One of the greatest Blues guitarists to ever live — and die much too young — was Mike Bloomfield.  He was born into a wealthy, North Side Chicago family and grew up a “Good Jewish Boy” — until he hit the age of 14 and discovered the guitar and Southside Chicago Blues.

Bloomfield’s gift was a manic musicality that had a driving rhythm and a pinging treble melody.  He knew in his bones how to rock you with the Blues.  His style is immediately identifiable as “That Bloomfield Sound.”

If you look for his music, be sure you search on “Mike Bloomfield” and “Michael Bloomfield” and “Bloomfield” — because all those terms will bring you unique, and not always cross-indexed, return results.

Bloomfield spent a lot of time performing with Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Buddy Guy.

His immense, innate, talent, brought him to their level of excellence.  He was in demand as a session player and as a soloist.

Bloomfield found early fame as part of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and when Bob Dylan asked him to join his band, he turned down the offer to stay with Butterfield.

Bloomfield found his first fame as a soloist with “The Electric Flag” — but that sort of stylized group playing didn’t satisfy him.

Mike found his greatest success in the “Super Session” series with Al Kooper and Steve Stills.  Bloomfield didn’t like the record much — he considered it “too commercial” — but he was never more alive.

“Super Session” is Bloomfield’s legacy.  You can’t listen to “Albert’s Shuffle” and not feel the center core of man’s immense talent.  You immediately recognize his heart tugging twang from the first few pickup notes:

Unfortunately, Bloomfield’s demon was drugs, and like so many of the superstars before him in the 1960’s — Mike was dead at 38 of an overdose on February 15, 1981 — and so this celebration of Bloomfield’s immense talent ends up wasted in a mad, and madding, dead end, for him that many predicted, but that only one failed to cure.

7 Comments

    1. It is incredibly sad and mystifying when people give up their life for a drug, Gordon. I guess people get lost and can’t get out. Clapton was pretty heavy into drugs and booze — and yet, somehow — he was able to recover his live to honor his talent. Amazing.

      Mike made his bones on Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” — and he’s best known for his glorious, pinging, Telecaster in “Like a Rolling Stone.” His playing gives you shivers.

      There’s a legend that Mike’s 1959 Cherry Burst Gibson Les Paul was left at a bar in Canada — as collateral that he’d show up for a performance because, at the end of his life, he was incredibly unreliable. The bar manager told him he’d get his guitar back when he actually showed up to do the performance he had been paid to do. Mike never returned for his guitar and died soon afterward.

      Nobody knows where that 1959 Les Paul is now… it disappeared… but if it were found today, it would be worth at least $250,000.00 USD. It’s that rare, that valuable, and that important.

    1. Thanks, weekdaypoet!

      Mike was such an immense talent, it is difficult to listen to his music today because you are filled with so much remorse and longing for what could have been and what he should have become if he’d only honored his talent over his addiction.

      I think the reason few people know Mike Bloomfield is the same reason few people know Grant Green — neither one of them were interested in becoming a star. They just wanted to play the music they wanted to play.

      I also think that explains why Mike stayed with Paul Butterfield instead of joining Bob Dylan’s band. Dylan was a superstar, but Paul was Mike’s friend and he liked the Butterfield Blues music much more. If he’d gone with Dylan — Bloomfield would be a household name today.

      Here’s another delicious, but rare, taste of Mike playing his beautiful Les Paul with Junior Lee and Nick Gravenites in concert in 1974: