be a mainstream moneymaker.
    While the original intentions of the revival are sincere, the movement does harbour its own zealots. They create unrealistic rules to maintain quality control, but instead, only serve to threaten the natural development of the art form. Their main rule seems to be: duplicate the music of previous generations, but be sure not add to it. It is a rigid social engineering project that elite folk purists like Pete Seeger, and several others preach, but can not enforce.

    However, as with all social movements, there are are rebels within the group. Artists such as: Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Geoff Muldaur and Maria D'Amato refuse to run with the pack and instead, infuse traditional folk music with original lyrics, electric instrumentation, and a much deserved new life for the music. This relatively small group of artists are the stylists of the genre, and will help to change the direction of Traditional folk, and mainstream popular music for several decades.

   Maria D'Amato grows up in New York City's Greenwich Village, and by the early sixties she is heavily involved in neighborhood folk scene. She regularly sings with up and coming artists like: John Sebastian, David Grisman, Stefan Grossman, and the Even Dozen Jug Band. Eventually she lands a job singing, and playing fiddle with the very successful Jim Kweskin Jug Band. While in the band she becomes romantically involved with one of the founding members, Geoff Muldaur, and two marry.

   Muldaur is from the New York City suburb of Pelham, New York, and similar to many artists in the Folk Revival, he not only sings, and plays guitar, but he also possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of musical styles. These skills place him in the position of a important creative force within the band.

   However, by the late 60's Geoff and Maria Muldaur leave the Kweskin band to begin their own solo career, and by 1969 they release their first album Pottery Pie. The album is all covers of Folk, Rock 'n' Roll, best described as an album of Roots Music. (It also contains the original version of Geoff Muldaur's interpretation of  Aquarela do Brasil which is used by Terry Gilliam's for his critically acclaimed 1985 film, Brazil.)

  Like so many artists of the mid to late sixties, the Muldaurs move to Woodstock, New York, and quickly integrate into the vibrant arts community. While living their new life they become close friends of Paul and Kathy Butterfield.

  During their time in Woodstock
they record their second album, Sweet Potatoes. It is on this album that they use Butterfield's harmonica on their interpretation of Chuck Berry's Havana Moon.

    Unfortunately, shortly after the release of their Sweet Potatoes, the Muldaur marriage breaks down, and they both look toward solo careers. It will be Butterfield who will reunite the pair, if only on a professional level.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

# 51 Eric Von Schmidt and Paul Butterfield

    During the early sixties Butterfield has a small group of followers on who hang out at Chicago's Near North Side's bohemian club Big John's, but he isn't much more than a passing fancy in the South Side clubs. Even after he becomes a national artist, very few talk about him in the South Side blues clubs.

   This lack of recognition on the South Side is fine with Butterfield though; he doesn't feel any real attachment to the scene anyway. To be honest, I didn't think that much of the whole Chicago scene back then. I was just interested in learning how to play. (Muretich)

    However, he does have a loyal following on the East Coast, mostly among the Cambridge Folk Scene. A couple of years later he will develop a following among the counter culture Rock movement growing out of San Francisco, and then during the '70's become a fixture in the Woodstock artist community, but it is Cambridge that serves his artistic development best. He will record with a few artists from the area, one of whom is Eric Von Schmidt.

    Von Schmidt has two careers, one as a singer/songwriter and another as an acclaimed artist. During the sixties he collects, writes, and performs traditional folk songs. During his artistic journey he influences several other young artists, Tom Rush, and Bob Dylan are only a couple.

    He is also credited, although erroneously, with writing the Dylan staple Baby, Let Me Follow Down, but according to Von Schmidt, he only adapted the song from a Blind Boy Fuller composition, and he credits three quarters of that song to Reverend Gary Davis. However, in partnership with author, and influential music producer, Jim Rooney, he is credited as the co-author of the really excellent history of the Cambridge Folk Scene, Baby, Let Me Follow You Down.

