The band's origins can be traced back to frontman Butterfield and guitarist Elvin Bishop, both from Chicago, who developed a love of blues together and began hanging around with black blues musicians such as Muddy Waters and Otis Rush. They soon met up with bassist Jerome Arnold and drummer Sam Lay, both members of Howlin' Wolf's touring band, and they formed a quartet together. Producer Paul Rothchild then persuaded them to hire a young guitarist called Mike Bloomfield, and the band became a quintet. They were signed to Elektra records, but an early attempt at a debut album was scrapped (these tracks were later released as The Original Lost Elektra Sessions). A live album recorded at the Cafe Au Go Go was also discarded.
Eventually their album was successsfully recorded on the third attempt. Keyboard player Mark Naftalin joined half way through the sessions, and appeared on six of the eleven songs. For the most part it consisted of blues covers, with two instrumentals and an original written by Butterfield and Bishop. Drummer Sam Lay also sang on the Muddy Waters classic "I Got My Mojo Working". The first track, "Born In Chicago", was written by band associate Nick Gravenites, and became a signature song of sorts for Butterfield.
Besides being a fantastic Chicago blues album filled with great playing, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is majorly significant for two reasons. Firstly it introduced the guitar playing of Mike Bloomfield, who soon became known as one of the best blues guitarists in America. Secondly the Butterfield Blues Band were one of the first American blues groups to be fronted by a white singer, and in a genre that at the time was almost exclusively black, the importance of this cannot be underestimated.
|> East-West (1966)
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