Tribute to Freewheelin' Frank

Freewheelin' Frank was a big part of the Saskatoon Blues Society. As well as being a great musician, he was a huge friend to the Society, running the stage at our festivals, setting up and tearing down equipment for shows, and even filling in for missing performers at the last minute. After Frank's untimely passing, some of his friends including Eddie Robertson, Lynne Victoria and Tim Hatcher gathered to give him the most appropriate tribute.

Derwyn Powell's Blues Corner

Michael Bloomfield

Michael Bloomfield was born in Chicago July, 1943. By the time he was in his teens, Michael caught his Blues heroes playing the streets of Chicago.

Discovering that nearly everyone of his idols lived his city,opened the floodgates for him. During the day Mike played in R'n'R bands wearing uniforms and playing top 40 hits of the day, while the all-white crowd danced on the floor.

In the evening Michael could be found on the south side soaking up the music he loved. Little Walter, Sonny Boy, Jimmy Rogers and All Three Kings. Paul Butterfield, Nick Gravenites, and Charlie Musselwhite all sat in the clubs like Pepper's & Sylvio's. Muddy Waters took Michael under his wing because he could see Michael's interest in the Blues was indeed genuine. If you were playing’ with Muddy, you were OK and not to be messed with.

All three of them seemed to provide comic relief for the black patrons.

Bloomfield and Butterfield played together lots, which laid the foundation for the Butterfield Blues Band which was just around the corner. Michael also got involved in booking acts for the "Fickle Pickle," a local folk club. Black Blues artists like John Barbee, Sleepy John Estes and Big Joe Williams were just a few of the names to play there. The first album "The Paul Butterfield Blues Band" was released. They were invited to play at Newport Folk Festival and the band quickly became Dylan's back-up for that event. (Famous for the crowds reaction to Dylan going electric and breaking acoustic folk traditions.)

The next move for Michael was time spent on the band as a full time member in Butterfield's band. Butter's harp sounded like a saxophone and the rhythm sections worked as if their lives were on the line, while Mike soared over the top with his searing guitar work, which fastly became his trademark in '65. 

Dylan and Bloomfield made history again during Dylan's recording "Highway 61," his first all electric album. He called and recruited Mike to play along with Al Kooper. After that session Bloom had to make a choice between playing in Bob's band or Butterfield's. With Dylan he had no identity and he knew his heart belonged to the Blues.

Honing their chops on the never-ending tours "East-West" suddenly appeared, taking Rock-blues guitar in new direction. Mike claimed his inspiration was fuelled by listening to Coltrane and Shankar. Definitely a radical departure structurally from the RnR and Blues licks being played at the time.

This was most likely the beginning of the hype that imprisoned Michael within the context of having to play the same thing, night after night. He began to feel trapped. t was time for something new and that was the "Electric Flag." That band included session bassist Harvey Brooks, (who would later play on "Supersession") Buddy Miles, then drummer for Wilson Pickett, along with Nick Gravenites on vocals; and four more players and "the flag was flying." they became, along with Blood, Sweat & Tears, one of the first bands to fuse Rock, Blues and Jazz.

eventually broke up the band, as well as overhype; the same thing that to some degree turned "Cream" sour. A few years later, Michaels’ bouts with insomnia and drugs turned him inwardly mellow, but some of his best work was yet to come. Al Kooper whisked Bloomfield away for “supersession" which was an artistic and commercial success for both artists in late 1968. Due to Mike's inability to stay awake during recording sessions, Kooper enlisted Steve Stills to complete side 2 of the project. In between doing session work Michael spent time producing Otis Rush and James Colton. It was a period of being unplugged for Michael. Around '73 he made an album with John Hammond and Dr. John called "Triumvirate". In '74 he attempted to resurrect "the Flag" which like other projects, didn't last. Other band projects came and went, often falling apart after just getting started. What is now considered possibly his best work of his recording career was "If you love these blues, play them as you please," released in '76 by Guitar Player magazine, as an education tool.

It gave him a chance to record a project for integrity and also an opportunity to pay tribute to his blues heroes. It represents a final tribute to Michael Bloomfield talents as a guitarist as well it collects individual styles of each player and introductions to each period of the artists. A history lesson to go along with each and the final track "Altar Song" he raps off each of his heroes who game him inspiration.

From '76 on, Bloomfield played the Bay area with occasional trips to New York where he was a big draw at the Bottom Line, a popular club of the day.

Michael Bloomfield's life came to a sad end in a parked car, on the side of the road in his hometown of Mill Valley, California. A victim of drug intoxication.

His influence is acknowledged for and wide. Clapton, Beck, Page and Johnny Winter all flashed licks that Michael first made popular. He practically made the "Gibson Les Paul," preferred choice of Blues and Rock Guitarists overnight. Others include Robin “Power, Peter Green, Rory Gallagher, Mick Taylor and John McLaughlan, just to name a few of the players of the time, who cited Bloomfield as a major influence.

Selected Discography:

Paul Butterfield Blues Band / 1965 / Elektra

Paul Butterfield Blues Band / East West ‘67 / Elektra

What's Shakin’ / compilation / June 1966 / Elektra

Highway ‘61 Sessions w/Dylan / Columbia / 1965

A Long Time Comin’ / Electric Flag / Columbia / 1967

Super Session w/ Al Kooper / Columbia / 1968

Fathers & Sons w/ Muddy Waters / Chess / 1969

Triumvirate w/ Dr. John & John Hammond / Columbia / 1973

If You Love These Blues / Guitar Player Records / 1976

Between The Hard Place And Ground / Tacoma / 1979 .

John Hammond

John Hammond has been playing acoustic blues since the early ‘60s, coming from coffee houses during the Greenwich Village folk scene. It was here that Hammond soaked up first-hand the Blues heroes of the era. John Hammond has recorded approximately 30 albums over the span of 60 years on numerous record labels, He has spend 50+ years perfecting his interpretations of the Blues. Inspired by the music of Robert Johnson, his soulful slide work and right-on-target vocals have always been consistent throughout all his recorded work. He was further influenced by Howlin’ Wolf and Jimmy Reed.

Hammond said that when we was 17 at college he took an interest in the guitar and mouth harp and stated that the wanted to be just like Jimmy Reed “because he played both instruments at once, and I thought that was very slick”.

During the mid ‘60s his band The Screaming Nighthawks included both Erc Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. They frequently played in New York clubs such as Gerdes Folk City and the Gaslight Cafe. They only lasted for two weeks before Eric and Jimi exited the band for other musical adventures. John Hammond tours North America and Europe year round, and is no stranger to Saskatoon. He has played here many times over the years. If you haven’t had a chance to see him in person, then do yourself a favor if he comes to your town……Don’t miss one of the most dedicated Blues players on the planet….he’s the Real Deal!

Selected Discography

Big City Blues 1964

So Many Roads 1965

Southern Fried 1969

Source Point 1972

Best of J.H. 1974

Can’t beat the Kid 1975

Solo 1976

Got Live If You Want It 1992

Wicked Grin 2001

Ready for Love 2003

In Your Arms Again 2005

Timeless 2014