Friday, January 31, 2014

#26 Hot Butter and the Jazz Cats from St. Louis

     Paul Butterfield is an artist with a vision of a new music, one which rejects boundaries set out by generations of a recording industry that thrives on labeling its products. It's fortunate that he's creating his music in an era of artistic experimentation, because this is a factor that allows him the opportunity to realize his vision. In addition, he has the unique ability to recognize gifted musicians who are will to help him realize his goals.

    By 1967, Butterfield has already developed his voice, and harmonica style into a unified voice which surpasses the mere mimicking of the nuances found in Rural and Urban Blues, Folk, & Rhythm and Blues. Then he crafts these subtleties into the new sub-genre of Rock'n'Roll called Blues-Rock.

    Now his intention is to include Hard Bop Jazz into his music. As I mention in previous blogs, the labeling of his band's name the Butterfield Blues Band by Elektra is ironic because he doesn't really lead a blues band anymore, and neither should Paul Butterfield be considered a bluesman.

    Many of the post war Chicago Blues players make an attempt at playing Bop Jazz, it isn't a new idea. A few of the bluesmen who Butterfield emulated during his apprenticeship, including the two Walters, demonstrate this urge often. In retrospect, Little Walter is the one harmonica player who actually comes closest to integrating Bop Jazz into Chicago Blues. (It is a topic which should consume more space than I have here.)

    As for Butterfield's attempt, he has a variety of elements which are different than Little Walter. Like Walter, he has the talent, skills, and ambition, but he also has a broader understanding of several genres of music. He also commands a large receptive audience, and the financial support that goes with that popularity. Another attribute that Butterield possess' is the unique ability to recognize complementary talent, and then use it for his own artistic benefit.

    The secret to all cohesive bands is a gifted drummer. He is the member who does more than just keep time; he propels the group toward the resolution of song. When we hear a good song, our voice may be humming the melody, but our body is following the drummer. If you consider the quality of the drummers he hires over his career at Elektra, you know that Butterfield understands this principle very well. This knowledge also helps to clearly understand what Geoff Muldaur  means when he describes Butterfield as having and "obsession with the foot".

   After Davenport's sudden resignation in the summer of '67, Butterfield is forced into contemplating a problem he hasn't anticipated. After the success of the Monterey performance, his band is inundated with a steady supply of lucrative performance contracts to honor. In addition, there is also the preparation and recording of his third album. Davenport's resignation must cost Butterfield some sleep.

     However, when the news of the vacancy becomes known to band members, both Dinwiddie and Bishop are quick to refer St. Louis native Philip Wilson. They both know him from Chicago, where he is a very visible member of the A.A.C.M. (The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), and a regular on the club circuit. In addition, he can play FunkFree JazzBlues, Rock, and is in possession of fierce work ethic. Everyone in the Butterfield Band, including the boss himself, believes Wilson is the drummer to hire.

    However, like so many exceptional artists, Wilson does come with some baggage. He is very outspoken about Civil Rights issues, and is intensely engaged in the philosophy of both the Black Power and Counter Culture movements. In fact, he is so passionate about the current social, and political philosophies that he is quick to become confrontational with anyone who questions his beliefs. Now, if any readers have ever worked with someone who harbors intense philosophical beliefs, you know there is potential for friction in the work environment. However, Butterfield is quite a strong leader, and in fact, he can become confrontational too, so I am sure he is not intimidated by Wilson's social quirks.

    After Butterfield hires Wilson he realizes that he now has a band of musicians who can confidently improvise on any groove, regardless of whether it's blues, funk, rock, jazz or anything in between.  As an added bonus, the majority of the band members can also read, write, and arrange their own material. These aren't important skills for most of the musicians working in Blues-Rock of the 60's, but to employ people who can, and do is not only a less complicated working arrangement, but also badge of honor. So, now the combination of artist talent, and technical skills in the band, definitely sets the Butterfield band apart from the huge influx of blues based bands. Keep in mind that most of these blues based bands just adapt Blues standards to the Rock idiom by blasting disjointed, often tedious instrumentals through banks of amplifiers, so there isn't much competition for Butterfield anyway.

    During the summer, Butterfield takes his band through the West Coast circuit, and continues rehearsing for the studios sessions in September. It would be reasonable to think that the fans, and concert reviewers will sense gaps in the quality of his music as a result of the personnel changes, but the press reports, as well as personal testimonials do not support this suggestion. The changes would be demanding in a five piece, but I assume it would be more work in a seven piece. It's actually quite a testament to Butterfield's skill as a bandleader, hiring five new musicians in only three or four months, transitioning old material into the new format, and all the time maintaining the quality of performance it a testament to his skill as a bandleader.

    However, as the quality of the band's personnel changes, so does the requirements of the leader. Consider Butterfield is only 23 when he takes his Blues Band into the studio in '65. Back then his bandleader role models are Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Litter Walter, and a few others who work the South Side clubs. These leaders tend to maintain a separation from their band members, barking orders as they try to stay relevant in the limelight. It is a leadership style which will not work well with his current members if he intends on realizing his vision of a new music. So, Butterfield adapts an egalitarian style in an effort to manage egos and draw out the best in everyone.

    In spite of all the artistic benefits that come with having a seven piece band there are management issues to consider too. The operating costs alone must seem astronomical compared with the old days. Even though Monterey affords Butterfield him luxuries such as: higher performance fees, roadies, newer transportation, and a road manager, money is still an issue. So, when Wilson suggests the addition of his childhood friend, alto saxophonist David Sanborn, the management must get edgy.

    Like Wilson, Sanborn is a native of St. Louis, and at twenty has already studied at the University of Iowa, become a husband, a father, and worked as a professional musician. By the spring of 1967, the news of the San Francisco psychedelic era happenings reaches St. Louis, and like millions of other young people, he is hungry to experience the adventure too. So, when his friend Teddy Stewart invites the Sanborn family to live in San Francisco, they enthusiastically accept the opportunity.

   Once in San Francisco, he and his family move into the living-room of Stewart's Haight-Ashbury apartment, Sanborn gets a job playing sax in a local band. The living quarters are cramped, but his friend's generosity is appreciated,  “Remember those Indian print sheets, the stuff that people used to drape over lamps? I bought one of those and draped it over the thing. Had a lava lamp -- this was when lava lamps were new. [laughs] Incense -- the whole bit.”
    However, in spite of his expressed levity, he knows that the current living arrangement is not suitable for his growing family, so he really is interested in better paying work.

