From Dusk Till Electric Domestic

The bank holiday weekend. My oh my! I was looking forward to this after a term of ridiculous hard work and silly hours. It was time for a classic… And that’s what we got.

When Lauren Rich got in touch and invited me to play Rock, Crackle & Pop (Dusk Till Dawn, Archway) again I got a teensy bit excited that I had the perfect excuse to have another London jaunt. Within days a second option appeared, the 1st ever Electric Domestic. To be run by the usual host of Acoustic Domestic, naturally, Mr Antonio Lulic. Excellent!!!

Rubbing my hands together a plan began to form… to stay 2 nights chez Lulic (he is so very, very generous!) and enjoy a little time with my friends, one of whom, needed a celebration of the birthday kind. This was TOO good to miss. As I sat on the trainline site to book my tickets a familiar bing-bong chat noise came through and Cat Thompson told me of her plan to visit family in London that weekend!! Would I like a lift?! Yes please. Heated seats in an Audi TT, and the ability to stop at any services we wished. Delightful. A very kind lady.

The week preceding was full of long hours, with the addition of rehearsing up and deciding my set for the gig. I went with a 5 pronged attack, with a double rear gunner formation in the form of an encore song or two with Mr Antonio Lulic. He was to attend. This was getting better by the minute. In the meantime the Electric Domestic site started to gain momentum… People started saying they were going and Lloyd Hartley and Ruby Macintosh joined Simon & Rachel Rowe as potential Yorkshire contingents ready for a trip to the big smoke.

Good Friday.

You beauty.

So Cat rolls up at half 2, we grab new spare strings and I get comfy. I’m sorry I haven’t a clue adorns the stereo after a huge ben folds hit. Services. Large Latte. Sunshine in most parts… clear traffic ALL THE WAY DOWN. Arrive into London around 5:15pm. Small blip as we approach Henley Corner to see smoke plumes and shortly after BIG flames as a motorcyclist had some issues and left his bike to burn after it fell on its left side at the junction. We saw him 150 yards down the road, limping, in all his leathers, carrying a precious white carrier bag cursing under his breath. We feared the tank would explode as we circumnavigated the wreckage but I endeavoured to get an Instagram all the same.

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Arrive at Dusk Till Dawn in an easy fashion and grab food while we wait for Lauren Rich to arrive. Cat departs for family loveliness and I catch up with Lauren Rich and get on with setting up for what was shaping up to be a great little gig.

It didn’t disappoint. As 8pm nears Lauren & I have finished the sound-checks and the artists and their ace audiences had filled lovely little pockets of places throughout Dusk Till Dawn. I had my own contingent there also and enjoyed a rare treat of catching up with some friends I don’t nearly see enough of. At this stage I also set up my camera the best I could to cope with the lighting of the venue and I hoped to get a couple of videos to help out the other acts a bit.

First up was Lauren Rich, our host and loveable artist all rolled into one. She played her new single Fragile Girl (available here) and warmed up the audience with her soaring voice. Despite some guitar technical issues this was a great little set and I always look forward to seeing what Lauren comes up with next.

After a mad dash from the station Rosizm were up! A lovely duo (normally a solo act) from Northampton featuring Ros on guitar and lead vocals, and a lovely guest flautist. Ros did a set of chilled out rich-toned guitar based songs which reminded me of Fink in their ambience. The flute really set the songs apart as the flautist played melodically and knowingly in the gaps.

Tenzer were up next, a duo from Manchester now alighting in London. Their sound-check revealed Dave Matthews influences to me and I got excited. Their set didn’t disappoint. A great choice of originals/covers and a DMB one thrown in for good measure. They explained they hadn’t gigged for 2 years. You wouldn’t have known it. Excellent support work from guitarist Ant who clearly had a great connection with Jonni, both playing with soul.

Tom Craven bounded upon the stage and instantly grabbed my attention as a real *one-to-watch*. He had a lovely tongue-in-cheek demeanour and yet managed to play his songs sincerely, the result of which gave a very polished but easy going performance. Spot on. I was looking forward to seeing this guy again! I managed to grab some photos and nearly one video each (Tom’s video was scuppered by my battery) but the shots I got can be seen here:

It was my turn. I realised that headlining meant I was going to lose some audience members before I’d finished, but I did realise this beforehand and understood completely why people had to leave. People have trains to catch you know! I really didn’t let it bother me as for one thing, I do try to play my best whether it’s to one person or a hundred… It was time to get busy!

I went with The Subject Line, followed by Thirty-Something, chilled things a touch with All Cried Out, then into The Pilot, winding out with May You Never. Antonio joined me for What I Need, and then we did a rare track indeed.. Our old version of Walking In Memphis. It. Felt. Awesome.

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Great response from the lovely audience (the place was still pretty populated) and we settle with our drinks before a brief packing away. All in all, a fab little evening.

Back to Chez Lulic for chips and catch up. Ace chips. Acer catchup.

Lulic springs the information that I’m to have an Airbed. AWESOME!! J

Sleep 1.

Good Saturday.

Electric Domestic.

We awake. Kettle noises and quiet conversations. Rhiannon Mair. Nice to meet you. Poached eggs and salmon on crusty toast. Ace. Coffee. Coffee. Time to get ready.

We chuck the ad-hoc backline into Rhiannon’s motor and Antonio and her speed into the distance to prepare the PA for the evenings shindig.

I catch a bus. 2pm-ish. Time to meet Lloyd and Ruby. Ring Lloyd. “will meet you at KGX”. Ring Lloyd. “Can’t meet you at KGX, lines closed.”

Ring Cat.

“Meet in Hackney to drive out to Westfield and grab food and presents for someone ace?“

“Sure!”

Westfield was HUGE. Wagamama’s on a sofa in an American style mall is VERY cool. Shopping done and not too stressy. Coffee. Time to go.

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Diversions mean we’re a little late arriving to Electric Domestic. Cat’s got her ticket, as does Lloyd, Ruby, Simon and Rachel, Jharda, Marion, Jon, and a myriad of other half-known-yet-to-be-known friends and acquaintances I have long longed to meet.

Walking in and the apartment is stunning. Lighting all lilac and stage bound, the length of the room alone seems to extend like some corridor from The Sandman, yet it is our ears that are to be tantalised… What HAS Antonio got lined up here?!

A one-of-a-kind type of night. That’s what.

Rhiannon Mair started the night’s entertainment and after meeting her earlier that day, I was looking forward to seeing this lovely person do her thing. Erm Wow. Amazing set! After collecting my brains back together I got on with a little light drinking and mingling.

I met some amazing people.

I finally got the chance to meet Matt Belmont, a fab singer/songwriter who used to live up in Leeds and ran the Open-Mic at the Leeds Hop for a time. He has since moved down to London and is building a great reputation for himself.. a VERY talented man.

I sat next to John Parker, the most passionate musician I’ve ever seen, who occasionally disguises himself as Antonio’s Double Bassist, amongst playing with other extremely-talented muther-fuckers. We were about to play onstage together for the first time, only I’m not sure John was aware of that at the time!

I shuffled across to stage left when Antonio and John took the stage. I readied my harmonica and leaned back. I wanted to enjoy this. Antonio never ever gives less than 200% at a gig and tonight was no exception. Well played. The haunting “Oo-ee-Oo-oooooh” still rings around my hankering cranium. You ear-wormy bastard. I love you. Antonio flicks his eyes at me as John gives the line I did for Now It’s Cold a spin. I approve beyond measure. I beam back at him. I bump into the lovely Martin Cox as I readied to join the pair of them for Antonio’s last number, “Hey, It’s Okay” <click for a great little video from Martin. I at least remembered not to come in until after the first chorus and let rip. It felt LOVELY.

Another Palma. Tequila and Grapefruit juice essentially. Essential.

I bumped into Stu and Marion and Jharda and Rachelle and loved catching up. I watched a stunning band called Paper Aeroplanes (Also with John) do a set and then pirouette onto the audience floor and witnessed an acoustic wonder of a performance. A true time stopper.

The unannouncable special guest arrived and promptly came across to say “Hi”. After a lovely catchup he readies and takes the stage. I take a seat. Watching him play, I see similarities, and I see things I wish I could do. And I see amazing song-writing, and feel inspired to get better at it myself. Wow.

