Friday, February 28, 2014

# 34 Jammin with Fleetwood Mac

   The unfortunate reality for blues singers is they usually don't have a long shelf life in the much coveted mainstream market. If they do break into the pop market, there is an immediate need to diversify their format in order to maintain the larger audience. Artist such as B.B. King (3 O'Clock Blues), Little Walter (Juke), Ray Charles (Confession Blues), Paul Butterfield (Born in Chicago) are all examples of artists who achieve initial mainstream success with blues, but make concerted efforts to crossover. (Many pop fans will have only one blues album in their collection, and it is usually an artist who has expanded their repertoire.)

    It seems easy enough to speculate on the causes of this reality, but the reasons are probably very complex. It might be as simple as the adult nature of blues songs bar a true catharsis for the younger pop audience. The idea being that while the younger audience can sympathize with the singer's experience, their lack of life experience prevents them from feeling true empathy. Then again, Blues is often labeled in the press as a sad music which is totally falseBlues is a folk music, and consequently comments on all levels of emotion in the human experience. All theories aside, blues doesn't do well in the pop market. It is a reality which is very obvious in the Blues Rock trend of the 1960's

   Similar to the U.S., by '66 the U.K. is also in the midst of a electric blues revival. The rising star over there is John Mayall (see post # 20), who for all intensive purposes is copying the format that The Paul Butterfield Blues Band popularizes a year earlier. Like Butterfield, he hires a agile guitarist, Eric Clapton, but the young guitar slinger has greater ambitions to realize, and leaves the band before any of the heavy promotion of the Bluesbreakers begins.

   So 1967, Mayall hires Peter Green as Clapton's replacement, and even gives him free studio time as a signing bonus. Green accepts the gift, borrows Mayall's band, and records five songs. One of the songs is an instrumental which he names after the rhythm section, Fleetwood Mac. The recordings receive enough industry encouragement that Green decides to leave Mayall, and then steals the blues singer's band on the way out the door. By 1968, Peter Green establishes his own blues band which he calls Fleetwood Mac.

    They release their first first album, Fleetwood Mac in February of '68 as a no frills blues album which is yet another attempt at capitalizing on the success of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band sound. In spite of the fact the album has no singles for the pop market, it climbs all the way up to number 4 on the U.K. charts. This success impresses their label, Blue Horizon, who insists on a single from the band. So, Fleetwood Mac releases Black Magic Woman (Santana will have a hit with it in 1970), and Need Your Love So Bad.

   The success of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac in Britain spawns a spring tour of the U.S., which will include some dates inside the epicenter of Blues Rock.  By June they are in San Francisco for a three night stay at the Carousel Ballroom, and either Butterfield volunteers to sit in with the band, or their management hires him to perform with the band. The fact is that by '68, Butterfield is definitely the most famous young bluesman in San Francisco, if not whole country, so he doesn't need the attention.  The probably is good that the unknown Fleetwood Mac hires Butterfield to appear on stage with them as an endorsement by an established Blues Rock Icon.   (You can tell that Butterfield is just sitting in because he asks Green what key they are playing in at one point.)

   Fortunately, for fans of early Fleetwood Mac there is a good quality soundboard recording made over the three nights, but also captures the level of blues expertise the band is working toward.  Many of the European blues acts tend to get stuck replicating the music they hear on the original recordings of blues artists. This shallow approach to the music regularly produces wooden performances by foreign artists. Just listen to Spencer's replication of Elmore James' work on this album.

    The good American bands don't fall into this trap. Even a limited repertoire like Canned Heat's feels more visceral than the Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. Most good American Blues Rock bands tend to approach the music as a continuation in the life of an art form rather than an effort to preserve it. This approach is probably just another of the subtle influences that the Butterfield's band has on Blues Rock.

   In the coming years, Fleetwood Mac will change many of its members, and completely remove blues from their repertoire in favour of pop songs. The crossover proves to be a great success as they will earn enormous worldwide appeal in the mainstream soft rock market of the 70's and 80's. It is doubtful that many of their fans even know that they were once a blues band.

Below is the track list from the show they do at the Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, June 7, 8, 9, 1968. 

Fleetwood Mac: Peter Green: Guitar & Vocals, John McVie: Bass, Mick Fleetwood: Drums, Jeremy Spencer: Guitar & Vocals, Paul Butterfield: harmonica where highlighted.

1) Madison Blues, 2) My Baby's Gone, 3) My Baby's Skinny, 4) Worried Dream, 5) Dust My Broom, 6) Got to Move, 7) Worried Mind, 8) Instrumental 9) Have You Every Loved a Woman 10) Lazy Poker Blues, 11) Stop Messin' 'Round, 12) I Loved Another Woman, 13) I Believe, 14) The Sun is Shinning, 15) Long Tall Sally, 16) Willie & The Hand Jive 17) Tutti Frutti, 18) Band Introductions, 19) Ready Teddy, 20) I Need Your Love So Bad, 21) I Believe, 22) Shake You Moneymaker 23) Ready Teddy, 24) Announcer Outro.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

# 33 Jammin' with Steve Miller

    In the mid-sixties, the sub-genre of Rock'n'Roll, called Blues Rock is developing a broader commercial appeal. The raw, anti-commercial music appeals to the values of the counter culture movement, and so they appoint it to the role of soundtrack of the social movement. However, when the profile of the counter culture is successfully marketed to the mainstream, the music becomes part of the package,and so, by 1968, Blues Rock is permeating the very lucrative international mainstream airwaves.