   He will go on to create paintings for the album covers of Joan Baez, Cisco Huston, Reverend Gary Davis, and Geoff and Maria Muldaur. He will also earn a Grammy for his Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 1-3. In addition, Butterfield will record his brooding blues Rule the Road on his first Better Days album.

   Eric Von Schmidt's sixth album release is 2nd Right 3rd Row, it features great stylists such as Amos Garrett on a number of string instruments, including bird calls, Garth Hudson on organ, liner notes by Bob Dylan, and some very soulful harmonica by Paul Butterfield.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

# 50 Fenway Theater Boston December, 1971

   In retrospect, the success of most really influential bands seems to be accidental rather than premeditated. For example, in the 60's, the music of groups such as the Beatles, the Band, and of course, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band actually change the direction of popular music, but this contribution is mostly product of circumstance rather than planning.

    The impressive feat of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band is that their music captures the imagination of a generation of listener without any mainstream hits, and a relatively small advertising budget. This is an notable accomplishment for any band, but for a blues band, it is especially significant.

    However, similar to all important bands, the creative energy of the Butterfield band is profound, but brief.  After East West, it seems they are just approaching their peak, but nobody considers that two albums is all the music they have to contribute. This timely departure from the music scene could explain why both albums are still in print, and selling fifty years after their release date.

    One of the perks of groups disbanding is that they leave their audience hungry for more music.  After the original Paul Butterfield Blues Band ends, there are a number of press rumours about reformation of the band, probably fueled by industry money eager to make cash from the resurrection of the original band. There are even stories about band manager Albert Grossman trying to entice Butterfield and Bloomfield to reunite the famous partnership, but these stories prove to be baseless, and probably a product of wishful speculation on the part of concert promoters.

    So, what happens when the principal members of the The Paul Butterfield Blues Band do reunite? In December of '71, it happens in Boston, and the results are anticlimactic, proving that sometimes a yearning for past experiences is best left to the imagination.

    Back then, film maker Bob Lewis takes the initiative to film a semi-reunion of the band in an effort to capture some of its past glory, but his efforts fall flat. Not because of his technical expertise, he does manage to cull 40 solid minutes of the concert, but the film captures none of the band's original energy.

   There are some brief glimpses of the band principals in their heyday, but the changes are obvious. Everything from the body language of the musicians on stage, to the music they play lacks much of the fervour of the original band. They are obviously unrehearsed, and for the most part, all performances are tentative, even lethargic.

   If you are a fan of the original band, the anticipation of viewing this film will spark excitement, but it doesn't take long for that enthusiasm to spiral into disappointment. The whole project is probably an attempt by the artists, and the promoters at making some quick cash.

   Over the past few decades many successful bands reunite well past their due date, it is a lucrative industry for promoters, and the artists. However, the wise (or wealthy) bands like the Beatles or Led Zeppelin shy away from this activity, and the decision is probably is best for them, and their fans. It's too bad The Paul Butterfield Blues Band isn't wealthy or wise enough to recognize this reality in December of '71.

The Reunion of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band Fenway Theater, Boston, Mass., December 10 - 11 1971.

Paul Butterfield: Harmonica & vocals.
Mike Bloomfield: Guitar, piano & vocals.
Mark Naftalin:  Keyboards
John Kahn: Bass
Billy Mundi: Drums

Video Recording © 1971, 2013 Robert C Lewis - incidentally my first ever 2-camera live-switch direction - and without camera monitors or a clue ... recorded on an IVC 1" - and transferred to 3/4" that wouldn't play because of tape breakdown - careful pre-baking and dozens of head cleaning sessions, most of the set finally played well enough to post. I've omitted really unwatchable parts but left it if the distortion was short. thanks for watching ...    

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

# 49 Shel Silverstein & Paul Butterfield

    Every generation has at least one artist whose talent is unique, diverse, and whose production is enormous enough that it influences several areas of artistic expression. Shel Silverstein is one of these artists. His work is still a major contributor to American arts and culture.

    During his life, he is prolific poet, screenwriter, cartoonist, and author of children's books, much of which is translated into 30 languages, and sells over 20 million copies.