    Fortunately, Stewart isn't the only friend Sanborn has living in San Francisco. In has a chance meeting, he runs into Philip Wilson while walking down the street. As he recalls,
“... I ran into Philip Wilson, who was one of my best friends in St. Louis. He had just joined the Butterfield Blues Band. He said, "We're playing the Fillmore tonight. Why don't you come down and see us?" I went down and saw them. I had been to the Fillmore a few times since I'd been in San Francisco. I'd heard Jimi HendrixThe WhoJefferson Airplane -- a lot of great people.”  It is a serendipitous meeting which will change the direction David Sanborn's professional life forever.

    After he hears the Butterfield band, Butterfield invites him to sit in and his performance impresses Butterfield enough that he extends an invitation for him to play with a few gigs with the band. Then, in the fall, the band moves down to L.A. to record The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, and Wilson invites Sanborn to hang out with the band in the studio.

   So, he takes a Greyhound bus from San Francisco to L.A., sleeping on the floor of  Wilson's hotel room, and attending all the recording sessions. At some point Butterfield takes "pity" on him, offering him a chance to play, Sanborn remembers, "I just had my horn. I think it was because I looked so pathetic, standing there with my horn, Paul Butterfield said, "Why don't you just come and play on a tune?" I sat in and I did okay.” As it turns out, those jam sessions become part of an extended audition for Sanborn. Not only is he excellent saxophonist, but he is also accepted by everyone, even Butterfield is thinking he belongs in the band.

However, as is a pattern with Butterfield, new proposals come with dramatic resistance before he accepts the idea.  As Sanborn tells one interviewer, “I played a few gigs with the band, and Paul asked me if I wanted to join,” he remembers. “But when I asked him about money, he told me I‘d have to get my money from the other guys in the band !  I was broke at time, so this really threw me.  But it all worked out.” I suspect Butterfield is someone who can recognize a good idea, and even though he wants to accept it, it is not in his nature to appear too flexible for fear it will be interpreted as a weakness.

   In the end, the addition of Sanborn transforms the Butterfield Blues Band into a monster eight piece horn band. In the world of 60s Rock, this is very unique, and apparently inspirational, as Al Kooper decides to form Blood Sweat and Tears. Up in Butterfield's home town, another band is also inspired by the Butterfield Blues Band. The horn based rock band, Chicago form to begin a very long and prosperous career.

    Below, I have added one song from a recording of the eight piece Butterfield Blues Band, playing a concert at the Back Bay Theatre in BostonOct. 21st 1967.  It is a 75 minute bootleg which circulates under the title of  Back Bay or Hot Butter. The sound quality is adequate, but I urge you to get past this imperfection so you can hear why the Butterfield Blues Band is such an important feature in the history of rock.

The Butterfield Blues Band, Live at Back Bay Theatre, Boston  October 21st, 1967.

1) Work Song2) Tollin’ Bells3) Double Trouble,4) One More Heartache5) Driftin’and Driftin’,
6) Drivin’ Wheel (vocal by Bugsy Maugh) , 7) In the Wee Wee Hours (vocal by Bugsy Maugh),
8) I Believe9) Look Over Yonders Wall10) Born Under a Bad Sign, 11) Mystery Train 12) instrumental (has a slight drop-out)13) I Pity the Fool14) All My Lovin’ (vocal by Elvin Bishop),
15) I Ain’t Got Nobody (vocal by Elvin Bishop), 16) Strawberry Jam (ends within a minute)

Monday, January 27, 2014

# 25 Monterey & The Butterfield Flag Smackdown

    The Monterey Pop Festival isn't the first Rock Festival, but other than Woodstock, it's the one that captures the imagination of most fans. In fact, just days before the gates open at Monterey, the Fantasy Faire, and Magic Mountain Music Festival are held across the Golden Gate Bridge, at Mt. Tamalpis. These festivals are two day events showcasing eleven bands, ranging from Jefferson Airplane and Country Joe and the Fish to the soulful  pop sounds of Dionne Warwick and Smokey Robinson. They aren't large festivals, and I only mention them here because they are the festivals that establish Rock as a music which can generate large profits for artists and organizers.

   The initial idea for the Monterey Pop Festival comes from millionaire businessman Alan Pariser. He and other local business partners (including Bill Graham from the Fillmore) agree to invest in the new business enterprise. They hire a press agent, commission a wood cut logo of Pan Blowing the Pipes, and book: the Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds, Buffalo SpirngfieldQuicksilver Messenger Service, Grateful Dead, and Ravi Shankar as the artist lineup. They also use their connection with photographer Barry Feinstein to access Albert Grossman's stable of artists which includes: Al KooperJanis JoplinThe Electric Flag, and the Butterfield Blues Band. These organizers are successful businessmen with a love of money and music, but in spite of all their expertise, they are still vulnerable to outside forces. 

    When Pariser and Feinstein approach John Philips of the Mamas and the Papas fame, the planning for the festival takes a twist. Philips pushes Pariser out of the project altogether, and raises capital from his own resources. Then, he enlists top producer Lou Adler with the explicit intention of luring members, and want to be members of the very popular counter culture movement to the festival. Philips even writes a theme song, Are You Going to San Francisco, and hires Scott McKenzie to record it with Adler acting as the producer. These new festival organizers calculate a crowd of 50 to 90 thousand people, including special treatment for label executives and A. & R. people. However, they face a final hurdle. They need to sell the idea to the high profile members of the counter culture conscious arts community in San Francisco.

    Most of the San Francisco rock bands play the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom, and they are also very suspicious of any representatives of the Hollywood establishment, labeling them "Hollywood Hippies". This presents a problem for the Philips/Adler camp, who know that their values are not in sync with most of the San Francisco artist community. They also understand that without the support of the local counter culture community, and media, they will not have a successful festival. So, in a effort to solve the problem, they develop a two prong strategy.

