Paul Butterfield

Paul Butterfield bigraphy, stories - American blues vocalist and harmonica player

Paul Butterfield : biography

17 December 1942 – 4 May 1987

Paul Butterfield (17 December 1942 – 4 May 1987) was an American blues vocalist and harmonica player, who founded the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the early 1960s and performed at the original Woodstock Festival. He died of drug-related heart failure. By David Dicaire. p. 59. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band were nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.. Billboard. Retrieved 11 October 2012


The son of a lawyer, Paul Butterfield was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood. He attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, a private school associated with the University of Chicago. After studying classical flute with Walfrid Kujala of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a teenager,[ Allmusic biography] he developed a love for the blues harmonica, and hooked up with white, blues-loving, University of Chicago physics student Elvin Bishop. The pair started hanging around black blues musicians such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and Otis Rush. Butterfield and Bishop soon formed a band with Jerome Arnold and Sam Lay, both hired away from the touring band of Howlin’ Wolf. In 1963, the racially mixed quartet was made the house band at Big John’s, a folk club in the Old Town district on Chicago’s north side. Because he was not yet 21, Butterfield was still considered underage (as was guitarist Mike Bloomfield.)

Butterfield Blues Band

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band was signed to Elektra Records after adding Bloomfield as lead guitarist. Their original debut sessions were scrapped, to appear in 1995 as The Original Lost Elektra Sessions. A second attempt was recorded live at the Cafe Au Go Go, but these too were rejected by producer Paul Rothchild. Some of the discarded tracks appeared on the What’s Shakin LP shared with the Lovin’ Spoonful.

At the Newport Folk Festival in July 1965, Bob Dylan was backed by members of Butterfield’s band (Bloomfield, Arnold, and Lay, but not Butterfield himself) when he went electric, a move considered controversial at the time by much of the folk music establishment. In October, the self-titled debut recorded a third time after the addition of organist Mark Naftalin on some tracks, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, containing Nick Gravenites’ "Born in Chicago," was released. Shortly thereafter, Lay became ill with pneumonia and pleurisy and Billy Davenport took over on drums. The Butterfield Band’s second album was East-West, released in 1966, after which Bloomfield, Arnold, and Davenport left the band.

Bloomfield formed The Electric Flag with Nick Gravenites, and Bishop began playing lead guitar on The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw (1967). The band now included saxophonists David Sanborn and Gene Dinwiddie, bassist Bugsy Maugh, and drummer Phillip Wilson. In 1967, The Butterfield Blues Band played the seminal Monterey International Pop Festival along with the Electric Flag, Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar, The Who, Otis Redding, the counterculture bands of San Francisco, and many others.

After the release of In My Own Dream, both Bishop and Naftalin left by the end of 1968. Nineteen-year-old guitarist Buzzy Feiten, joined the band for its 1969 release, Keep On Moving, produced by Jerry Ragavoy, and Rod Hicks replaced Maugh on bass. The Butterfield band played at the Woodstock Festival, although their performance wasn’t included in the resulting Woodstock film. In 1969, Butterfield also took part in a concert at Chicago’s Auditorium Theater and a subsequent recording session organized by record producer Norman Dayron, featuring Muddy Waters and backed by pianist Otis Spann, Michael Bloomfield, Sam Lay, Donald "Duck" Dunn, and Buddy Miles, which was recorded and portions released on Fathers And Sons on Chess Records.

Better Days

Following the releases of Live in 1970 and Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smiling in 1971, Butterfield broke up the horn band with David Sanborn and Dinwiddie, and returned to Woodstock, New York. He formed a new group including Chris Parker on drums, guitarist Amos Garrett, Geoff Muldaur, pianist Ronnie Barron and bassist Billy Rich, naming the ensemble "Better Days." The group released Paul Butterfield’s Better Days and It All Comes Back in 1972 and 1973, respectively. Also featured as a member of the touring band during 1972–1973 was guitarist Neil Nauheimer