    Many of the key players in this trend are a group of young men who move from Chicago, and adopt San Francisco as the base camp for their flourishing careers. Their presence in the city is significant enough that the new rock press identify them as "the Chicago Crowd". (Butterfield is an exception, while he does tour the West Coast many times, he never warms to the scene, choosing instead to live, and work out of Woodstock, N.Y.).

     Most of the young men who are at the core of  the Chicago Crowd seem to have a common social profile. They tend to be: born during the war, white, middle class, socially/politically liberal, intelligent, in many cases well educated, and they seem to have a sense of entitlement that so many young people of their era enjoy. (The great singer/harmonica player, Charlie Mussellwhite is the odd man out in this group.) If there is a good representative of this group it is the Gangster of Love, the Space Cowboy, the Joker, Steve Miller.

    Miller is born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to a very musical family. His mother is a proficient jazz singer, and while his father is a pathologist by day, he is also a jazz enthusiast, and practicing recording engineer. When many of the Jazz celebrities travel through Milwaukee, the Millers often entertain the artists in their home, and develop lasting relationships with many of them. Their friendship with Les Paul and Mary Ford is close enough that they are invited to act as best man, and maid of honour at their wedding. It is from Les Paul that the young Steve Miller receives his first endorsement toward pursuing music as a career.

    A few years later the Millers move to Texas where Steve starts his first band with his brother, and classmate Boz Scaggs. After graduating from high school, he returns to Wisconsin, studies English Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but leaves for a semester to study Comparative Literature at the University of Copenhagen.

    Copenhagen doesn't suit him, so he leaves, six credits shy of his degree, and returns to the U.S.. This time he settles in Chicago where he submerges himself in the local blues scene at Big John's, jamming with Butterfield, and many of the South Side bluesmen. Then he forms the Goldberg-Miller Blues Band, works the local club scene, signs with Epic Records, and moves to N.Y.C..

    However, Miller becomes disenchanted with the East Coast scene, and decides the Chicago scene is more appealing. When he arrives back in Chicago he discovers the blues scene is evaporating, so he moves back to Texas to finish his degree. After a short period, the politics of the university get the better of him, and he to drives to San Francisco in the Volkswagen bus his dad buys him.

    When Miller arrives in '66, he starts a band called the Miller Band, and works the local circuit. Then, in 1968, his band releases Children of the Future with Bos Scaggs on guitar. In an effort to promote the new album they play simulcast concert for the Berkeley radio station KPFA . In an effort to add appeal to the concert, Miller invites Butterfield to jam with the band on three numbers. In 1968, Paul Butterfield's fame is still peaking, and his band is a major concert draw, so his appearance is a welcome endorsement for Miller.

   Miller will go on to use his background in literature to create some of the most colourful characters of the 70's:  Gangsters of Love, Space Cowboys, and of course the Pompitous of Love, (Miller claims he is the inventor of the word Pompitous, quite a feat!) Many of his well crafted pop songs will become fan favourites, and provide him with a very lucrative career.
    Steve Miller with Paul Butterfield sitting in on three songs, KPFA, Live broadcast from Berkeley, Cal., Oct., 1968.

Below is one of the songs Song for Our Ancestors.




Friday, February 21, 2014

# 32 Butterfield & Hendrix, Voodoo Childe

    The release of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band does much more than just popularize post-war electric Chicago Blues; it generates a measurable social change in a large group of young people who are eager to play the music.

    If the band's convincing studio interpretations of electric blues are ground breaking, then their live shows are even more important. The underlying message Butterfield seems to send to fans is I was an outsider, I infiltrated the musical culture of the South Side, learned the nuances of its music, and I can now perform it with the authority of a native. It's an implicit boast which is not new, it has been done before, just not during Butterfield's generation.

    Similar to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the second album East West, inspires even more significant changes in popular music. After this album, even more Blues-Rock bands grow out of suburban garages and basements, sporting electric harmonica and guitar, and earning the tough urban blues of Chicago a larger audience. There are other successful Blues-Rock bands working during this period, but it is the Butterfield band that sets a new standard of musicianship. This standard is just part of a series of subtle changes the band will create in the mid-sixties, many of which are still being heard today. (In the sixties, Butterfield does for the Hohner Marine Band what Little Walter does for the harmonica in the fifties, his popularity actually causes the sale, and price of the instrument to rise.)

    Similar to his band leader, Mike Bloomfield's performances also offer hope to young musicians eager to attain credibility in Blues-Rock. He channels his creative, almost manic, energy through his guitar, and it pours out of his amplifier with as much credibility as any of the great Chicago bluesmen. Many who witness his live performances are so moved by his playing that they announce, He doesn't play the guitar, he is the guitar!

     Not only does Bloomfield showcase a mastery of his instrument, and the genre; he also improvises with a visceral ease that only jazz players accomplish. As a result, millions of fans select him to be their teacher, hero, and leader. Decades after his after his guitar sits silent, fans are still listening, and talking about the great guitarist Mike Bloomfield.