    First, they send New York singer/songwriter Paul Simon to San Francisco, he is assigned the task of convincing members of the Grateful Dead of the festival's validity. Secondly, Lou Adler is dispatched to convince the city's most influential rock journalists, Ralph Gleason and Jann Wenner that the festival will be good for everyone concerned. I don't doubt that part of the sales pitch includes mention of the festival documentary which will be directed by D. A. Pennabaker, and released internationally in 1968.

    The public relations campaigns are a success, and the Philips/Adler camp manages to negotiate a middle ground with promises of some profit from the festival going to provide scholarships for musicians, and workshops on copy write law to the arts community. These promises win over the key players in the arts community, ensuring the festival's success.

   So, it is confirmed that the Monterey Pop Festival will take place on June 16th, 17th, & the 18th, of 1967. It will be the largest rock festival in history, and open the door for promoters, and artists to see that rock, and big festivals can be lucrative businesses. In the coming decades rock festivals around the world will gross billions of dollars, and change the direction of Rock music forever.

    Now, cynics may conclude that the Monterey Pop Festival is the turning point where, even before the Summer of Love can get started, the anti-establishment values of the counter culture started in '65, are victims of  assimilation by their arch enemy, the corporate culture.  However, it should be mentioned that the festival does open eyes, and ears to those values promoted by the counter culture. It also catapults young artists like Janis Joplin, Jimi HendrixThe Who and many other artists, from relative obscurity into the new status of "Rock Star". In addition, other well established artists like the Butterfield band also benefit from the festival, both artistically as well as financially.

    In middle of the festival's business story there are many other subplots unfolding. Monterey will be an important opportunity for the new Butterfield Blues Band to prove their mettle in the face of the unpopular news of Bloomfield's departure from the band. It will be a tricky operation because the band is really only a few months old. In addition to the three new members, the repertoire is rearranged to reflect the new Rhythm & Blues influence, and Elvin Bishop is in the very important role of lead guitarist. So, there is an intense pressure for the band to perform better than they have done at any time in the past, with special emphasis on Butterfield as the front man.

    Adding to this pressure, the band must face a campaign by the relatively new rock press who want to use the Bloomfield exit to sell papers. Some of them see a story in Butterfield's situation, and plan to take advantage of it. They manufacture a story about a competition between the Butterfield Blues Band, and the Electric Flag. One paper even suggests that the "great light" of Butterfield's band is Bloomfield, and "that light is dimmed without him". In an move directed toward supporting the battle of the bands promotion, festival organizers have positioned the Butterfield band between Al Kooper, who has recently left Blues Project, and headliners the Electric Flag.  It is a manufacted story of a conflict between artists where no artistic conflict exists. What the press does not mention is the tamer reality, that the artists in the story are in fact friends, and harbor much professional respect for each other.

    So, once the two bands complete their performances, the post game commentary begins. Predictably,while the press seem to favour the Electric Flag, they also suggest a division of opinion, even uncertain, and of course encourage readers to discuss the issues by reading their paper.  However, some knowledgeable people who do not express their opinions to the media of the day, do open up years later. They have another perspective on how the Butterfield Blues Band versus The Electric Flag smack down unfolds.

    Bill Graham doesn't think The Electric Flag lives up to its expectations.

    “I always thought that the Butterfield Blues Band sort of glued naturally, that the musicians just fit, as opposed to the Electric Flag.  The Flag was put together for music business purposes. It wasn’t a natural evolution that ended up being good because it seemed to fall that way. Listening to Butter’s band , it just seemed right.  Everything about them, from the time they walked on the stage, it was real.  It wasn’t a little powder, add water. It was all real. That’s a group of musicians who played that kind of music, and that’s what they do, that’s who they are. As opposed to going shopping for a saxophone player or a drummer or a keyboard player, and then trying to make things fit.
    There was a difference between the two for me, even though they can say, “Hey, we’re funky, and we want to get it on and lay it out.”  I just didn’t feel the same about the band.”  (Wolkin 148)

Butterfield's keyboardist Mark Naftalin is more diplomatic,

......” I don’t think that I felt that what was created there was as satisfying a vehicle for his (Bloomfield) talents as what I had known him before. Which was the Butterfield Blues Band.   I thought the Flag was a very adequate vehicle for his talent.  I just think a blues artist will shine more where there’s more blues artistry in the setting.  And if you’re playing with someone like Paul Butterfield, you’re not going to get any more of a concentration of the blues artistry, in my opinion, unless you might happen to have a Jr. Wells of something like that.  And so, in terms of context, that’s a hard thing to replace. (Wolkin 147)

    Regardless of what anyone concludes about the individual manufactured conflicts, or the performances, the Monterey Pop Festival  is a huge success. Almost fifty years after the event, owners of the images, and recordings are still collecting royalties. Also, music fans, as well as industry representatives, discover many new artists over the three days, and many great memories are created by the event.

   The festival is also good for Butterfield's career as it allows him a quicker assent up the ladder toward more success. As a result of the publicity he receives from the festival performance: the demand for his band increases, they become headliners, touring becomes more incessant, they can charge more for performances, and can now hire roadies as well as a road manager. Business is good for the Butterfield Blues Band before Monterey, and even better after it! In addition, he is writing and recording new material for the release of his third album due in November. 

    But the success comes with a price tag. Butterfield has recently bought a house in Woodstock,N.Y., he has married again, and has a baby son at home, but he is rarely home to enjoy them. It is the invisible side of artists involved with the instability of going out on the road to sell a product. Billy Davenport knows this feeling, and has had enough, shortly after Monterey he hands in his resignation, and packs up to return home.

The Butterfield Blues Band live at The  Monterey Pop Festival, June 1967.

1) Born In Chicago2) Tollin’ Bells, 3) One More Heartache, 4) Look Over Yonders Wall, 5) Droppin’ Out, 6) Marianne.

Paul Butterfield: vocals and harmonica, Elvin Bishop: guitar, Mark Naftalin: keyboards, Gene Dinwiddie: tenor sax, Keith Johnson: trumpet, Bugsy Maugh: bass, Billy Davenport: drums.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

# 24 Strawberry Jam

    I wonder if Mark Naftalin has any idea what he's getting into when he accepts the offer to join the Butterfield band in 1965. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of that city's mayor, he grows up listening to, and playing Rock & Roll, as well as Blues. Then in 1961, he leaves Minneapolis to start his degree at the University of Chicago.

