Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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BLOOMFIELD, Michael

(b 28 July 1944, Chicago; d 15 February 1981, San Francisco) Guitarist. Learned first-hand from legendary Chicago blues greats: haunted clubs at the same time as Elvin Bishop and Paul Butterfield, learning from Muddy Waters, Albert King, et al.; later played clubs with vocalist Nick Gravenites, harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite. Joined Butterfield's band '65 playing lead guitar on its first two LPs; they played the Newport Folk Festival '65 and backed Dylan there; Bloomfield played on Dylan's hit single 'Like A Rolling Stone', LP Highway 61 Revisited.

Bloomfield formed Electric Flag with Gravenites, R&B drummer Buddy Miles (b 5 September 1947, Omaha NE; d 26 February 2008, Austin TX; later played with Jimi Hendrix, formed Buddy Miles Express, formed own bands, toured with Santana), Barry Goldberg, keyboards; Harvey Brooks, bass, and horns: first LP A Long Time Comin' '68 on Columbia helped start a  jazz-rock trend (see Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Chicago), but Bloomfield left and the overweight group collapsed after its next LP. (They did the soundtrack for Roger Corman's The Trip '69, butchered by Curb on a CD; Bloomfield appeared on a one-off reunion The Band Kept Playing '74 on Atlantic.)

Super Session '68 with Al Kooper and Stephen Stills was a hoped-for miracle at the time, later sounded pretentious in its excessively laid-back attitude; followed by It's Not Killing Me and The Live Adventures Of Al Kooper And Michael Bloomfield '69 (the latter on CD in an expanded version '97); Try It Before You Buy It and Triumvirate, the last with John Hammond Jr and Mac Rebbenack (as Dr John), both '73, all on Columbia; Mill Valley Session '76 on Polydor. KGB '76 on MCA was a last attempt at a supergroup, with Goldberg, vocalist Ray Kennedy, Rick Grech on bass, Carmine Appice, described by Robert Christgau as 'heavy horseshit'. Among the best musicians of the genre/era, he rarely had an adequate band backing him and was not a good singer. He gave up stardom, did film soundtracks (e.g. Steelyard Blues '72, porn films) and lower-key LPs: If You Love These Blues, Play 'Em As You Please '77 on Guitar Player (magazine) label nominated for a Grammy; also Analine and Michael Bloomfield on Takoma, Count Talent And The Originals on Clouds, all '77; Between The Hard Place And The Ground, Cruisin' For A Bruisin' and Living In The Fast Lane all '80-1 on Waterhouse. Died of drug overdose. Cruisin' was reissued '96 on Magnum with out-takes as The Gospel Truth.