Paul Butterfield


Paul Butterfield : biography

17 December 1942 – 4 May 1987

In 1976, Butterfield performed at The Band’s final concert, The Last Waltz. Together with The Band, he performed the song "Mystery Train" and backed Muddy Waters on "Mannish Boy". With [[Rick Danko, (left) on bass guitar. Woodstock Reunion, September 7, 1979]]


The late 1970s and early 1980s saw Butterfield as a solo act and a session musician, doing occasional television appearances and releasing a couple of albums. He also toured as a duo with Rick Danko, formerly of The Band, with whom he performed for the last time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

He also toured with another member of The Band, Levon Helm, as a member of Helm’s "RCO All Stars", which also included most of the members of Booker T and the MGs, in 1977. In the 1970s, Butterfield dated fellow musician Elizabeth Barraclough.27 Leggies page: "."

In 1986 Butterfield released his final studio album, The Legendary Paul Butterfield Rides Again.


Paul Butterfield died of peritonitis due to drug use and heavy drinking on May 4, 1987 Los Angeles, California. Before then, Butterfield tenor sax player Ruben Riera had taken him to Bellevue Hospital in New York City for emergency surgery for a perforated intestine. By Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine. Hal Leonard Company. p. 92. He died at his home in North Hollywood, California. A month earlier, he was featured on B.B. King & Friends, a filmed concert that also included Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Etta James, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan and Eric Clapton. Its subsequent release was dedicated to Butterfield in memoriam. Pigboy Crabshaw was rereleased in 1989 following his death.

Harmonica style

Butterfield played and endorsed (as noted in the liner notes for his first album) Hohner harmonicas, in particular the diatonic ten-hole ‘Marine Band’ model. He played using an unconventional technique, holding the harmonica upside-down (with the low notes to the righthand side). His primary playing style was in the second position, also known as cross-harp, but he also was adept in the third position, notably on the track East-West from the album of the same name, and the track ‘Highway 28’ from the "Better Days" album.

Seldom venturing higher than the sixth hole on the harmonica, Butterfield nevertheless managed to create a variety of original sounds and melodic runs. His live tonal stylings were accomplished using a pistol-grip Shure 545 Unidyne III or Shure PE54 hand-held microphone connected to one or more Fender amplifiers, often then additionally boosted through the venue’s public address (PA) system. This allowed Butterfield to achieve the same extremes of volume as the various sidemen in his band.

Butterfield also at times played a mixture of acoustic and amplified style by playing into a microphone mounted on a stand, allowing him to perform on the harmonica using both hands to get a muted, Wah-wah effect, as well as various vibratos. This was usually done on a quieter, slower tune.


  • Michael Bloomfield’If You Love These Blues: An Oral History Backbeat Books, 1st edition September 2000 – ISBN 978-0-87930-617-5 (with CD of unissued music)
  • Ken BrooksThe Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper with Paul Butterfield and David Clayton Thomas Agenda Ltd, February 1999, ISBN 1-899882-90-1 ISBN 978-1-899882-90-8
  • Al KooperBackstage Passes: Rock ‘N’ Roll Life in the Sixties – Stein & Day Pub (1st edition February 1977) ISBN 0-8128-2171-8 – ISBN 978-0-8128-2171-0
  • Al Kooper Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock ‘N’ Roll Survivor Billboard Books (Updated Edition – September 1998) ISBN 0-8230-8257-1 ISBN 978-0823082575
  • Al KooperBackstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards – Hal Leonard Corporation, new edition February 2008, ISBN 0-87930-922-9 ISBN 978-0-87930-922-0
  • Ed WardMichael Bloomfield, The rise and fall of an American guitar hero, Cherry Lane Books (1983), ISBN 0-89524-157-9 ISBN 978-0895241573