I always thought original Chicago guitarist Terry Kath didn’t get the cred he deserved for being a great guitar player, but Michael Bloomfield laps the field in this regard.
Kath supposedly was one of Hendrix’s favorite guitar players, but Kath once told Guitar Player magazine that he used to sit around playing his guitar to the Butterfield Blues Band’s “East/West” album — except he referred to the record as “Mike Bloomfield’s ‘East/West.’”
I knew Bloomfield played guitar on Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” but every time I heard anything about him I’d think “white Chicago bluesman.”
I never went there with Bloomfield’s Butterfield bandmate Elvin Bishop, an early Capricorn Records signee who wore overalls, posed with a pig on one of his album covers and mentioned Hank Aaron in one of his songs. I bought the farm, so to speak, and figured Elvin must come from a swamp or cornfield somewhere below the Mason-Dixon. Turns out Elvin grew up on a farm in Iowa, which is Southern compared only to Minnesota, Manitoba and the North fucking Pole.
That’s marketing for ya, which I think is a lot of the problem with Bloomfield’s legacy — a legacy his old running buddy Al Kooper has done a lot to burnish.
I plan to follow Kooper’s lead, not to mention the direction provided by the trusty Nate and Ed Ward. The Kooper-curated box set is still quite affordable, and there’s a ton of other Bloomfield material out there.
Next time I go to Chicago...meanwhile, stay tuned for my Frank Marino take in relation to Bloomfield.
Ed Legge (@freebirdyeller) is a life-long musician, long-time journalist and sometime corporate dweeb who’s writing a book about originating rock ‘n’ roll’s most absurd tradition.