    While at the university, he is active in music scene, playing piano at the campus "Twist Parties". This is where he first meets Butterfield, Bishop, and many of the other young people who will become known on the West Coast as the "Chicago Crowd".  In '64, Naftalin graduates,  and moves to New York City with the intention of studying music at the city's prestigious Mannes College of Music. This is where the direction of his life changes.

    He isn't in New York for long when the Butterfield band arrives in midtown to record The Paul Butterfield Blues Band at Mastertone Studios. The size of the band has changed a little from its heyday playing Big John's on the North Side. The addition of Bloomfield has caused it to swell from a four to a five piece outfit. There has never been any serious talk of including keyboards, so, he, nor the band is expecting what will happen next.

    While in the studio on September 9th of '65, he ends up sitting in on organ as part of a band warm up before they start the recording session. Everyone in the group likes the added dynamic to sound enough that Butterfield asks Naftalin to contribute to eight of the eleven tracks, and of course the rest is history. You can hear that warm up instrumental Thank You Mr. Poobah, (Thank You Mr. Paul Butterfield) on the first album.

   After those sessions, Naftalin enjoys a rich three year career with the Butterfield band, writing, arranging, touring, and recording four albums with them from '65 to '68.  His contributions can be heard on The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, East West, The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw and In My Own Dream.  Then, in 1968 he leaves them for a new life playing music on the West Coast. It too, becomes a rewarding career of performing, writing, producing, and doing studio work for countless artists. As for his contributions to the four Butterfield albums, these are some of Butterfield's most creative albums. Fortunately, for fans of the earlier configurations of the band, Naftalin has the good sense to set up a tape recorder at some of the gigs in an effort capture some of the excitement they create in live performances.

    In 1995, he discovers these tapes, performs as the producer, and releases them as two separate  CDs :  East West Live, and the topic of this blog post, Strawberry Jam.  It's a mix of performances as they continue to change their sound from a Blues-Rock format to music with more of a Rhythm & Blues/ Jazz influence.
   Of particular interest to dedicated fans of the Butterfield band, as well as collectors, the recordings are a glimpse into the period in 1967 when Bloomfield is leaving leaving, and the new lineup prepares to play the Monterey Pop Festival in June of '67. The sound quality is just adequate.  Have a listen to the Naftalin composition Strawberry Jam, I posted below and decide for yourself.

    Strawberry Jam  is still available for purchase on Naftalin's Winner label. If you are a true fan of the Butterfield Band, I recommend it. However, if you are just being introduced to their music, I would leave it on the shelf for now.

1) Just To Be With You: (recorded at Whiskey A Go-Go in Hollywood California, winter of 1966)
    Paul Butterfield: Harmonica & Vocals, Elvin Bishop: Guitar, Michael Bloomfield: Guitar,
    Mark Naftalin: Keyboards, Jerome Arnold: Bass, Billy Davenport: Drums.  

2) Mystery Train: (recorded at Golden Bear, Huntington Beach, Cal., spring 1967)
     Paul Butterfield: Harmonica & Vocals, Elvin Bishop: Guitar, Mark Naftalin: Keyboards,
     Jerome Arnold: Bass, Billy Davenport: Drums.

3) Tollin' Bells: (recorded at Golden Bear, Huntington Beach, Cal., spring 1967)
     Paul Butterfield: Harmonica & Vocals, Elvin Bishop: Guitar, Michael Bloomfield: Guitar,
     Mark Naftalin: Keyboards, Jerome Arnold: Bass, Billy Davenport: Drums

4) Cha Cha In Blues: (inst.), (recorded at Golden Bear, Huntington Beach, Cal., spring 1967)
    Paul Butterfield: Harmonica & Vocals, Elvin Bishop: Guitar, Mark Naftalin: Keyboards,
    Jerome Arnold: Bass, Billy Davenport: Drums.

5) Rock Me: (recorded at The New Penelope , Montreal, summer of 1967)
    Paul Butterfield: harmonica & Vocals, Elvin Bishop: Guitar, Mark Naftalin: Keyboards,
    Bugsy Maugh: Bass, Philip Wilson: Drums, Keith Johnson: Trumpet, Gene Dinwiddie: 
    Tenor Sax.

6) One More Heartache: (recorded at The New Penelope, Montreal, summer of 1967)
    Paul Butterfield: harmonica & Vocals, Elvin Bishop: Guitar, Mark Naftalin: Keyboards,
    Bugsy Maugh: Bass, Philip Wilson: Drums, Keith Johnson: Trumpet, Gene Dinwiddie: 
    Tenor Sax.

7) Strawberry Jam: (recorded at JD’s Tempe, Arizona in the winter of 1968)
    Paul Butterfield: harmonica & Vocals, Elvin Bishop: Guitar, Mark Naftalin: Keyboards,
    Bugsy Maugh: Bass, Philip Wilson: Drums, Keith Johnson: Trumpet, Gene Dinwiddie:
    Tenor Sax, and David Sanborn: alto Sax

8) Come On In This House: (recorded at Golden Bear, Huntington Beach California, in the
     winter of 1967)
      Paul Butterfield: Harmonica & Vocals, Elvin Bishop: Guitar, Michael Bloomfield: Guitar, 
      Mark Naftalin: Keyboards, Jerome Arnold: Bass, Billy Davenport: Drums.

9)  Born In Chicago, (recorded at Golden Bear, Huntington Beach California, in the winter of 1967)
      Paul Butterfield: Harmonica & Vocals, Elvin Bishop: Guitar, Michael Bloomfield: Guitar,
      Mark Naftalin: Keyboards, Jerome Arnold: Bass, Billy Davenport: Drums.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

# 23 The Beginning of the Big Bands

    By the beginning of 1967, it has been a long, sometimes difficult road reaching the Butterfield band's current level of success. Many of the most skilled people in the music business have worked hard on their behalf, but the key player has always been the boss, Paul Butterfield. Off the stage, he has a reputation as being socially aloof, difficult, demanding, and at times, down right caustic. However, he is also known as a musician who strives to be his best at all times, and in addition to this gift, he also has an ear for talent in other people.

    Similar to all successful leaders, Butterfield surrounds himself with high caliber talent who can help him successfully reach his destination. When Bloomfield leaves the band in early '67, it creates a big void, but it also provides new opportunities for Butterfield explore different musical directions. After the moderate success of East West, his band is in even more demand, headlining concerts, and consequently, everyone is making more money. These financial rewards will provide him with the capability to expand his band in away that he could never accomplish in the past.  

    For Bishop, the departure of Bloomfield is a windfall.  He recognizes that he lacks the combination of  musical finesse, and stage charisma of Bloomfield, but he prepares to work at over coming these liabilities. So, he practices constantly, and then using time off to visit local jazz and blues bars. Many the accomplished musicians he hears and meets are hard bop players like Roscoe Mitchell and Lester Bowie who belong to the non-profit Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). One of the saxophone players he meets during these visits is Louisville, Kentucky native Gene Dinwiddie.

     Dinwiddie is a late bloomer, he doesn't start playing saxophone until he's 19, but like so many great musicians, he develops a spiritual connection with the instrument. By 23 he is duplicating the tone and solos coming out of players like Harold Land and Sonny Stitt. In the mid-60s, the live Jazz audience is shrinking, so he has to drive a public transit bus for the City of Chicago to support playing Free Jazz in the downtown clubs at night. During the period when Bishop is making the rounds in the jazz clubs the two develop a bit of friendship, so, when Butterfield mentions that he would like to add some horns to his band,  Bishop doesn't hesitate to refer Dinwiddie's name.

    As it turns out, Butterfield and Dinwiddie have met before, back the in the days when Butterfield's band is becoming a draw at Big John's. After some jamming, Butterfield is impressed with Dinwiddie's playing, and his scope of musical knowledge, that he hires him as the first member of his new horn section. Butterfield knows that it is difficult to find musicians of Dinwiddie's caliber as many of the Jazz musicians see blues and rock bands as a step down from Jazz. For Butterfield, the hire is a real accomplishment. Now, he only needs to find a trumpet player to complete the horn section.

    Fortunately, Dinwiddie refers Butterfield to 27 year old Keith Johnson who is playing Free Jazz in New York's West Village, and supporting his music by driving a delivery truck. At six foot three and 210 pounds, Johnson is nicknamed"Twiggy", by the time he arrives to the city in 1963. Almost immediately, he begins working in several local jazz, blues and rock bands. He loves Lester Young's playing, and Billie Holiday's singing, as well as, Charlie Parker and Don Cherry. When Johnson meets Butterfield, the two strike up a good relationship based on their mutual love of similar artists.  Butterfield is also impressed with how well rounded Johnson is as a musician; not only does he play jazz, blues, and rock, but he plays the organ too. So, Keith Johnson becomes the Butterfield Blues Band's second member of the horn section. 

    For Butterfield, the increase in the size of his band means more freedom to play a larger variety of music, but it also means that he has more people to motivate toward the new direction. Similar to all great artists, he know that while technique is important, it is subservient to the ability to making creative contributions to the music. He has found this quality in  Dinwiddie and Johnson as both are excellent musicians who can read, write and interpret music, but they can also improvise, and that is an most important quality to Butterfield. This ability to improvise well is not as much a learned skill as it is a gift, and both Dinwiddie and Johnson have it.   

    While the new horn section offers new possibilities for exploring new material for the band, it also demands a new approach to the existing repertoire. So, the new band assembles in New York, launching into an intense schedule of rehearsals as well as gigs up and down the East Coast. Then, more personnel problems confront Butterfield.

    In early spring, Jerome Arnold submits his resignation, sighting musical differences. Butterfield immediately starts the process of looking for a new bass player to fill the position, desperately requesting referrals from other musicians. You would think the task of finding the right musician an easy one, as there are so many young and eager players available in the 60s, but to find someone who is just the right fit, can be a challenge.

    While out on the road, Butterfield mentions his situation to drummer Buddy Miles, who refers him to Bugsy Maugh. He respects Miles' opinion enough that he hires Maugh without hearing, or meeting him. Originally from Missouri, Maugh moves to Omaha for a career playing music in strip bars, country bands, and manages a brief job in Wilson Pickett's band. Like Dinwiddie and Johnson, Maugh is having a tough time, and is driving a truck to make ends meet.
Maugh has never heard of Butterfield, or heard any of his music, but when Butterfield entices him with the promise of lots of work and more money, he quickly packs his bags for the trip to Montreal. 

    In spite of his motivation toward the money and work, he is impressed with the quality of the band's musicianship, in addition, Arnold and the band are willing to stay for "instant after hours rehearsal" in an effort to get him integrated quickly. From Butterfield's point of view, the Maugh's hire is yet another real bandleader accomplishment. He has always wants to share the solo vocal work, but never has anyone who can match his strengths as a solo singer, and Maugh is not only excellent bass player, but he can sing too.

    While the new band works the East-Coast circuit, rehearsing new arrangements, Albert Grossman informs them that they will need at least 30 minutes of music for a large California rock festival in mid-June. The Monterey Pop Festival is expected to draw between 50 and 100 thousand people, so it will be the first major gig for the new band, and it will also be their largest audience ever. Just to add to the pressure, the whole festival will be filmed for international release in theaters the next year. Later they will discover that they will be sandwiched between Al Kooper and The Electric Flag. Fans will be watching for the first of the new Butterfield Blues Band big band lineups, he will have a few,  the biggest rock festival of 1967 could make or break them.

    Throughout the history of popular music, all the great bandleaders will concede that finding talented musicians is one problem, but keeping them employed, and getting them to move in the same direction as the leader has its own special challenges. Unlike the image of many of the young rock bands of the early sixties Butterfield's band is not composed of friends he knew from his neighbourhood.  He builds his bands based on the musician’s contributions to the music. As examples, even though Bishop is a friend, he places him in the position of second guitarist because he hears the value in the contribution Bloomfield will make to the music. (Keep in mind that Butterfield didn't want Bloomfield in the his band, nor did he want to record Born in Chicago or East West for that matter. While these issues may be representative of Butterfield's reluctance toward accepting outside ideas, it does show that he recognizes good ideas and accepts them, even if he does it reluctantly.)


Saturday, January 18, 2014

# 22 East West & everything in between

   So much of the music we experience is the result of the media industry toying with our imaginations. It's nothing new, artists in every genre have had their stage profiles manufactured, and then a trademark is taken out on a logo to prevent identity theft.  The Rolling Stones and The Beatles are a couple of high profile examples of this reality. But what about a bluesman or a blues band? Blues fans tend not of their favourite artist's public persona as a product of a marketing department.

   For Elektra, the experience surrounding The Paul Butterfield Blues Band has a learning curve attached. They've never recorded electric music up to this point, or marketed to the new rock market, so, they make plenty of mistakes. However, they do learn quickly, and make a point of establishing a new more methodical strategy for the band's second album East West.

    Elektra invests a lot of their resources in selling this character Paul Butterfield: The White Bluesman, and the investment does reap some rewards. The FM radio stations help the first album crawl up the U.S. Billboard charts to peak at # 123, and in the process, Mike Bloomfield's reputation as the major American guitar hero of his generation is solidified, and this helps sales. A lot of the album's success can be attributed to the music as well as the promotion, but Butterfield is also a strong bandleader too. He is a disciplined leader, rehearsing his band six days a week, even while they are engaged in the relentless touring. Butterfield also has the ability of choosing excellent musicians, and then drawing the best from their talents, so he plays an important role in the band's past and current success.

    All this potential success also means that there is a lot at stake for both Elektra, and Butterfield. There is a contract securing several future album releases, as well as significant the business advantages offered from manager Albert Grossman inclusion which add to the potential for success.  In Butterfield's world, it's a lot of people that he needs to please, but he recognizes this fact, and appreciates that he is earning the type of confidence most artists will make serious sacrifices to maintain.

   By late '65, the Butterfield Band has developed a cult following on the West Coast, so Elektra decides it's a good time to capitalize on this success. The only thing missing is a hit record like some of the young British Invasion blues rock bands are enjoying.

    So, in a effort to protect their investment, Elektra changes the name of the band from The Paul Butterfield Blues Band to the alliterated Butterfield Blues Band. It even takes out a copyright on the font used in all the band's promotions. They have done their market research, concluding that Butterfield's audience is: twenty something, white, middle income, educated, socially and politically liberal, with minds open to new experiences. This knowledge reflects in the East West cover photos of the band standing outside the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago rather than outside a south side head shop. The manufactured persona of the band members is changed too. They now look more like hip young University students rather than the street wise kids shown in the first album photos. Even the liner notes are filled with overt, and subtle references to a classical education. In modern business parlance it's called branding. It's good for Elektra's business, but for Paul Butterfield, it means he will never be able to leave Elektra, and take his band's name with him.

    The irony of Elektra's marketing strategy is that the Butterfield Blues Band is not a blues band anymore. They are brashly marketed as a blues band as part of the release of their first album, but it is arguable whether they can be legitimately referred to as Blues Band.  As I mentioned in post #21, it seems easier to define the music of the Butterfield band with descriptors about what their music isn't, rather than what it is. By the time they release the album East West, the band is performing Jazz, Blues, Rhythm and Blues, as well as Rock, and I still think the jury is out on a definition for the instrumental East West. I propose the best label for most of Butterfield's music is eclectic, but I have never seen this label in any retail outlet. Personally, I like to think of most of his work as, post-war, urban, electric American roots music, but that is a mouthful, so lets just use the word eclectic.

    The song selection on the album reflects this diverse direction too. In addition to Nat Adderley's Hard Bop cross over hit, Work Song, there is a collection of traditional blues numbers like Robert Johnson's Walkin's Blues and Muddy Waters' Two Trains Running, but then, there is also a great version of Lee Dorsey's 1965 Rhythm and Blues hit Get Out of My Life Woman. Ultimately, the whole album is diverse in its musical scope, and should put to rest any illusions of the Butterfield Blues Band as a traditional post war Chicago blues band.

    Even the recording process for the album is eclectic, or maybe a little scattered. They start recording in January of '66 at Mastertone Studios in New York, then record bits and pieces at Chess Studios in Chicago, and continue work in L.A.. As an example, Work Song is recorded in three studios before being edited for the final release in August of '66.

    After the album release, the Michael Nesmith penned, Mary, Mary provokes some minor controversy. In the mid-sixties, Nesmith is a songwriter, and actor who is hired as an actor in the tween pop group, television show The Monkees. The Butterfield Blues Band records their version of Mary, Mary well before Nesmith achieves success on the television program, but the press raises questions of  artistic hypocrisy...Butterfield's music is suppose be representative of the West Coast Counter Culture, and the Monkees represent everything the counter culture rejects. I don't know if the controversy is a legitimate byproduct of the social politics of the day, or a creation of a marketing department, but it probably helped in the album promotion.

    In the quest for a mainstream hit, Elektra, and Butterfield make an attempt in that direction by hiring a young Barry Friedman to produce Come On In/ I’ve Got a Mind to Give Up Livin’, solely for the UK market. The single is released in November on the London label (they're the American arm of Decca Records in England), but it does gain any notable traction. In the U.S. they release the single All These Blues/ Never Say No, but it doesn't chart either. Even though the release of the singles don't gain them a lot of mainstream success, the publicity is priceless, plus they are performing well in the FM market, and selling out live shows. In the end, East West does manage to wrestle its way up the Billboard charts to peak at #65, which is a better position than the first album.

    There is an additional element about East West that should be mentioned here. Many fans lament the fact that the album marks the end of one of the best configurations of the Butterfield band. The departure of Sam Lay after the first album release is only the beginning of the many personnel changes Butterfield will weather over his career. Late in 1966, Jerome Arnold leaves, sighting artistic differences, he pretty much drops out of the music business, and is never heard from again. Billy Davenport grows tired of the incessant touring, choosing to return to the stability of his life in Chicago.

    Many fans will argue that the biggest loss is when Bloomfield decides to leave the band too. At the time, there is some speculation in the press that his departure is the result of too much personality friction between him and Butterfield. There are even reports of physical confrontations between the two, but I think that it is more likely that Bloomfield succumbs to the sleepless nights traveling across the country, often in close quarters, plus is increasing fame. If he doesn't get along with Butterfield on a personal level, that is not reflected in the number of projects they both contribute to in the future. There may well have been some personality issues, but there is also a lot of professional, and musical respect between the two.