    Sadly, the history books regularly point to the Grateful Dead as the original Jam Band, but this is statement is the product of shallow research. In a general sense, it is the Butterfield band who is the true owner of the title. It is their improvisations inside songs such as East West, and Work Song that inspire so many groups to seek out skilled stylists who can also improvise. Among the many Guitar Slingers appearing in front of bands are Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Robbie Robertson, Jerry Garcia, and Duane Allman. They all owe so much to both the Butterfield Blues Band, and especially Mike Bloomfield. At the time, it must be difficult to imagine anyone will be able to influence the direction of Rock more than them.

   Then Jimi Hendrix arrives. The relatively new genre of Blues Rock, and its fans are always open to new experiences, and Hendrix delivers. He takes the music, and its star instrument into areas never before contemplated.

     Hendrix is an American who pays his dues playing the Chitlin' Circuit with the Isley Brothers, and Little Richard.  Then he moves to England, where he is discovered by musician/manager Chas Chandler. After Hendrix enjoys three massive hits over there, his management signals him to prepare for the lucrative American market. So, in 1967, Jimi Hendrix arrives home, plays the Monterey Pop Festival, and is awarded the status of Rock Star by the media. Then fans solidify his position by making his album Electric Ladyland number one on the national charts.

    Hendrix's style is unique because he plugs his Fender Stratocaster into very large over driven amps with recklessly high volume and gain. He also uses wah-wah pedals, stereophonic phasing and any other electronic tools available to him. In addition, he masters the sonic liability known as feedback, incorporates it into his playing, and then implicitly challenges all rock guitarist follow his lead. The basis for Hendrix's unique style seems to be that he doesn't approach the guitar with a traditional vision; rather, he views his instrument as just another electronic sound source.

    In addition to his playing, Hendrix is also a flamboyant stage performer too. He often wears garish costumes on stage, plays his guitar in unusual positions, and performs sexually suggestive acts with it on stage. He even smashes his instrument during some performances, and sometimes pours lighter fluid on it before setting it ablaze in front of the hypnotized audience. (He may have borrowed this idea from Little Richard as it is rumored that he lights his piano on fire while touring in the fifties, as does Jerry Lee Lewis, but this could be legend.) By '68, Jimi Hendrix is the most famous Rock guitarist alive. Like Bloomfield, the changes he ignites are still be heard today.

     There are several live recordings of Paul Butterfield and Jimi Hendrix available. Hendrix's family has wisely been very diligent in their pursuit of the rights to most of his recordings: Jimi HendrixPaul ButterfieldAl Kooper, Elvin Bishop, Philip Wilson, and Buddy Miles jamming on Voodoo Childe at the Generation Club in New York, 1968.


Monday, February 17, 2014

# 31 Paul Butterfield @The Psychedelic Supermarket, March 28th, 1968.

    Recording, and then publicly releasing unofficial/unauthorized audio or video recordings of artists, (bootlegs), is a well established practice. (There are actually accounts of bootleggers releasing unofficial transcripts of Shakespeare's plays in the 1600's.) By the early 20th century bootleggers are recording orchestras as they perform the soundtracks to popular films, and many Be-bop performances are bootlegged during the '40's and '50's. However, don't confuse bootlegs with pirate recordings, the two are two completely different endeavors.

   Many historians believe that the bootlegging of Rock music starts in 1966 when Bob Dylan retreats from public view because of his famous motorcycle accident. Shortly after his accident a bootlegger assembles an album of his unreleased songs, packages it as Great White Wonder, and then releases it for public consumption. If the historians are correct, it is this event that marks the beginning of a very long list of bootlegged Rock

    As the music world moves through the less expensive, yet more technologically sophisticated, practices of the digital age, so do the skills of bootlegger. Now, almost anyone can bring a smartphone into a concert, record it, and engineer it at home on a computer. They can then reproduce it in a variety of formats, and share online.

    Many older artists or people claiming to represent their interests, recover old bootleg performances, hire a sound engineer to remove most of the imperfections, and then sell them. There are many bootlegs of Butterfield associates like: Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Dr. John, Maria Muldaur, and of course Paul Butterfield being offered up online.

     So, below you will find a bootleg of the Butterfield Blues Band from '68. It often comes up on ebay or some other online vendor, but the whole concert is available for free on YouTube. It's a good example of a poor quality bootleg because it has not been engineered, or even divided into tracks. In addition, the sound quality is only weak to adequate. However, the performance is very spirited.

    As a bit of background on this bootleg, The Psychedelic Supermarket is officially listed as a venue at 590 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, but in reality it is in an alley behind Commonwealth Avenue, near Kenmore Square, and backing onto Boston University. The address is only used by the promoter to help direct patrons to the venue.

    The Supermarket is actually a parking garage during the day, and local promoter George Popadopilis converts it into a live music club at night to cater to about 300 patrons. (He also ran the Unicorn coffee house, see post #10). The first successful band he books is Cream, and after this concert, he hires many of the new Rock bands out on tour: the Doors, Janis Joplin, and of course the Butterfield Blues Band.

Psychedelic Supermarket, Boston Mass., March 28, 1968. 1). Instrumental Jam, 2). Drivin’ Wheel, 3). In The Wee Hours, 4). Get Out Of My Life Woman, 5).Mystery Train, 6).Watch Your Happy Home, 7). Run Out Of Time, 8). Born In Chicago, 9). I Gotta Mind To Give Up Livin’, 10). More, More, More 11). Just To Be With You, 12). Keep Lovin’ Me Baby.