    While fans of Silverstein's work tend to remember him best as children's storyteller; he also makes significant contributions to popular music as songwriter during the sixties and seventies.

    Similar to Tim Hardin, many readers may not have heard any of Silverstein's albums, but they have probably heard many of his songs. A few examples are: A Boy Named Sue (Johnny Cash), The Cover of the Rolling Stone, and Sylvia's Mother (Doctor Hook and the Medicine Show), The Unicorn Song (Irish Rovers), and the soundtrack to the 1970 film Ned Kelly which stars Mick Jagger, and features Silverstein's songs as interpreted by Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. These are only a few of songs in  Silverstein's catalogue. The extensive list is easily accessed online.

    His first album Hairy Jazz is released in 1959, and by 1967, he releases his fourth album Drain My Brain. This is where fans of Paul Butterfield will take interest. It is a folk album, but he employs Butterfield as sidemen on the album.

    Butterfield's distinctive tone is heard on The Changing Seasons. Have a listen below.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

# 48 Tim Hardin and Paul Butterfield

    In addition to his earned reputation as the first convincing blues singer of his generation, Paul Butterfield holds the distinction of being the first great Blues/Rock harmonica player ever. This title alone leads him into a period between 1965 and 1975 where his funky sound is in steady demand by other artists trying to establish a career in popular music.

   During these years, many artists and their labels know that having Paul Butterfield: Harmonica  printed on the album cover will not only help record sales, but also add a level of distinction to individual songs. It is a combination of the full visceral tone he pulls out of his harmonica, and extraordinary timing that develops his profile as the most recognizable harmonica player in mainstream popular music. His only potential rival being Nashville's studio king, Charlie McCoy, he mostly works with country and country crossover artists.

  During his reign as the most sought-after harmonica sideman in Rock, Butterfield plays a supporting role on records by many artists who record everything from Traditional Folk, Blues, Jazz/Rock Fusion, and even mainstream pop. In fact, next to Charlie McCoy, Paul Butterfield's harmonica is a noticeable part of more pop records than anyone during the later half of the twentieth century.

   One of those artists is Tim Hardin. He is one of many singer songwriters who grows out of the early '60's Folk trend, and then crosses over into Folk/Rock boom. Over his brief career, Hardin never does experience the same success as a performer as he does a songwriter.  Readers may not have ever seen him in concert or heard any of his albums, but they have probably all heard one of his songs: If I were a Carpenter, Reason to Believe or Don't Make Promises to name a few.

    In 1969, Hardin releases the album Suite for Susan Moore and Damion. The last track of side one is Little Sweet Moments which features Butterfield's funky harmonica in a supporting role.


Monday, May 19, 2014

# 47 Paul Butterfield Jammin' with Jerry Garcia

  Can't say I know anything about this recording except that it is Paul Butterfield jamming with Jerry Garcia.

If you can add any information, please let me know?                                                              


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#46 The Butterfield Blues Band Where Are They Now?

    Paul Butterfield's career as the leader of both The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and then the Butterfield Blues Band establishes him as the master blues singer/ harmonica player of his generation. However, this reputation tends to overshadow his other talents as a songwriter, producer, and his unique skill as a bandleader.  

    Throughout his career he consistently demonstrates both an acute ear for talent, and an ability to successfully lead musicians toward his musical vision. Most of the talent Butterfield hires will become career musicians, and make their own significant contributions to several decades of popular music. It is while playing in one of the Butterfield bands that most will either receive their initial artistic credentials, and launch them into life long careers as great musicians.   

     So, what happens to all of these great musicians after the Butterfield Blues Band ends in 1972? 

     Sam Lay - The blues drummer earns the title the Shuffle Master while on The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. It is on that album, that Lay also makes his first recorded attempt at being the lead vocalist of a band with his interpretation of Muddy Waters' I Got My Mojo Workin' . Unfortunately, Lay contracts the respiratory illness pleurisy, and is forced to hand over his role in the band to Billy Davenport. However, Lay's health will return, and in the coming decades he will record eight solo albums, tour and record with a Who's Who of Chicago Blues, and promote his brief time working with Butterfield. In addition to his many contributions to music, Lay was also a film hobbyist, and made many home movies of life in the Chicago blues clubs of the '50's and '60's. Some clips from these films are shown in a few different music documentaries. As 2014, Lay is still working.

