Paul Butterfield

Paul Butterfield

Infobox musical artist
Name = Paul Butterfield

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Background = solo_singer
Alias =
Born = Birth date|1942|12|17|mf=y
Chicago, Illinois
Died = Death date and age|1987|5|4|1942|12|17
Instrument = Harmonica, Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Genre = Blues-rock, Chicago blues, Electric blues
Occupation = Musician
Years_active = 1963 -1987
Label =
Associated_acts = The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Paul Butterfield (December 17 1942May 4 1987) was an American blues harmonica player and singer, and one of the earliest white exponents of the Chicago originated electric blues style. The impact on the course of rock and roll by the Butterfield Blues Band with the release of their first album, "The Paul Butterfield Blues Band", and the song "Born In Chicago" in particular, was pivotal. They, along with British acts The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and others, including Butterfield's main competitor in Chicago, singer/harp player Charlie Musselwhite, helped introduce young white America to the blues, influencing hundreds of bands from the Grateful Dead to the Allman Brothers, and launched the brief reign of Mike Bloomfield as America's most influential rock guitarist.


The son of an affluent lawyer, Paul Butterfield was born and raised in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. [ All Music Guide biography] ] After studying classical flute as a teenager, he developed a love for the blues harmonica, and hooked up with white, blues-loving, University of Chicago physics student Elvin Bishop (later of "Fooled Around and Fell In Love" fame). The pair started hanging around black blues musicians such as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Junior Wells. Butterfield and Bishop soon formed a band with Jerome Arnold and Sam Lay (both of Howlin' Wolf's band). In 1963, a watershed event in introducing blues to a white audience in Chicago occurred when this racially mixed ensemble was made the house band at Big John's, a folk music club in the Old Town district on Chicago's north side. Butterfield was still underage (as was guitarist Mike Bloomfield, who was already working there in his own band).

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band was signed to Elektra Records after adding Bloomfield as lead guitarist. Their original debut album was scrapped, then re-recorded after the addition of organist Mark Naftalin. Finally, their self-titled debut, "The Paul Butterfield Blues Band", was released in 1965.

At the Newport Folk Festival of 1965, Bob Dylan closed the event with the help of Butterfield's band (without Butterfield himself, however), a move considered controversial at the time by much of the folk music establishment.

After the release of "The Paul Butterfield Blues Band", Lay accidentally shot himself (he subsequently recovered and played drums for Muddy Waters and James Cotton among others) and Billy Davenport took over on drums. The Butterfield Band's second album, "East-West" (1966) reflected the music scene's interest in sitar great Ravi Shankar and other Eastern musicians. Although only moderately successful commercially, it was also critically acclaimed.

These two albums are generally considered to be widely influential. Butterfield's band helped to introduce modern 'Chicago-style' blues to mainstream white audiences, along with bands like Cream. In addition, one of the roots of psychedelic (acid) rock music is the fusion of Eastern and Western music styles as in Butterfield's "East-West".

At the height of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's success, Mike Bloomfield quit the band and formed The Electric Flag with Nick Gravenites, and Bishop began playing lead guitar on "The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw" (1967). The album showed that Butterfield was moving to another musical direction, with a horn section and a soulful, R&B influenced sound. The album included David Sanborn, Brother Gene Dinwiddie, Bugsy Maugh and Phil Wilson, and proved to be the last of the Butterfield band's commercial successes.

In the same year, the Monterey International Pop Festival would showcase The Butterfield Blues Band, along with The Electric Flag, Ravi Shankar, and many others.

After 1968's release "In My Own Dream", both Bishop and Naftalin left at the end of the year. Billy Davenport and new guitarist Buzzy Feiten joined the band on its 1969 release "Keep On Moving" which was received coolly by the music press. Though the Butterfield band was floundering commercially, it was still popular enough to play at the Woodstock Festival — although their performance was not included in the resulting "Woodstock" film. In 1969 Butterfield also took part in a live concert at Chicago's Auditoirum Theater and subsequent recording session organized by record producer Norman Dayron, featuring Muddy Waters backed by Otis Spann, Michael Bloomfield, Sam Lay, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Paul Oscher, and Buddy Miles, which was recorded and released as "Fathers And Sons" on Chess Records.

Following the releases of "Live" and "Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smiling" in 1970, Butterfield broke up the band and returned to Woodstock, New York. He formed a new group including guitarist Amos Garrett, Geoff Muldaur, Maria Muldaur, pianist Ronnie Barron and bassist Billy Rich and named the ensemble as 'Better Days'. This group released "Paul Butterfield's Better Days" and "It All Comes Back" in 1972 and 1973 respectively. Although neither were commercially successful, both albums were received well by critics.

The late 1970s and early 1980s saw Butterfield as a solo act and a session musician, doing occasional television appearances and releasing a couple of albums. He also toured as a duo with Rick Danko, formerly of The Band, with whom he performed for the last time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He also toured with another member of The Band, Levon Helm, as a member of Helm's "RCO All Stars", which also included most of the members of Booker T and the MGs, in 1977. In 1986 Butterfield released his final studio album, "The Legendary Paul Butterfield Rides Again". [ [] ]

Paul Butterfield died in his home in North Hollywood, California, in May 1987 from a heart attack brought on by years of drug and alcohol abuse, just one week after his final concert.

Harmonica style

Butterfield played and endorsed (as noted in the liner notes for his first album) Hohner harmonicas, in particular the diatonic ten-hole 'Marine Band' model. He played using an unconventional technique, holding the harmonica upside-down (with the low notes to the righthand side). His primary playing style was in the second position, also known as 'cross-harp', but he also was adept in the third position, notably on the track 'East-West' from the album of the same name, and the track 'Highway 28' from the "Better Days" album.Seldom venturing higher than the sixth hole on the harmonica, Butterfield nevertheless managed to create a variety of original sounds and melodic runs. His live tonal stylings were accomplished using a Shure 545 Unidyne III hand-held microphone connected to one or more Fender amplifiers, often then additionally boosted through the venue's public address (PA) system. This allowed Butterfield to achieve the same extremes of volume as the various notable sidemen in his band.

Butterfield also at times played a mixture of acoustic and amplified style by playing into a microphone mounted on a stand, allowing him to perform on the harmonica using both hands to get a muted, 'wah-wah' effect, as well as various vibratos. This was usually done on a quieter, slower tune.


"Born In Chicago" was covered by the Pixies for their 1990 Elektra compilation album, "Rubáiyát".


*1965 – The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - "The Paul Butterfield Blues Band"
*1966 – The Butterfield Blues Band - "East-West"
*1966 – The Butterfield Blues Band - "Live at Unicorn Coffee House"
*1966 - The Butterfield Blues Band - "What's Shakin'" - Elektra compilation album
*1967 – The Butterfield Blues Band - "The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw"
*1968 – The Butterfield Blues Band - "In My Own Dream"
*1969 – The Butterfield Blues Band - "Keep on Moving"
*1970 - The Butterfield Blues Band - "Live"
*1971 – The Butterfield Blues Band - "Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin' "
*1972 - The Butterfield Blues Band - "An Offer You Can't Refuse" (recorded 1963)
*1972 - Paul Butterfield Blues Band - "Golden Butter/The Best of the Butterfield Blues Band"
*1973 – Paul Butterfield's Better Days - "Better Days"
*1973 – Paul Butterfield's Better Days - "It All Comes Back"
*1976 - Paul Butterfield - "Put It In Your Ear"
*1981 - Paul Butterfield - "North-South"
*1986 - Paul Butterfield - "The Legendary Paul Butterfield Rides Again"
*1995 - The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - "The Original Lost Elektra Sessions" (recorded 1964)
*1996 - The Butterfield Blues Band - "Strawberry Jam"
*1996 – The Butterfield Blues Band - "East-West Live" (recorded between 1966-1967)
*2005 - The Butterfield Blues Band - "Live" - (Limited Edition with additional tracks)

And you can also hear Butterfield's harmonica in:

*1968 - Jimi Hendrix - "Blues at Midnight"
*1969 - Muddy Waters - "Fathers and sons"
*1975 - Muddy Waters - "Woodstock Album"
*1976 - The Band - "The Last Waltz"


External links

* [ Official Mike Bloomfield Site]
* [ Michael Bloomfield Chronology & Analysis]

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