    In defense of Butterfield, if any readers have ever been charged with the responsibility of having a group of people complete a task which will be presented to third parties, you will have some empathy for him, and the pressures he faces everyday. He is the bandleader, responsible for hiring, then leading his musicians in the creation, and performance of his music. I know from my own experiences as a boss, this can be challenging. Butterfield is a very young man in the mid-sixties, and not a seasoned bandleader. However, the fact that he leads his band up to East West, and then through several years of tours, and albums is a testament to his leadership abilities. After all, he is the bandleader who brought us a great group of musicians, as well as two of the most important albums in the history of 1960s popular music. As we will see in future blogs, he recovers from many professional set backs, and still goes on to explore, create, and perform some of the best music of a generation.

   So, in the end, the newly minted Butterfield Blues Band  is whittled down to Butterfield, Bishop, and Naftalin. Bishop is the big winner here because his role within the band changes from second guitarist to the main attraction in a world of Rock and Roll guitar slingers. The changes also open the door for Butterfield to pursue other musical experiments which he does.

    Fortunately,  Elektra's marketing strategy doesn't do much to bring the band as deep into the mainstream as they intend. In the coming years more attempts will be made, but eventually there will be a realization that the Butterfield Blues Band is more about good music than mainstream pop hits.

Set list:  Walkin’ Blues, Get Out of My Life Woman , I Got A Mind To Give Up Livin’ , All These Blues, Work Song, Mary, Mary ,Two Trains Running, Never Say No, East-West.

 Paul Butterfield, vocal and harmonica, Mike Bloomfield - guitar, Elvin Bishop guitar & (vocal
on Never Say No), Mark Naftalin, organ, piano, Billy Davenport, drums, Jerome Arnold - Bass

The video is Mary, Mary!



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

# 21 East West Live

   So, the second World War ends in late 1945, thousands of young American soldiers are elated to return home, settle into the more stable world of marriage, and as a result, millions of happy babies are born. In fact, by 1946 the United States is witnessing the beginning of the largest baby boom in its history. All of these new parents want life to be different for their kids, and encourage them to pursue an education as means of improving their opportunities.

    As it turns out, life really is different these baby boomer kids.  They are more urbanized, healthier, and better educated than their parents generation, and they seem to have more friends too. However, if all goes well, babies grow up into young adults, and often, this is when some socialization problems begin. Not only do these kids want a world different from their parents, they want a complete overhaul! This request for change from young people is nothing new, but because of the numbers, the demands are louder.

    All intelligent young people question the sense of a world that is seems to have been created by the previous generation. What they see is the apparent unnerving reality of a stifled middle class life in the suburbs, so many of them rebel. They want more social freedom, and the political change that comes with it. These baby boomers are hungry for new experiences, but new experiences require experimentation.  

    One of the important figures to tap into this desire for experimentation is New York psychologist Dr. Timothy Leary. He starts using psychedelic drugs in the late fifties, and by the mid sixties he is publicly promoting the awareness benefits of  LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) or acid to rebellious youth. In the minds of many young people, Leary is a high profile example of someone who has successfully left the confines of their expected life, so, they adopt him as an important figure in their quest for social change. Then in 1966, Leary tells everyone who is listening to "Turn on, Tune in and Drop Out".  The borrowed phrase, and everything it suggests becomes popular enough that the elites of counter culture movement embrace his ideology, the media solidifies his profile, and young people eagerly jump on the bandwagon.

   Then, many young people, who might be using using alcohol, and smoking marijuana, start experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs like magic mushrooms, peyote, mescaline, and of course LSD. Parents feel ambushed! Their worries become the concerns of politicians, who console them with words, but it's too late, change is here. Gradually, the language of psychedelic drugs seeps into the mainstream with vocabulary about trips,  psychedelic colours. People are turning on to new ideas, and dropping out of society. Even the styles of clothes, movies, books, and of course the music they embrace changes. Much of it reflects the new culture surrounding psychedelic drugs

    Like many other hip young musicians of the day, Mike Bloomfield is experimenting with acid too. On one all night trip, he has revelations into the workings of Indian music while improvising on a song written by friend Nick Gravenites. As the Butterfield band's keyboardist Mark Naftalin explains to music critic Dave Marsh, 

"The song was based, like Indian music, on a drone. In Western musical terms, it 'stayed on the one'. The was tethered to a four-beat bass pattern and structured as a series of sections, each with a different mood, mode and color, always underscored by the drummer, who contributed not only the rhythmic feel but much in the way of tonal shading, using mallets as well as sticks on the various drums and the different regions of the cymbals. In addition to playing beautiful solos, Paul [Butterfield] played important, unifying things [on harmonica] in the background - chords, melodies, counterpoints, counter-rhythms. This was group improvisation. In its fullest form it lasted over an hour."

So, the results of his acid experience becomes an instrumental called "Raga Rock", but after many performances, the title changes to "East West". The creative chronology and technical aspects of "East West" warrants a more complete dissection than I can possibly offer in this brief blog, so I will leave that more complete analysis for you to pursue from other sources. It's contribution to musical history is the most important part of the instrumental.

   "East West" changes the direction of music in the 1960s, and those changes can still be heard today. It isn't jazz, but it has a jazz sensibility to it. It isn't blues either, yet you can hear blues in it. It isn't rock, but there is the rock tempo, and instrumentation. It evolves from a folk music, but it sure doesn't sound like folk music. It's a difficult question: What is "East West"?, but that is part of what makes its contribution to popular music so important. In the mid-sixties, nobody is composing, and performing music like it. I like to think of "East West" as an early example of post war, urban roots music or Electric Americana. It deserves a good name?

   During its growth as a significant work of art, the live performances of "East West" are part of what solidifies the Butterfield Blues Band as a group that
listeners must experience live. I have one live recording where Butterfield announces that they are going to "close out the set" with "East West", and there is thunderous applause. When the band performs it at The Fillmore, there is a light show behind the band (see blog #17), and sometimes, Bloomfield eats fire as part of the stage performance. Like good bop jazz, each performance is different, with improvisations that can stretch from thirty to sixty minutes. As jazz musician Wynton Marsalis says, when he describes great music, "Sustain intensity equals ecstasy", I think "East West" fits into that description beautifully.

    In the mid-sixties, no other rock band of the era is doing anything like it, consequently, "East West" sets many benchmarks for all other bands of the period.  The era of the long, sometimes overly indulgent guitar solos, by bands like The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers and many more, probably originates with the success of "East West". Some critics even credit Miles Davis' fusion of Electric Jazz with rock in 1968 to "East West" as he was a fan of Bloomfield's work.

   Most often, the attention given to "East West" is focused on its creation, Bloomfield's guitar work, and the individual performances, but Butterfield's contributions to the song always seems to remain a footnote. Keep in mind that Butterfield is essentially a blues harmonica player at this point, and so his solo is unique. When I listen to his contributions on "East West", I feel like he is almost out of his element, forced into stretching his abilities, but he succeeds in face of the challenge. I can not think of a single harmonica player in blues, or for that matter, in jazz, who is performing solos like he is at this time.

   Many of the baby boomers who listen to "East West" in the sixties are now within reach of senior citizen status, most of whom will probably only visit the instrumental for nostalgia's sake. Guitarists are still fascinated with it, and good historians recognize its importance, but for the mainstream, the ecstasy of "East West" is a forgotten experience.

   For a few reasons, I have intentionally chosen to post the studio version of "East West" below. When writing this post I made the assumption that many readers have not heard the song. This may also explain the rather thin background history I provide at the beginning.

    In addition, some of the bootleg versions including the Naftalin collection, East West Live lack solid sound quality. Also, with consideration to listening with modern ears, sometimes the guitar solos can present themselves as a little too self-indulgent. So, with these considerations in mind, I think it a good idea to make the first listening experience as positive as possible. If you want to hear some of the other live performances of "East West", either buy East West Live on Winner Records, or listen to some bootleg copies on YouTube.

Paul Butterfield: harmonica, Billy Davenport: drums, Jerome Arnold: bass, Mike Bloomfield: guitar and Elvin Bishop: guitar, Mark Naftalin: keyboards.


Friday, January 10, 2014

# 20 Mayall, Butterfield and Greens

    For the fans, it's about the entertainment, and for most artists, it is about the rush of performing their music live, but for everybody else, it's about the money. Each time an artist takes their music out on tour, it's a potential marketing opportunity. Everyone from bartenders selling drinks to the artist's label have the primary interest of making money from artist's performances.

    So, in an effort to expose Butterfield to a new market, his management and label invests some capital into the November 1966 tour of England. Personally, I think, the band, and especially Butterfield, are really over worked from the unrelenting travel, extra performances, and media interviews. I don't know how any of them can remember the whole experience by the time it's over. In addition to the demanding expectations, Paul is expected to record with the British bluesman John Mayall.

   The October of '65 release of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band caters to the merging of folk, blues, and rock audiences with Chicago Blues standards and a few originals. It is a really well crafted revivalist album by some of the best young musicians of an era. The fact that the album is still in print nearly fifty years after its release is a testament to its credibility as a classic album.

    Credentials are an important factor in promoting all blues artists, and Elektra has the good sense to promote the background of Butterfield and his band members in a way which serves heighten the listening experience for fans. Everything from the album cover photo and liner notes, to the stories about the band's past relationships with the masters of Chicago Blues scene serve to accentuate the authenticity of Butterfield and his album.

    The success of the album inspires other labels to seek out artists to capture the revivalist market. Over in England, Decca Records contracts John Mayall and his band The Blues Breakers to record a revivalist album similar to the Butterfield album. However, it's over a year since the release of The Paul Butterfield Band , and to make matters worse for Mayall, his star guitarist, Eric Clapton leaves his band before the promotion of the album can get started. The situation presents a problem of relevance for Mayall, and his label. The fact is that in 1966, outside of England, Mayall has limited credibly in the blues world, and in blues, that can be a detriment. (Many rappers would describe this as lacking of 'street cred') Maintaining his public persona as a first rate bluesman outside of Britain will require some investments. So, having Mayall record with a white blues artist who comes with some serious credentials, will only serve to enhance his profile.

    As a potential remedy to the problem, producer Mike Vernon, gets the idea to record Butterfield and Mayall together for an album. Then, he pitches the idea to Elektra, arguing that it will be good for the careers of both men. I imagine a summary of the proposal went something like:  The two kings of the new blues rock movement together on one disc.....! 

     However, Elektra has other ideas about the future of their band. They don't want Butterfield to continue recording for the dwindling revivalist market.(Nostalgia is a nice place to visit, but who wants to live there.) They want him to move in the direction of the real money, into the mainstream market. Their position is that a recording with Mayall will only slow down his departure from the revivalist market. In addition, Butterfield has already recorded East West, which is made up of rock, blues, jazz, and R & B, definitely not a revivalist album.

   In spite of  Elektra's rejection, Vernon persists, and manages to negotiate terms for an EP of the two bluesmen. Mayall's label, Decca will distribute the EP , but only in the U.K.. It's not ideal for Mayall, but it can still work in his favour.  The advertising will suggest that this young, white American bluesman with serious street cred's has traveled from America to work for bluesman John Mayall. Elektra probably also insists that he will have to use his own band for the recording, but Mayall doesn't care because he doesn't like Bloomfield's playing much anyway, “I had always liked Paul, and admired his harmonica playing, but I wasn’t fond of his band, particularly Mike Bloomfield, whose playing I never much cared for.”  (Liner notes to John Mayall 1964 -‘69).

   In the end, the sessions produce four songs, three covers and a Mayall original: 1) All My Life, 2) Ridin’ the L. & N., 3) Little By Little, 4) Eagle Eye. Butterfield sings, and plays harmonica in a supporting role on three tracks, and takes the lead on Little By Little. I realize this will sound biased, but the one track that Butterfield does sing lead on is the the strongest track of the whole session.

    Overall, Paul’s first tour of Britain is a financial success for all participants, but I think it comes with an artistic price for the newly named Butterfield Blues Band. While in Britain it must be difficult for Bloomfield and Bishop, as guitarists, to ignore the public adulation that Clapton receives for his playing.  Clapton has broken away from Mayall, and he appears to be the better off for it. The whole experience will give the guitarists a great deal to ponder in the future.

NOTE: The video below includes all four songs from the Mayall sessions.