As some of you know, Ted is not only a ripping slide guitar player, singer, bandleader, songwriter and producer. He’s also a well-respect music journalist and blues educator/historian. The current issue of Guitar World magazine includes Ted’ feature story on the American guitar hero Michael Bloomfield, sparked by the release of the new Bloomfield tribute box set From His Head To His Heart To His Hands. Here’s an excerpt from Ted’s story, which includes quotes from rock legend Al Kooper, who put the set together:
This is an excerpt from the March 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus the 50 Greatest Eric Clapton Songs of All Time and features on Duane Allman and the Laylasessions, plus Johnny Winter, Don Felder,Guitar World‘s Readers Poll results and more (including gear reviews and John Petrucci’s monthly column) — check out the March 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.
He was one of the greatest electric blues guitarists of his time, but Michael Bloomfield is nearly forgotten today. His friend and collaborator Al Kooper hopes to change that with the new box-set retrospective From His Head to His Heart to His Hands.
On June 16, 1965, a young man sporting a Jewfro walked through the rain on New York’s Seventh Avenue to Columbia Studio A, a white Telecaster slung over his shoulder like John Henry’s hammer. Once inside, he wiped down the wet guitar, sat on a folding chair and played his way into history.
Until then, few people outside of his native Chicago had heard of Michael Bloomfield. A little over a month later, after that session’s first single, “Like a Rolling Stone,” was released, he was nearly as well known among musicians as the tune’s writer, Bob Dylan. Bloomfield’s roiling fills and lightning-strike licks in Studio A had put the high-voltage in Dylan’s first electric album, Highway 61 Revisited.
Just a month after that LP appeared, Bloomfield’s reputation was etched deeper with the release of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. On that debut by his hometown outfit—Chicago’s first integrated blues band signed to a major label—Bloomfield played guitar with the authenticity and intensity that Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Peter Green, Jimmy Page and the other young guns of British blues aspired to attain. Clapton himself observed, “Mike Bloomfield is music on two legs.”
Bloomfield was 22 when he arrived on the music scene, blazing a path for guitarists that burned through the strata of multiple elements—jazz, country, world music, atonality—while staying faithful to his beloved blues. And while the legacy of Bloomfield’s artistry is still embedded in the muddy terra firma of American music, his influence is virtually uncelebrated today.
The new three-CD-plus-DVD box set From His Head to His Heart to His Hands, curated by Bloomfield’s friend and playing partner, rock and roll legend Al Kooper, aims to correct that.
“I’m trying to replicate what King of the Delta Blues Singers did for Robert Johnson in 1961,” says Kooper, referring to the 1961 compilation that rescued Johnson’s recorded legacy from obscurity. “A lot of people didn’t know about Johnson because so many decades had passed since he recorded, and yet when that album came out, English kids like Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton were swept up by it. I want to do the same thing—catch people who don’t know what Michael sounded like or maybe don’t even know his name.
“I loved Michael’s music for the intellectualism of what he played, which is why I came up with the title. I think his music started in his head and then went to his heart before he played it. That’s what’s so great about it.”
Kooper spent a year going through tapes from the Columbia Records vaults, Dylan’s archives and other sources, including his own collection, to make the case for Bloomfield’s enduring greatness.