Paul Butterfield: vocals and harmonica, Bugsy Maugh: bass and vocals (Drivin’ Wheel, The Wee Wee Hours), Elvin Bishop: guitar, Mark Naftalin: keyboards, Keith Johnson: trumpet, Gene Dinwiddie: tenor sax, David Sanborn: alto sax.

Friday, February 14, 2014

#30 Paul Butterfield & Medium Cool

    Every generation picks people to play the role of hero while they travel from the innocence of childhood into the reality of the adult world. Similar to all generations, young people tend to look for heroes who will give a voice to the feelings they have about the future world they are facing. 

   While many of these heroes will prove to be mere fluff and blow away, others will actually attain sustainability by changing the direction of lives.  In the early sixties, Bob Dylan plays this role as does Timothy Leary a few years later, but one of the most influential heroes of the baby boomer generation is Marshall McLuhan.

     McLuhan who is a Canadian philosopher of communication theory is thinking, teaching, and writing in the world of academia well before the sixties arrive. However, it is during this decade that the enormous wave of baby boomers latch on to many of his ideas, adopting some of his expressions, and concepts.  

     Around this period several of McLuhan's expressions enter into English, and maintain an active position to this day: the global village and the medium is the message are only two. (He also predicts the world wide web thirty years before it begins.) His influence on the English Language alone, places him in the position of a very influential person of at least a couple of generations, and quite possibly several others. It isn't too strenuous a stretch of the imagination to consider that Marshall McLuhan is in the company Freud, Einstein, and a select few modern thinkers.   

    Remember, during the twentieth century  there are many major changes to the way all people communicate. Telephones, radios, films, televisions, and recorded music all evolve from expensive novelty status to necessary additions in our daily lives. So, McLuhan's ability to make sense of these changes elects him as an ideal candidate for the position of hero.   

    In 1964, he publishes Understanding Media: The Extensions of ManIn it he labels media as either hot or cool . He creates these terms to describe the viewers interaction with a particular media. For example, movies are a hot media because they enhance a single sense (in this case vision) however, television is cool because it requires more effort on the part of the viewer's imagination to fill in the blanks of the story. Consequently, ideas like his have a huge impact on academics, public intellectuals, as well as film makers.

    One of the people McLuhan influences is film maker Haskell Wexler, who writes, and directs the film Medium Cool (the title evolved from McLuhan's ideas in the book mentioned above). The setting of the story is Chicago, during the 1968 National Democratic Party Convention, and blends both fiction with non-fiction. In 1968, this a new approach to storytelling through movies, and it grabs the attention of both the public as well as the News industry. It is one of the first films to openly question the responsibilities of television and its newscasts. By 1970, it is rated R, and is criticized for its use of nudity, but many feel the rating is more likely a result of the criticisms it levels at the news media. 

    So, how does Paul Butterfield fit into this lineage?  As it turns out, Haskell Wexler hires the counter culture guitar hero Michael Bloomfield to organize the soundtrack. Bloomfield also happens to be Wexler's cousin, but it is doubtful his involvement is a product of nepotism, but rather a choice by Wexler to hire an excellent musician. However, the fact that in 1968 Mike Bloomfield is a national hero of the counter culture doesn't hurt either. There is a probably that Bloomfield includes Paul Butterfield because by 1968 he too is a national hero of the counter culture movement, in addition to being an excellent musician.

    The soundtrack does not seem to be available for purchase separate from the film, this may change as Medium Cool has been recently re-released, so these two tracks featuring Bloomfield and Butterfield have been copied from the film. (There are other artists on the soundtrack of the film too, including, a very young Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention as well as Love.   


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

# 29 Paul Butterfield in film You Are What You Eat.

    Words are just intricate little symbols that transmit meaning to us. A single word can create vivid images in our minds, and yet, a short time later, that same word, might be removed from our speech, and relegated to the confines of the dictionary. Slang is a good place to watch the life and death of a word. In our youth, most of us remember using slang, only to be told by an older generation that the word has no meaning to them. However, there are examples of slang which seem to transcend several generations.
     For example, in the early twentieth century, the word hip is used in African American slang to identify someone who is in the know. Then, during the forties, people who use Harlem Jazz slang use hip and hep to identify someone is in the know and consequently, cool. By the 50's, a subculture of young people who call themselves Beatniks attach themselves to the Be-Bop Jazz culture, (It isn't the other way around as depicted in the media), and in the process adopt much of the slang living in that culture.

    These Beatniks or Beats are a relatively small group of young people who feel disenfranchised by the mainstream corporate values. Their response to pressures from conformists is an attachment 
to the philosophies of the Counter Culture Movement. Typically, these rebellious young Beatniks garner some negative attention from parents, politicians and mainstream media, but to their admirers, they are labeled hip or hipsters.

    By the early sixties, there is a growing number of these hipster Beatniks living in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, and New York City's Greenwich Village. It is from these two neighbourhoods that the new word, hippie is born.

    While the hippies do share similar socio-political philosophies with the Beatniks, they seem to have a heavier focus on the use of psychedelic drugs. They often promote the rejection of corporate values through the expansion of the mind with drugs like L.S.D., peyote, mescaline in addition to marijuana, and hashish.

   Young people who feel disenfranchised by mainstream values is not a new social dynamic, it has been here longer than any of us will ever remember. However, in the 60's the shear number of young people calling themselves hippies is staggering. To make matters worse for "old" people, these hippies are really vocal about their dedication to the counter culture values. Consequently, society is confronted with the problem of a huge number of entitled baby boomers, hippies, rebelling against the stubborn status quo. The direction of this conflict seems so predictable, posturing from both camps, leading to a showdown.

    In the case of these Counter Culture Hippies versus Mainstream Corporate Society, the showdown takes place at the Monterey Pop Festival. This is where the Hippie Movement, and their values are lead into a corporate arena, and treated like lambs to the slaughterMonterey should be viewed in history as the event where the Counter Culture sells out to the Entertainment Industry.

    Rock music acts a very important bridge between the social, and political changes that young people are demanding, and consequently they are vulnerable when offered the Monterey Pop Festival. Most people have a very emotional connection to music, but in the 60's, the emotional connection young people have to their music is very powerful.

    After Monterey, The Hippie becomes a mere one dimensional character in a series of novels, television dramas, the Evening News, popular music, and mainstream films. Their values are trivialized, and so is their fashion sense, language, and all the other symbols of The Hippie Movement. In the arena called Monterey, the ideology of a generation becomes the victim of mass marketing campaigns.

    By the early 70's most of the ideas people associate with the hippie movement will be as thin as the messages on the catchy posters that cover the bedroom walls of millions of kids across the Western World. I remember two:  H.I.P.P.I.E - Helping In Producing Peaceful Individual Existence, and Dope will get you through times of no money better than times of no dope.

    So, what does all of this have to do with Paul Butterfield?  Judging by his dress, and the language he uses in interviews, Butterfield doesn't seem too emotionally connected to the hippie movement. His vocabulary suggests he is more attached to the New York Be-Bop Beatniks than the Hippies.

   However, the hippie movement is attached to his music, partly, because its intent resonates with young people, but at least some of his commercial success is the result of the marketing done by Elektra and Albert Grossman.

   After Monterey, one of the first Freak-Out films directed at the Hippie Movement is You Are What You Eat. (the title is a reference to the use of L.S.D.)  It is a pseudo-documentary dealing with the identity crisis facing the youth of the day, and is told through a series of montages of events taking place in the East Village, NYC, Haight-Ashbury, S.F., and the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. Today the movie is really only relevant to nostalgic veterans of "back in the day", historians, and fans of Paul Butterfield.

    You Are What You Eat is long out of print, but the soundtrack is still available online. It features many of the new Rock Stars of a generation, and of course, Paul Butterfield performing the title track. (see the bottom of this post).

    However, if you take a closer look at the project leaders, and artist names, you will notice a strong connection to Albert Grossman's stable of musicians who live and work out of Woodstock, N.Y. . In the music scene of the 60's Grossman is the king of the artist managers.

    In 1968, this might have been a hip movie, but today it just appears so disjointed, amateurish, and dated.  As for those words, hip and hipsters, they are still in use, but hippie is almost dead.

1) Teenage Fair: By John Simon/Peter Yarrow. Rosco (narration), John Simon (ondiolin, organ, vocal), Peter Yarrow (vocal), Nancy Pliday (vocal), Bill Crow (bass), Bill Lavorgna (drums)

2) Moments of Soft Persuasion: By John Simon/Peter Yarrow. Peter Yarrow (vocal, acoustic guitar), John Simon (electric piano).

3) Silly Girl:  By John Simon/Peter Yarrow. Peter Yarrow (vocal, acoustic guitar), John Simon (organ), Bill Crow (bass), Unknown (2nd guitar).

4) Desert Moog Music: By John Simon. John Simon (moog, ondiolin, percussion), Peter Yarrow (percussion), Al Gorgoni (guitar), Unknown (2nd guitar).

5) Be My Baby:  By J. Barry/E. Greenwitch/P. Spector. Tiny Tim (vocal), Robbie Robertson (guitar), Garth Hudson (organ), Richard Manuel (piano), Rick Danko (bass), Unknown (drums).

6) The Family Dog:  By John Simon. John Herald (vocal), John Simon (piano, back-up vocal), Peter Yarrow (back-up vocal), Bill Crow (bass), Bill Lavorgna (drums), Unknown (guitar), Unknown (guitar).

7) The Nude Dance:  By Hamsa El Din. Hamsa El Din (uood)

8) My Name is Jack:  By John Simon. John Simon (vocal, Wurlitzer piano), Paul Griffin (Wurlitzer piano solo), Bill Crow (bass), Bill Lavorgna (drums), All stuffs in A&R Studio (back-up vocals), Unknown (guitar).

9) I Got You Babe:  By Sonny Bono. Tiny Tim (vocal), Elaenor Baruchian (vocal), Robbie Robertson (guitar), Garth Hudson (organ), Richard Manuel (piano), Rick Danko (bass), Unknown (drums).

10) You are What You Eat:  By John Simon/Peter Yarrow. Paul Butterfield (vocal, harp), Paul Griffin (organ), Bill Crow (bass), Bill Lavorgna (drums), Unknown (guitar), Unknown (guitar).