     Jerome Arnold - The quiet, unassuming, conservatively dressed bass player who also happens to be the brother of bluesman Billy Boy Arnold leaves the band after East West. Arnold seems to evaporate from the music business until he resurfaces in London, England during the late '70's.  At some point he changes his name to Julio Finn, and continues working as a bass player for artists like Archie Shepp. During his years living with his new identity, Finn also shows a talent for writing when he composes the liner notes for his brother's album Crying and Pleading, and in 1986 he publishes the book The Blues Man: The Musical Heritage of Black Men and Women in the Americas. He is also a public voice for gay rights, and black history. He is still working.

     Elvin Bishop - The academically gifted Oklahoma farm boy who moves to Chicago with a scholarship to study physics at U.of C., but instead pursues his love of Chicago Blues, becomes a regular in the South Side clubs, and a friend of Butterfield's.  It is while working in the Butterfield band that he hones his skills as a blues guitarist, songwriter and singer. His work on The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, East West, The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw,and In My Own Dream provide him with enough personal, and music industry confidence to leave the band in 1968, and pursue a successful career as a solo artist. As a solo artist,  Bishop will continue to develop his talents to become a respected songwriter, bandleader, and a master of the talking blues style. As of 2014, he has recorded over 20 albums, and enjoyed a #3 pop hit in 1976 with his song Fooled Around and Fell in LoveNext to David Sanborn, he is also the most commercially successful member of all the Butterfield Bands. He is also prodigious gardener, still tours, and records with his band.

     Mike Bloomfield -  He is the only member to enter the band sporting a recording contract with Columbia records, but it is while in The Paul Butterfield Blues Band that his career moves to another level. He becomes the first American guitar hero of his generation while in the Butterfield band. He plays slide & electric guitar, keyboards, contributes creative direction as well as original material to The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and East West. Bloomfield is the primary composer of the first extended instrumental in Rock, East West. He leaves the band after the release of East West, in part, to capitalize on the international recognition he earns while playing in Butterfield's band. Bloomfield will enjoy a successful career as: a guitarist, producer, composer, studio musician, historian, writer, bandleader, and guitar hero. Thanks to to a devoted fan base, his significant contributions to the popular music of a generation are well documented. He died as a result of an apparent drug overdose in San Francisco California on February 15th 1981. 

     Mark Naftalin - The son of the former mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota who moves to Chicago in 1961 to study music, and then on to Mannes College of Music in New York, joins the Butterfield band during the recording of the first album. He will contribute piano, organ, and chart arrangements to The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, East-West, The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, and In My Own Dream. Tired of life on the road, Naftalin leaves the band in 1968, settles in the San Francisco area and builds a successful career as a studio musician, producer, radio personality, record label owner (Winner Records), and concert promoter. He is still active in the music business.

      Billy Davenport - The Alabama native whose style is inspired by Jazz greats like Louis Bellison, and Art Blakey works with the Butterfield band during East West, and The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw . He leaves the band sighting road fatigue, and undisclosed health problems, and returns to his adopted home of Chicago where he retires from music. However, Davenport resurfaces from 1972 to 1974 to tour with Jimmy Dawkins, Willie Dixon, and Buster Benton, but then retires again from '72 to '81. He finishes his career playing with the Pete Baron Jazztet, and completes several mini-tours with Mark Naftalin as a Butterfield Blues Band tribute revue. He dies in Chicago on December 24th 1999.

