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 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.
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 .