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Mike Bloomfield: The Guitar Hero's Guitar Hero

Friday, June 20, 2014

Blues guitar virtuoso Mike Bloomfield's 1969 album 'It's Not Killing Me.' Blues guitar virtuoso Mike Bloomfield's 1969 album 'It's Not Killing Me.'

Michael Bloomfield grew up in relatively wealthy, suburban Chicago in the 1950's, but he was always drawn more to the gritty clubs on the city's South Side than to the trappings of a middle-class lifestyle. Those clubs were home to blues greats like Muddy Waters and Sleepy John Estes. Bloomfield apprenticed himself to these bluesmen, and soon, this young, Jewish, white kid was one of the finest guitarists of his generation.

Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke calls him "rock's greatest forgotten guitar hero" -- a hero even to greats like Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana. 

While most people are familiar with Bob Dylan's iconoclastic "Dylan goes electric" performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, fewer know that that's Bloomfield making all that glorious noise. He was Dylan's man on rock milestones "Like A Rolling Stone" and a blazing "Maggie's Farm." 

Bloomfield went on to pioneer some of the most far-out and daring electric guitar work of the 1960's, but his star faded in the '70s, due in equal parts to changing trends and his own self-sabotaging tendencies. He was dead by 1981, at just 36.

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Fricke reflects on the lasting legacy of Mike Bloomfield, as documented in a new box set From His Head To His Heart To His Hands.  

This segment originally aired on Feb. 6, 2014.

 

Click here to listen to David Fricke's personal playlist of Mike Bloomfield gems. 

View the trailer for the new documentary about Mike Bloomfield, Sweet Blues:

Guests:

David Fricke

Comments [6]

Kimi Reith from Brooklyn

I was excited to hear this piece on Mike Bloomfield tonight (April 28) and re-listened to it online. I missed this segment when you first aired it in February. Mike Bloomfield has been one of my favorite guitarists since I was a young teenager. Got exposed to his music in the late 60s because my best friend's bro was a musician. They turned me on to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Super Session. I still have (and play!) my three old Butterfield Blues Band albums, plus Super Session. My favorite PB album is East-West, the one Bloomfield is on. The title track, featuring extended solos by Butterfield, Bishop, and Bloomfield is my favorite. I'm a little surprised that the *great* Mike Bloomfield has fallen into relative obscurity, since he was such an influential guitarist. Thanks for exposing his music to some new listeners.

Apr. 29 2014 04:01 AM
Nicole Bloomfield from NYC

Loved listening to the show! As a family member, it has been wonderful to see the renewed interest in Mike's work! He passed away when I was young, and yet he felt like a constant presence in my life thanks to my father and grandmother's tireless efforts to keep his spirit alive within the family. And now with the recent box set, a door is being opened for many people from my generation, who maybe didn't grow up listening to him, but would appreciate him nonetheless.

David Press from Hastings on Hudson - What a nice surprise to see your comment! Also, totally agree about the acoustic album with Woody Harris, it's one of the best! Another personal favorite is "If you love these blues, play em as you please" - it's like a love letter to the blues. I listen to it constantly.

Feb. 12 2014 02:43 PM
Nicole Bloomfield from NYC

Loved listening to the show! As a family member, it has been wonderful to see the renewed interest in Mike's work! He passed away when I was young, and yet he felt like a constant presence in my life thanks to my father and grandmother's tireless efforts to keep his spirit alive within the family. And now with the recent box set, a door is being opened for many people from my generation, who maybe didn't grow up listening to him, but would appreciate him nonetheless.

David Press from Hastings on Hudson - What a nice surprise to see your comment! Also, totally agree about the acoustic album with Woody Harris, it's one of the best! Another personal favorite is "If you love these blues, play em as you please" - it's like a love letter to the blues. I listen to it constantly.

Feb. 12 2014 02:42 PM
elvis costanza from Santa Cruz CA

I was 12 when the first Butterfield album came out and was floored by the raw energy. I didn't know who Bloomfield was until I read more about the band in the late, lamented 'Hit Parader' magazine.
Mike always paid respect to his blues forefathers and had a LOT to do with introducing BB, Muddy, Albert, Freddie, and others to a whole new audience of white kids hungry for real and raw music.
I play guitar and so does my brother and one of our childhood friends and we all played in bands over the years and carried the Butterfield/Bloomfield standard of excellence with us as best we could.
We got together in 2011 for a jam and we ALL still have the Bloomfield influence on our playing!

Feb. 12 2014 11:31 AM
ZoetMB

Wonderful interview that perfectly summarized why Bloomfield was so important. I first heard East-West on Murray the K's show on WOR-FM in ' 67 and couldn't believe what I was hearing. I bought the LP the next day and discovered by looking at the sleeve that there was an earlier LP and I bought that the very next day.
A few years later, I saw the Electric Flag at the Bottom Line and they were the tightest band I've ever heard. I wore Supersession out several times.

Glad to hear Jimmy Vivino mentioned as more than anyone, he has inherited Michael's mantle. And Jimmy (along with Al Kooper) does a killer version of "Albert's Shuffle".

Feb. 07 2014 12:01 AM
David Press from Hastings on Hudson, NY

Nice job talking about my favorite guitarist of all time. I agree with David's musical picks from Michael but would also very strongly recommend the acoustic guitar album he did with Woody Harris. I would have also added his piano playing riff from Michael Bloomfield: A Retrospective - a dynamite album. Hope I'm around to see him voted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame - I don't comprehend that one either.

Feb. 06 2014 10:14 PM

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