11) Beach Music:  By John Simon. John Simon (piano), Bill Crow (bass), Bill Lavorgna (drums), Unknown (guitar).

12) The Wabe:  By John Simon/Peter Yarrow. Peter Yarrow (vocal), John Simon (vocal), Paul Griffin (organ), Bill Crow (bass). The song was named after the first verse of Jabberwocky. The lyrics to the song and the poem are: "'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/ Did gyre and gimble in the wabe./ All mimsy were the borogoves,/ And the mome raths outgrabe."

13) Don't Remind Me Now of Time:  By John Simon/Peter Yarrow. Peter Yarrow (vocal, acoustic guitar), John Simon (harpsicord).

14) Painting for a Freakout:  By John Simon. John Simon (piano), Bill Crow (bass), Bill Lavorgna (drums), Unknown (guitar), Marvin Stamm? (trumpet), Artie Koplan? (tenor sax).

15) Freakout:  By John Simon, performed by "John Simon & The Electric Flag". John Simon (moog, ondiolin), Mike Bloomfield (guitar) Harvey Brooks (bass), Buddy Miles (drums), Herbie Rich (tenor sax, organ) Marcus Doubleday (trumpet), Stemsy Hunter (alto sax)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

# 28 Elvin Bishop and the Butterfield Blues Band Pt. 2

   There are some minor problems with the release preparation of Butterfield's third album, but this news only serves to heighten the anticipation for his fans. Finally, on November 22nd 1967, The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw is distributed to retail outlets, and for the most part, it is greeted with a warm reception.
    In the coming weeks, it will peak at # 52 on the album charts, encouraging Elektra to support their artist with even more international promotion of the band. Even the Rock critics seem content with the new set of tunes from "the Butter Band". As one reviewer notes, “ P.B. has successfully worked the brass into his band in a way that is fairly original, and not imitative.”  So, with all this positive press, what is Butterfield's reaction to the release of his most successful album?

    During a post release interview, he speaks about The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw , “We went in, and played the session without having the time to experiment with what we could really do with the horns.  It was too new.” ..... “ Some people put me down when I got horns, they’d say “ man, why’d you do that,” but there’s so many things you can do with the horns..... I really dig working with horns.  I don’t dig having them just stand there, and play along with us - that’s why I don’t like the Pigboy Crabshaw album too much."  At first, a fan might think he is just under selling his album as a marketing ploy, or maybe it's just his ego's attempt at collecting more accolades, but Butterfield is serious. His new horn band really is a product of a series of surprise changes in personnel, and almost opportunistic format alterations. So, he probably does feel that his band is capable of doing better.

At this stage in his career, Butterfield is maintaining more focus on growing as a musician, and he figures the best way to develop his craft is through playing live. Later in the same interview he does soften his position a little,  “I do like the Crabshaw album for one reason only. We just got in there and played, no going through any of this junk of over-dubbing again and again.” It was recorded completely live? 
 “Right, That’s the way I think all music should be recorded. Groups should cut live, and play the thing, not overdub, and use all kinds of tricks.” It's that Hard-Bop inclination that he, and his previous band introduced to world of Rock with their song East- West.  After East-West, almost all Rock bands are at least attempting to infuse their music with this Hard-Bop attitude. It's a pretty important idea that they introduce to Rock music; it's an attitude still heard in a lot of current roots music.

    However, it isn't just the attitude expressed inside The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw that plays such an important role in the history of 1960's popular music.  The album changes the direction of music when it inspires other Rock bands to add a horn section, and pursue Rhythm and Blues material. It also encourages other Rock artists to use Jazz elements in their music, similar to the way The Beatles introduce the use folk chord progressions into Rock.

     Another significant gift the album makes to popular culture is the introduction of several talented artists to the growing community of Rock fans. It provides Elvin Bishop with the opportunity to establish himself as a viable replacement for Bloomfield. He is the one member of the Butterfield band who consistently works the hardest to maintain a position in the group, and all his hard work is now paying off.  During the early days, right through the recording of the first two albums, Bishop is constantly working hard to improve his timing, soloing, singing, songwriting, as well as his ability to become a front man on stage. Quite a feat when you consider his artistic proximity to the talent of Mike Bloomfield. By '67,  his efforts are paying off though, as many more critics and fans, accept him as a respected member of the elite group of 60's Guitar Slingers.

    Originally, Butterfield is happy to have Bishop as the guitarist in his band; he only hires Bloomfield at the insistence of Paul Rothschild. As we now know, this decision to hire Bloomfield proves to be a wise choice, but for Bishop, it means he has to wait in wings. So, as an endorsement of Bishop's new role, Butterfield uses his nickname, Crabshaw in the album's title.

    It sounds like an odd nickname to me. I can say for sure that I have never heard of someone referred to as Pigboy Crabshaw before seeing this album. Maybe it's an Oklahoma tradition? “Everybody had different nicknames to reflect different sides of themselves,” Elvin remembers.  “Pigboy was my workboots-and-overalls side.” As we will see later, Bishop will build a  successful career around this persona.

    The album also establishes Bugsy Maugh as a credible, and soulful vocalist. When his singing on Drivin' Wheel becomes known, people in the industry start paying attention to the fan reaction. Like Bishop he will build a solo career based on the work he does with Butterfield.

