primarily a beer, pot, and tobacco user. Remember, the bandleaders who Butterfield looks to for guidance in the early sixties are tough Southside bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. These leaders barked orders, and would often fine musicians for appearing on stage under the influence. Butterfield isn't that strict, but definitely discourages his members, and particularly young musicians like Chris Parker from getting involved with drugs. However, that was then, this is now. After the first Better Days tour, Butterfield doesn't seem to care anymore. Back in Woodstock, he teams up with other heavy substance abusers like Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Bobby Charles and continues his self destruction. In the early 90s, that writer Bill Flanagan dubbs Danko, Manuel and Butterfield as the Chemical Roulette Trio with hyperactive, fidgety Danko as the leader.
your deepest emotions, even if when you hide behind your instrument. So, to lose this important attribute is to become hollow and weak. During the first Better Days tour it becomes apparent to his band that he is even questioning his identity as a musician. Amos Garrett tells Butterfield chronicler Tom Ellis, We talked about this many times, especially in the studio. Paul was getting away from the harmonica then something that didn't necessarily please any of us. He told me that he had just sort of hit a dead end with the harmonica. At the live gigs you'd never know it - he would still do his solo on Too Many Drivers and could always work a crowd into a frenzy with 15 minutes of playing, first unamplified then at the vocal mic., then through the twin reverb. But Paul was trying to get into more songwriting and playing the piano, into composition more than anything else. He told me once, 'I've got nowhere to go on the harmonica now - this is just as much as you can play on it,' Like a lot of harmonica players, he had an ego the size of a truck, but you know, he deserved it. At the times he was the best, bar none. But the harmonica didn't seem to excite him much.
Considering, it is only three years since he composes and performs quite innovative jazz/rock instrumentals harmonica, these are significant changes in a very brief period of time.
one. Butterfield now has a full blown substance abuse problem, and it is showing in the performance reviews. He is showing up on stage drunk, audiences are yelling their disapproval at him, but he doesn't seem to care. He is also developing a suspicious streak as he shows in this interview with Laurel Dann of Circular magazine, Just what kind of information did you want? he'll ask politely, displaying almost imperceptible discomfort. He'll explain, You've got to be careful with people, there are people that I look at, and know that I don't want anything to do with them. I can almost always tell when someone wants to take something from me but won't give anything back. No," he answers a question he's asking himself, "I don't feel that everyone who talks to me is looking for something, Some of the love you, but I never look for or expect that.
Better Days as crack rock band. Then on January 18th '74 they play the Midnight Special again performing Take Your Pleasure Where Find It (hosted by Smokey Robinson); later in the year they appear again performing Meet Me Down at the Bottom with host is B.B. King watching them from side of the stage. There are California gigs like the KSAN, San Francisco simulcast, but when you listen to many of these performances, you can sense there is a flagging enthusiasm within the band. As Amos Garrett remembers, Near the tail end of the Better Days band Paul was beginning to develop a bad drug habit. It wasn't obvious the first year or so that we were together; he was real happy then, in good financial and physical shape.... Years later Graham Blackburn will remember, ... Butterfield himself was in the grips of a cocaine habit, and the rest of the band were hardly immune.... Things were getting pretty difficult for Paul. says Graham Blackburn. But as long as you could still stand up and play, everything was justified.
It should be noted that the main reason for the end of Better Days isn't just because of Butterfield's substance addictions, but rather his unwillingness to tour. As Geoff Muldaur points out, there is a reality for all musicians, Every time we went into the studio, Paul made money, especially for the delivering a record. But the band members would only get session fees.... When we were on the road everyone got a reasonable portion of the take. - a per diem , salary and such, and we made good money. So I was always ready to hit the road. But I think Paul wanted to stay in Woodstock and basically make records and drink. And so, after only a couple of tumultuous years, and only two critically acclaimed albums, one of the most underrated roots bands of the 1970s ends.
(A sad footnote to this piece is that while I found plenty of comments about Butterfield's addictions, there is little on attempted interventions by friends.)
Shortly after Butterfield's his death 1987, the co-owner of the Lone Star Cafe in New York where Butterfield so often played in the early 1980s, Mort Cooperman said, Butterfield was a man with a hole in his soul. Somehow despite all the recognition, I think he went to bed every night thinking he wasn't good enough. And so a possible simple answer to the complex question, Paul Butterfield let it all slip away because he simply didn't feel he didn't deserved success he earned.