The sensational story of Mike Bloomfield: from prodigy to tragedy

“Bob Dylan isn’t usually one for banter between songs, but tonight is an exception. It’s November 15, 1980 at San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre and he’s relating a story about a guitarist he first met in a Chicago blues club two decades previously: a skinny teenage hotshot with a towering stack of black curly hair and a dizzying arsenal of licks copped from Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Boy Williamson. ‘He just played circles around anything I could play,’ marvels Dylan. ‘And I always remembered that.’ Dylan goes on to explain that, some years later, he was recording in New York and needed a guitar player. So he called him up. ‘Anyway,’ he concludes, ‘he played on Like A Rolling Stone and he’s here tonight. Give him a hand – Michael Bloomfield!’ The crowd roars its approval as Bloomfield, 37 years old, ambles on stage in his bedroom slippers and starts ripping into the song in question. He stays for another, The Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar, before leaving to deafening applause. It was to be the last gig of Mike Bloomfield’s life. Exactly three months later, on February 15, 1981, the man who Dylan cited as ‘the best guitar player I ever heard’ was found dead in the front seat of his Chevrolet Impala. He’d succumbed to a drug overdose. At his peak, Bloomfield was arguably the most important guitarist of his generation. His burning intensity and fearless assimilation of rock’n’roll and black American blues helped define the emergent sound of the 60s. His session contributions to Highway 61 Revisited were one thing, but it was his tenure in the Butterfield Blues Band that cemented his reputation. A bunch of Chicagoans who lashed hard electric blues to the free-form digressions of the new counterculture, Bloomfield’s guitar was as crucial to their sound as the harmonica runs of gruff leader Paul Butterfield. As the group’s rhythm guitarist, Elvin Bishop, once declared: ‘No one was as good as Bloomfield. Technically he was a monster.’ Bloomfield’s work with the Butterfield Blues Band, and later as the engine of soul-blues hybrid the Electric Flag, had a profound effect on those around him. …”
Louder Sound (Video – 6)
The Mysterious Tale of Mike Bloomfield’s Burst (Video)
Rolling Stone – The Rolling Stone Interview: Mike Bloomfield (by Jann S. Wenner)
YouTube: The Michael Bloomfield Story 1:42:43

Bloomfield and his friend Roy Ruby playing at the corner of North and Wells in 1964.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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