     Bugsy Maugh - The Iowa native who does a brief stint with Wilson Pickett before being introduced to Butterfield by Buddy Miles, plays bass and vocals on The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw and In My Own Dream. Butterfield rescues Maugh from obscurity, providing him with a platform to showcase his talents as a soulful interpreter of Rhythm and Blues. After recording two albums with the band, Maugh leaves claiming artistic differences (he doesn't like the pop direction), but quickly signs a two album deal with Dot Records. Both his solo albums, Bugsy and Inside Bugsy are now deleted.  During the later part of the sixties, and into the early seventies he moves to New York, and works as a studio musician for artists like Todd Rundgren (Something-Anything). However, by the '80's he returns to the midwest where he works as a bandleader, and participates in several mini tours with Mark Naftalin, Billy Davenport, and Danny Draher. He is still living and working in the Midwest.

     Philip Wilson - The St. Louis native who is introduced to Butterfield by David Sanborn plays drums, percussion, and some vocals on In My Own Dream, and Keep On Movin' leaves the band to return to Chicago, and play Jazz in Art Ensemble of Chicago. He also works as a band leader, and sideman with several notable Jazz artists including Lester Bowie, and David Braxton. In the early '70's he helps form one of the first Jazz Rock Fusion bands, Full Moon, with other former Butterfield Blues Band members, Buzzy Feiten, Gene Dinwiddie, and Freddie Beckemier. Butterfield and Wilson cross paths several times over the next two decades, most notably for the 1985 album Down by Law by Jazz/Rock Fusion band Deadline.
     On March 25th of 1992, Philip Wilson is murdered at 440 East 9th Street in Manhattan by Marvin Slater who had been stalking the drummer for months. Slater is arrested in 1996 as a result of an episode of the television show America's Most Wanted. He is convicted of the murder in 1997, but never discloses his motive.

     Gene Dinwiddie - The LouisvilleKentucky native and oldest member of the Butterfield band, contributes tenor sax, flute, tambourine, mandolin, arrangements, and vocals, to The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, In My Own Dream, Keep on Movin', Live and Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin.  In addition, his age and knowledge of Jazz often place him in the position of unofficial leader of the band. After the Butterfield Blues Band ends, he records with Greg Allman, Melissa Manchester, James Cotton, and Etta James. He is also a founding member of the Jazz/Rock Fusion band Full Moon. Later he relocates to California where he plays saxophone in his community church, and dies on January 11th 2002.

     David Sanborn - Another St. Louis native Sanborn's entry into the band is a bit of a fluke. He contributes soprano, alto, and baritone saxophones on The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, In My Own Dream, Keep on Movin', Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin'.  After the Butterfield Band ends, Sanborn will work with Butterfield on several recordings. He will also record with too many Jazz, Pop, and Blues artists to list here. In addition, he becomes a bandleader, actor, television host, and the king of smooth jazz in the 70's. As of 2014, he has recorded 31 solo albums, plus movie soundtracks, and earned several Grammy Awards. He is still working.

     Keith Johnson - The New York City musician's primary role in the Butterfield Blues Band is trumpeter, but after Naftalin leaves he also fills in on  piano, and organ. He contributes to The 
Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, In My Own Dream and Keep On Movin'. After leaving the band in late '69 he returns to New York City where he works as an arranger, trumpeter, keyboardist, and producer. He also does brief stints with Van Morrison, Elephant's Memory, Etta James, and works with his wife in the 70's, Martha Velez. He is still working. 

     Buzzy Feiten - He joins the band as a guitarist when he is only 19 years old, but also contributes organ, piano, vocals, french horn to Keep On Movin'. He becomes disenchanted with the artistic direction (too much pop) of the band, and leaves to pursue a career as bandleader, studio guitarist, writer, producer, and inventor. The catalogue of music that Feiten contributes from 1970 to 2014 is impressive: Felix Caveliere, Rickie Lee Jones, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Tanya Tucker, Edwin Starr, and Jennifer Warnes to name only a few. In addition, he becomes a much imitated guitarist, and develops a reputation as a musician's musician. Feiten is also founder, and leader of the first Jazz/Rock Fusion band Full Moon. In addition, he is also the inventor of the patented Buzz Feiten Tuning System which is popular with guitarists worldwide. He is still working.

