Saturday, March 8, 2014

# 36 The Introduction of Buzzy Feiten

    In spite of the fact that fans are passing over the great new music inside In My Own Dream, the Butterfield Blues Band is still a money maker for concert promoters. By '69 their international reputation as a creative force best witnessed live is still growing. So, Albert Grossman arranges a tour of key cities in Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Holland, one of which will be broadcast live from Amsterdam over FM radio to millions of listeners in Europe.

    However, the upcoming tour also creates a real urgency for Butterfield. He needs to fill the vacancies Naftalin, Maugh, and Bishop create when they leave the band. Keith Johnson is filling in on organ, so keyboards are not as pressing an issue, but the guitar position is paramount. By the late sixties it seems that every Rock band either has, or is looking for a guitarist who can play the important role of soloist, and this trend in Rock is partly because Butterfield. It is first band that introduces Mike Bloomfield, and then Elvin Bishop to an international audience, so he needs to maintain his profile as an ear for talent.

    After all, the sixties can be seen as the golden age of the Guitar Slinger; where every guitarist is reaching for the title, and every band wants to showcase one. It's no surprise that Bishop decides to pursue a solo career. However, when he starts building his first band, he discovers that being a bandleader comes with its own unique pressures.

   It is a difficult task to select musicians who are not only capable, but can also work within the community of the band, so a referral system serves an important purpose for bandleaders. In late '68, Bishop is in New York, auditioning musicians when a former girlfriend refers a bass player to him. Buzzy Feiten is a good looking teenager from Long Island, who is in New York to study French Horn at Mannes, but is anxious to play in a Rock band. So, when the opportunity to audition for Bishop is presented, he jumps at the opportunity. However, the audition doesn't work out Bishop, but for Feiten, it opens a door.

    Bishop doesn't think Feiten is suited for his material, so he dismisses the kid as a potential band member. However, he does like the way the teenager plays, and so refers him to Butterfield. He is keen to entertain all possibilities, and invites Feiten to jam with him, and several other Rock luminaries at the Generation Club that night. It will be quite the introduction for Feiten as he will be sitting in with Bishop, Hendrix, B.B. King, Al Kooper, and several well known musicians. (There is footage of this jam session. The image quality is poor, but the sound is OK.) Butterfield is impressed enough with Feiten's performance that night that he invites him to audition with his complete band the next day.

   The Butterfield band has been rehearsing three or four times a week for several weeks, and auditioning guitarists at the same time. They invite one, have him play three or four songs, and unfortunately have to reject them. The whole band is finding the process of connecting with a guitarist who is not only versatile, but also owns a really distinctive sound very disappointing.  It is a procedure which often generates frustration, and cynicism for all team builders.

    Then Buzzy Feiten shows up with his home made, fire engine red amp, decorated with a Road Runner decal, and no case for his guitar. Many of the seasoned musicians in the band look at him, and smirk. Then, to make matters worse, they discover; he can't even play Blues.

    However, they notice something else about Buzzy Feiten which is cause for optimism. He plays with passion, a tough attack, and amazing tone, and he harbours a strong desire to learn. As Keith Johnson says, He just had a huge will to play, a lot like Elvin, and we all said, "This is the guy."  He was a young man on fire - lots of talent. After the audition, Butterfield hires Feiten, and gets two important things for his decision. Firstly, the position of Guitar Slinger is no longer vacant, and secondly, Feiten helps to fill the role of bass player in the band by refering his high school friend Freddie Beckmier to Butterfield. While the two new hires must be a substantial relief to Butterfield, it will play an even more important role in the career of Buzzy Feiten.

    Feiten doesn't disappoint Butterfield, the band, or fans when they tour overseas, and then back at home. Years later he will reflect on his audition, and time with the band:  It was so weird - I was just a kid.  And I owe these guys such a debt. They could have been nasty or patronizing, but they just took me in.  I wasn't half the musician any of them was.....  I‘d only had one professional gig in my life. This is a familiar sentiment expressed by numerous musicians who have worked in one of the Butterfield bands.

    So, in January of '69, Feiten does his first tour with a band known on the international stage as a major creative force. While they play Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Holland enthusiastic fans crowd the venues, and a few even take the initiative to document the events by recording them. All of these recordings are of average to good sound quality, and document excellent performances by the band. Since the Amsterdam, Holland show is recorded professionally, the sound quality is good to excellent. The video below is one track from that show, and features Buzzy Feiten a young man on fire.

Paul Butterfield: Harmonica & Vocal, Buzzy Feiten: Guitar, Keith Johnson: Trumpet, Philip Wilson: Drums, David Sanborn: Alto Sax, Gene Dinwiddie: Tenor Sax, Freddie Beckmier: Bass.

 The Butterfield Blues Band, Live at Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Holland, Jan. 18, 1969, 1) One More Heartache, 2) I’ve Got A Mind To Give Up Livin’, 3) Everything’s Gonna Be Alright, 4) Get Out Of My Life Woman, 5) All Your Love, 6) Drown In My Own Tears, 7) In My Own Dream, 8) Run Out Of Time, 9) It Took My Baby


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