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Paul Butterfield (December 17, 1942 – May 4, 1987) was an American blues vocalist, harmonica player who gained international recognition in part, as one of the early acts performing during the Summer of Love, in Woodstock, New York. Having formed the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Butterfield and his band continued to perform with hit songs along with the release of their eponymous debut album, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, they released hit songs, as with "Born In Chicago".
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band was signed to Elektra Records after adding Bloomfield as lead guitarist. Their original debut album was scrapped, then re-recorded after the addition of organist Mark Naftalin.Some of the discarded tracks may have appeared on the "What's Shakin'" LP shared with the Lovin' Spoonful. Finally, their self-titled debut, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, was released in 1965.
At the Newport Folk Festival of 1965, Bob Dylan closed the event with the help of Butterfield's band (without Butterfield himself, however), a move considered controversial at the time by much of the folk music establishment.
After the release of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Lay accidentally shot himself (he subsequently recovered and played drums for Muddy Waters and James Cotton among others) and Billy Davenport took over on drums. The Butterfield Band's second album, East-West (1966) reflected the music scene's interest in sitar great Ravi Shankar and other Eastern musicians. Although only moderately successful commercially, it was also critically acclaimed.
These two albums are generally considered to be widely influential. Butterfield's band helped to introduce modern 'Chicago-style' blues to mainstream white audiences, along with bands like Cream. In addition, one of the roots of psychedelic (acid) rock music is the fusion of Eastern and Western music styles as in Butterfield's East-West.
At the height of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's success, Mike Bloomfield quit the band and formed The Electric Flag with Nick Gravenites, and Bishop began playing lead guitar on The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw (1967). The album showed that Butterfield was moving to another musical direction, with a horn section and a soulful, R&B influenced sound. The album included David Sanborn, Brother Gene Dinwiddie, Bugsy Maugh and Phil Wilson, and proved to be the last of the Butterfield band's commercial successes.
In the same year, the Monterey International Pop Festival would showcase The Butterfield Blues Band, along with The Electric Flag, Ravi Shankar, and many others.
With Rick Danko. Woodstock Reunion, 9/7/79After 1968's release In My Own Dream, both Bishop and Naftalin left at the end of the year. Billy Davenport and new guitarist Buzzy Feiten joined the band on its 1969 release Keep On Moving which was received coolly by the music press. Though the Butterfield band was floundering commercially, it was still popular enough to play at the Woodstock Festival — although their performance was not included in the resulting Woodstock film. In 1969 Butterfield also took part in a live concert at Chicago's Auditoirum Theater and subsequent recording session organized by record producer Norman Dayron, featuring Muddy Waters backed by Otis Spann, Michael Bloomfield, Sam Lay, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Paul Oscher, and Buddy Miles, which was recorded and released as Fathers And Sons on Chess Records.
Following the releases of Live and Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smiling in 1970, Butterfield broke up the band and returned to Woodstock, New York. He formed a new group including guitarist Amos Garrett, Geoff Muldaur, Maria Muldaur, pianist Ronnie Barron and bassist Billy Rich and named the ensemble as 'Better Days'. This group released Paul Butterfield's Better Days and It All Comes Back in 1972 and 1973 respectively. Although neither were commercially successful, both albums were received well by critics.
In 1976, Butterfield performed at The Band's final concert, The Last Waltz. Together with The Band he performed the song Mystery Train.
The late 1970s and early 1980s saw Butterfield as a solo act and a session musician, doing occasional television appearances and releasing a couple of albums. He also toured as a duo with Rick Danko, formerly of The Band, with whom he performed for the last time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He also toured with another member of The Band, Levon Helm, as a member of Helm's "RCO All Stars", which also included most of the members of Booker T and the MGs, in 1977. In 1986 Butterfield released his final studio album, The Legendary Paul Butterfield Rides Again.
Paul Butterfield died in his home in North Hollywood, California, in
May 1987 from a heart attack brought on by years of drug addiction and
alcoholism, just one week after his final concert.
Butterfield also at times played a mixture of acoustic and amplified style by playing into a microphone mounted on a stand, allowing him to perform on the harmonica using both hands to get a muted, Wah-wah effect, as well as various vibratos. This was usually done on a quieter, slower tune.