    Rod Hicks - The Detroit native joins the Butterfield Blues Band after six years with Aretha Franklin's band, contributes fretless electric bass (a new instrument in the '60's), cello, vocals, and composition to Keep On Movin', Live, and Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin'. After the Butterfield Band ends, he moves back to Detroit where he becomes a fixture in the local Jazz scene, and works as a road musician, appearing with Paul Butterfield's Better Day's several times. One of his songs Highway 28 is used by Butterfield on the first Better Days album. Hicks also contributes to 1970's studio albums by artists such as Peter Paul and Mary, & Peter Yarrow. He dies Jan 2nd, 2013 at 71 of cancer. 

    Steve Madaio - The classically trained trumpeter contributes trumpet to Keep On Movin', Live, and Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin'. After his position ends with the Butterfield Blues Band, he works as an arranger, and trumpet player with an extensive list of Jazz, Folk, Blues, and Rock artists including B.B. King, Flo & Eddie, Stevie Wonder, Kenny G, Meatloaf, and Rod Stewart. He is also highly respected trumpet teacher studio musician. Still working.

    Teddy (Ted) Harris Jr. - The childhood friend of Motown's Berry Gordy joins the Butterfield band while finishing up a gig with Tony Bennett.  He contributes his skills as an arranger, keyboardist to  Keep on Movin', Live, and Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin'. After the band ends he returns to Detroit where he becomes the musical director for the Supremes for sixteen years, writes film scores, plays with Kenny Burrell, Thad Jones,and Lionel Hampton. Harris also becomes a highly respected music teacher in Detroit, and is given several awards, including the key to the City of Detroit in 1993, and title of Detroit's Godfather of Jazz. He dies at 70 in August 2005 of prostate cancer.   

   Trevor Lawrence - The respected New York studio musician joins the Butterfield Blues Band in '69, and contributes baritone sax to Keep On Movin', Live, and Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin'. After the band ends he returns to the studio where he works as a composer, arranger, and sax player for artists such as Marvin Gaye, Macy Gray, Etta James, Donny Osmond, Eminem, and Ringo Starr. He also works as the musical director for films such as To Sir with Love 2, in 1996. He is still working.  

     Fred Beckmeier - Beckmeier is introduced to Butterfield in 1969 by Buzzy Feiten, and tours with the band on their Scandinavian tour. He plays bass on some of the tracks for Keep on Movin', but is replaced by Rod Hicks. After leaving the band he contributes to numerous projects, most notably Buzzy Feiten's Jazz/Rock fusion band Full Moon, and then with Beckmier Brothers. The brothers enjoy a minor pop hit, (#53) Rock and Roll Dancin' in 1979. During the late seventies he marries actress Katie Sagal who will later star in the hit television show Married with Children. He is still working.

    George Davidson - The Detroit drummer leaves his job with the Four Tops to contribute to the Butterfield Blues Band: Live, and Sometime I Just Feel Like Smilin'. After the band ends, Davidson returns to Detroit where he plays with the Four Tops, the Supremes, Aretha Franklin, Little Sonny, and Urban Griots. His most memorable contribution to the Butterfield band is his very lyrical drum solo on The Boxer  from the Butterfield Blues Band : Live. He is still working.

     Ralph Wash - The 19 year old California native joins the Butterfield band in late '69, and contributes guitar to Live, and then guitar and vocals to Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin'.  At one point B.B. King mentions in an interview that Wash as his favourite guitarist.  After leaving the band he records with Van Morrison, Todd Rundgren, Sylvester, and Country Joe MacDonald in the 70's, and then seems to vanish from the music scene. He dies in 1996.

    Dennis Whitted - plays drums on Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin', and then goes on to play with the brilliant blues singer Karen Dalton, and then Geoff Muldaur. He also records with Terrence Boylan,David Sanborn, the Fabulous Rhinestones and Michael Kamen. Whitted's most memorable work can be found on albums by Bonnie Raitt, whom he records, and tours with several times. According to his youngest brother he dies in a motorcycle accident in 1993.

The video is a recording of Philip Wilson's Jazz/Rock Fusion band Deadline. The innovative 1985 album is called Down By Law, and features Paul Butterfield on the most impressive track - Makossa Rock