    In addition, the growing community of musicians, writers, and producers in the Rock are also taking notice of the talents of DinwiddiePhilips, JohnsonNaftalin and Sanborn . They too will experience the benefits of recording, and touring with popular 60's band. (This album is David Sanborn's first major recording debut.)

    There are other contributions Resurrection makes too. For Paul Butterfield the artist, it affords him the opportunity to shed his reputation as the leader of a band that plays loud, up tempo Blues-Rock, and he is successful. There are plenty of artists who never manage to move beyond the style of music in which they experience initial success. So, Butterfield's successful shift to a music filled with experimentation is quite a coup for him.

    Butterfield even manages to successfully move away from the amplified harmonica sound he has become so famous for in the last couple of years. None of the songs on the album feature his chunky, electric tone. In spite of all the excitement he generates with his past electric sound, in a gutsy decision, he chooses to return to the more rural sounds of the acoustic harmonica. As most good harmonica players with agree, acoustic and electric harmonicas are almost two separate instruments, both requiring considerable talent to master.

     Butterfield employs several techniques in his playing that place him in the category of "Great" harmonica players, but the two most recognizable features are his tone, and vibrato. In the 60's these are both are groundbreaking sounds in Rock, to this day many harp players are still trying to emulate his sound. I can't think of another active harmonica player in Blues, Rock or Jazz of the 60's who produces such a rich, round tone on a diatonic harmonica, as he does on The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw.  His solo on One More Heartache is stunning!

     Interestingly, one of the frequent criticisms that I read about Butterfield's style is that he is just an imitator of Little Walter. The position is that as a harmonica player, Butterfield is overrated, and consequently should not be afforded the accolades he receives in the trade press as a great harmonica player. However, all living music is derivative to some degree. What separates the greats from the mediocre is their ability to infuse their own sound with their personality, and musical vocabulary on their instrument. If you listen to Butterfield's harmonica work during his early days, you can hear his unique style is present even then. .

     However, acoustic harmonica is best heard in a closed environments like a studio. Playing in large Rock venues creates some sound quality issues, so Butterfield is still using his electric harmonica for live performances.

    Around '67 he makes some changes to his stage gear.  Similar to so many of the 1950's Chicago Bluesmen, up to about '64, he has been using a relatively inexpensive microphone made by Astatic. In recent years they are often referred to as a Green Bullet. (see the photo above, right.) Originally, factories making goods for the Second World War effort use these public address microphones in factories. After the war, many of the factories close, and the mics wind up at the Maxwell Street Market, where local harp players pick them up for very little money. Personally, I suspect their entry into Chicago Blues is more a story of economics than choice of their sound quality, but that is a whole other discussion.

     There has always been an irony in the pervasive use of the Bullet mic in Modern Blues. So many players spend excessive amounts of money on reproductions of the mic, and amps, all in an effort to sound like they are playing 1950's Chicago bar blues. It is doubtful Butterfield would ever consider this retro attitude as a viable option.

    Then, around 1964 he switches from the Astatic to a long skinny wand mic made by Altec, and around '67, he makes a switch from the Altec, to a Shure a pistol grip mic seen in the photo above left. I am going to spare you the product numbers, and technical detail for a future blog on the subject, but the Altec and the pistol grip mics produce a less "distorted" sound than the Bullet mic. Whenever harp players talk about the Shure pistol grip mic Butterfield uses, they often refer to it as the "Butterfield Mic". It surprises me that Shure never tries to capitalize on this fact the way Fender or Gibson capitalize on their high profile customers.

     In spite of all the obvious, and more subtle successes of  The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, creates, it also marks the beginning of a new problem for Butterfield and his music. While the album represents the peak in popularity as a mainstream act, it also is the beginning of his decline as a creative influence on popular music.

The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw,
One More Heartache, Driftin’ and Driftin’, I Pity The Fool, Born Under A Bad Sign, Run Out
of Time, Double Trouble, Drivin’ Wheel
Droppin’ Out, Tollin’ Bells.

Paul Butterfield: Vocals & harmonica, Elvin Bishop: Guitar, Mark Naftalin: keyboards,
Bugsy Maugh: Bass, (vocal on Drivin’ Wheel), Philip Wilson: Drums, Gene Dinwiddie: Tenor sax, David Sanborn: Alto sax, Keith Johnson: Trumpet.

Produced by: John Court for groscourt productions.




Tuesday, February 4, 2014

# 27 Elvin Bishop and the Butterfield Blues Band Pt. 1

    It's early fall of '67, Butterfield is in a L.A. studio recording tracks for his third album, The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, but he doesn't want to be there. In recent months, he is developing a hunger for the unpredictable excitement of performing his music live. You can't really blame him, he does have several Jazz musicians in his band now, so, the thrill of improvising on a groove is consuming most of his artistic ambitions these days.

    When he is frequenting the South Side blues clubs in the late fifties, and early sixties, he isn't enamored with the music quality he hears, or the musicianship for that matter. His negative impression is understandable  though. During this period he experiences the raw, unedited world of Chicago Blues on the South Side, and the less than romantic profile of so many of the real Bluesman. Those experiences must create an image of Blues, and The Bluesman which is contrary to the profiles the media like to promote.

    Keep in mind, into the early 60's, post war electric blues is still considered 'race' music by many in middle America. By the late fifties, even young Afro-Americans are rejecting Blues because of  its socio-political implications, and choosing the more progressive sounds of Rhythm & Blues. There is a strong probably that most members of the so called Chicago Crowd don't actually venture into many of real South Side blues clubs, preferring the social security of Big John's on the Near North Side. For most of them, Blues is a brief exercise in cultural tourism rather than a compulsion to hear an art form at its source. However, Butterfield, Bishop, Bloomfield, Musselwhite, Gravenites, and a small number of others are the exceptions.

    In broad strokes, it is the Folk Revival which introduces Blues to middle America, and ignites a renewed interest in the music. More specifically, the original Paul Butterfield Blues Band is the interracial band which introduces authentic Post War Chicago Blues to young Americans who are already engaging in the heavily amplified sounds of Rock'n'Roll.  The band's interpretation of modern Chicago Blues is very important in the rejuvenation of the art form for at least one generation. However, the introduction of Blues into the mainstream is not a new phenomenon, it seems to happen once every generation.  The possible reason might be that Blues doesn't seem to carry enough resonance with the mainstream masses to get beyond the status of novelty.

    After this education in the real world of Blues, the young Paul Butterfield knows he doesn't want to be a bluesman; it's just too limiting both professionally and artistically. He is talented musician, with a broad musical background, and wants to apply his knowledge in the more demanding, and prestigious world of the Jazz. It may be the experience of audience approval when his old band improvises on songs like East West and Work Song, but at some point, Butterfield adopts the Hard-Bop vision of music as an opportunity to spontaneously express musical ideas.
    Elektra understands the transient nature of the Blues trend , and like Butterfield, they don't like the Bluesman persona either. In an effort to sell more records, they want him to play down his affiliation with Blues, and adopt a more mainstream Rhythm & Blues profile.  So, Elektra appoints John Court, (Albert Grossman's business partner) as the producer of The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, with the intention of culling a hit single from the Butterfield band. They have built a healthy fan base, are considered headliners now, and FM radio airplay is strong. As a result, record sales are rising, and so Elektra wants to exploit their popularity as soon and as much as possible.

    Consequently, you will notice that the set list on The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw is made up of cover songs which have proven themselves as audience favourites for their live concerts. They are also Rhythm & Blues songs which have experienced some success in the largely Afro-American market, but under exposed with the mainstream audience.

    In 1966, One More Heartache is a regional hit, (#29),  for Motown's Marvin Gaye. The Butterfield band has been playing the song live for over a year, and know it is an audience favourite.

   In the 40's Driftn' Blues (Driftin' and Driftin')  is a hit on the West Coast for Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, and later for band member Charles Brown, as well as Ray Charles. It's a new addition to the Butterfield band's repertoire, sporting an updated the title, and some tasty horn arrangements courteous of Naftalin.

    I Pity the Fool, Bobby Blue Bland's Rhythm & Blues song makes it to #48 back in 1961.

   In 1958, Otis Rush writes, records, and has a regional hit with Double Trouble. The Butterfield band are the first of several blues and rock artists to cover it.

   They also cover  Willie Dixon's Tollin' Bells, complete with a Ray Charles funeral march.
 (A Butterfield fan told me of an experience he while seeing the Butterfield Band perform this song at The Town Hall in NYC in 1968.  He said that Butterfield would disappear from the stage during the song, and then reemerge at the back of the auditorium chanting the Tollin' Bells in falsetto.)

   The strongest track on the whole album is Roosevelt Sykes' 1936 hit (there were no charts back then), Drivin Wheel.  The Butterfield version is pretty close cover of Little Junior Parker's 1961 hit. I love both Parker's version as well as the Butterfield's. However, the Buttefield version is so greezy you'd think it came out of Muscle Shoals instead of L.A.. It is also Bugsy Maugh's debut as singer whose skillful use of falsetto establishes him in the rock community as note worthy vocalist.

    Bob Dylan is the artist who establishes the songwriter as an important figure in the popular music of the 60's. After Dylan, not only does the public expect singers to also be songwriters, but artists want to publish, if only for the potentially lucrative royalties. Butterfield is no different, and frankly, I am surprised he doesn't do more over his career; he isn't bad songwriter.

    So, in collaboration with New York singer/songwriter Tucker Zimmerman he writes Droppin' Out. (Zimmerman also has the distinction of introducing Butterfield to his second wife Kathy Peterson while she is working as a dancer in New York. By '67 they are living in Woodstock.)

    Droppin' Out  seems to be an attempt at tapping into the counter culture movement trend which has gone international by '67.  However, his band has been performing it live for over a year, it's the song they perform on the British television show Ready, Steady Go during the '66 tour.

    The second original is Run Out of Time which is written in Woodstock by Butterfield, his wife Kathy and Dinwiddie.  Elektra likes it enough that they release it as a single with One More Heartache as the B side. Both songs feature really exceptional acoustic harmonica solos from Butterfield. It is doubtful there any other recordings on the mainstream radio stations which can boast such a fluid, visceral use of the wha-wha sound Butterfield draws from of his instrument.

     In the end, Butterfield doesn't like The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, (see post #28). To him, and his band, the songs are just vehicles which allow everyone to improvise. When you hear his live shows, (listen to the track I include in post #26), you will hear how they can turn a three minute pop song into an 18 minute tapestry of Hard Bop soloing. Stay tuned for #28.