Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Elvin Bishop has been singing and recording his rollicking brand of electrified down-home blues for almost 40 years. Bishop's history-making tenure as a founding member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the 1960s, his chart-topping hits in the 1970s, and his emergence on Alligator Records in the late 1980s and into the 1990s place him at the forefront of electric blues guitarists. Elvin's music is a mix of his blues roots with contemporary funk and rock flavors spiced with a touch of country and the laid-back feel of his Northern California home. Rolling Stone referred to Bishop's music as “a good-time romp...raucous blues with high-energy soloing, mixtures of careening slide and razor-edged bursts, all delivered with unflagging enthusiasm and wit.”

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1942, Elvin first got hooked on the blues listening to late night R&B radio as a teenager. He began collecting blues records, and quickly realized that many of his favorite records were recorded in Chicago. In 1959, he used a National Merit Scholarship as a way to get closer to his blues heroes by enrolling in the University of Chicago, with its campus tucked in the middle of the South Side ghetto. “The first thing I did when I got there,” Elvin recalls, “was make friends with the guys working in the cafeteria. Within fifteen minutes I was into the blues scene.” Leaving his physics studies behind, Bishop turned to blues music full time. He befriended Little Smokey Smothers, and would hang out with the established guitarist for hours on end. Smothers liked Bishop and took the willing student under his wing, teaching Elvin how to play real blues guitar. Very quickly, Elvin became an accomplished and innovative player.

After Elvin crossed paths a few times with fellow U of C student and harmonica player Paul Butterfield, the two began sitting in at black blues clubs, often jamming with Buddy Guy and Otis Rush. Paul and Elvin soon recruited Michael Bloomfield as second lead guitarist, and a groundbreaking, all-star band began to take shape. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, formed in 1963 (along with Mark Naftalin on keyboards, Jerome Arnold on bass and Sam Lay on drums), introduced electric Chicago blues to the rock audience for the first time. By 1967 the band's popularity hit an all-time high as their straight Chicago blues sounds drifted even further into rock and roll. Their highly influential albums set the stage for the dual lead guitar attack that the Allman Brothers and Derek and the Dominos (among others) adopted. Bishop recorded three albums with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band before deciding to move on.

Towards the end of the 1960s, Bishop headed to the San Francisco area. He became a regular at the famed Fillmore jam sessions, playing alongside Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, B.B. King and many others before embarking on a solo career. He recorded first for Fillmore Records, then Epic and then for Capricorn, where his career took off to new heights. He charted with Travelin’ Shoes before scoring big with Fooled Around And Fell In Love (the song, with vocals supplied by pre-Jefferson Starship singer Mickey Thomas, reached number three on the pop charts). From Alligator Bio Page


Anonymous said...

Great post and great sound,THANKS.

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