I ask who the current act is… “Peter And Kerry”. I asked because the harmonies and electric guitar I was listening to was taking my brain to happy places. The way these two melded together was utterly enchanting, a privilege to watch and experience. When the rest of the band joined them the layering of sounds simply elaborated into a clever sea of haunting melodies. Stunning.

Burritos are served behind the open-plan kitchen by Off-Broadway and the smell is only matched by the compliments I over-hear. The bar exudes cool and the staff fill your drinks willy-nilly with more alcohol than the helpful menu suggested it contained. Hic. AEC.

Annie Eve grabs my attention by musically ripping my heart out and flicks my ears with a gorgeous set of beautifully crafted songs. John rips it up again. Fucking hell John. John glugs his water like an Olympic athlete over an 8-bar count ready to land on the 1 for the 3rd chorus. Boom.

Post music I spot John pacing around downing high protein nuts. He must secretly take red-bull intravenously. I have never seen a man play as though every note is the last note he might ever play before. This gentleman is a special musician, and a special person.

I catch Rhiannon briefly and compliment her work on the sound. Not only did she open the night, she ran around looking after everyone and got a phenomenal sound in essentially a “live” hard-floored apartment. With a bath. Awesome job!

Lloyd asked me if it was ok to have a bath. I said no. He said I should let him have a bath right there, right now. I said I wasn’t allowed to let him have a bath. Lloyd bought me a drink.

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We helped Jay pack his van and headed back to Antonio’s armed with 2 bottles of strong Rose. Within minutes of our return, Antonio donned his Pikachu One-sie and.. well…

“Pikachulic”

Sleep 2.

Good Sunday.

Asleep after sunrise we ensure Antonio rises in time for his Exeter set-off time. We (Lloyd, Ruby and Cat) don our shoes and head to Duke’s for brunch. Bellies filled and hangovers on show we catchup and laugh the morning away.

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The journey back was equally trouble-free and service filled as on the way down and I arrived home unable to do anything else other than flash back to the best weekend I’ve had in years.

Good work London. You were awesome.

BBS.

Ryan Mitchell-Smith xx

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Paul Butterfield: Imitator or Innovator?

The following post is essentially my 10,000 word dissertation, which I completed back in 2002. I’d write it differently now of course. It got me 2 A grades as it was a double core module. This seriously helped me get my First Class honours (BA) in Popular Music. It is posted here for nostalgia, as a backup, and for anyone with a mild interest in it’s contents to read with a cup of tea that needs some company. I hope you enjoy it for what it is.

Abstract

 

This study examines the issues surrounding Paul Butterfield and the way in which he played blues harmonica within his compositions. Paul Butterfield was said to have been the first ‘white’ blues harmonica player to perform with the same intensity of emotion as the original ‘great’ black blues-men  It is documented, that Butterfield didn’t have time for imitators, and that he believed respect was commanded of those who were innovative. It is with this issue that this study is primarily concerned. The investigation has been divided into relevant sections. The first chapter gives some historical background information concerning the harmonica in general and the life of Paul Butterfield. Chapter two discusses the meaning of emotion to blues music, and the function that this has along with relevant sub-issues. A critical comparison of the performance techniques of Paul Butterfield and ‘Little’ Walter Jacobs is then delivered from a musicological perspective amongst others. The final chapter reflects upon the preceding research, finally discussing the issue of whether Paul Butterfield was an imitator or an innovator in his field of music. This chapter adds supporting research in the form of quotations. The conclusion reiterates the findings of the study, that Butterfield was an innovator in his field of music, and that he played the harmonica with the same intensity and emotion as the ‘great’ black blues musicians who preceded him.

Paul Butterfield: Imitator or Innovator?

Introduction

 

Paul Butterfield was arguably one of the most influential artists to come out of America, and was certainly responsible in part for the blues boom of the 1960s. It is often said (as this study will show) that Butterfield actually revolutionised the way that music was viewed socially in America, giving the go-ahead for thousands of white musicians to play electric instruments and sing the blues. Although other artists and musicians also changed the course of American history, it is with Paul Butterfield that this study is primarily focussed. As a harmonica player and composer, Butterfield was primarily concerned with achieving the status of an innovator in his field of music, at the same time as being the best. Whether he was ‘the best’ is a matter of personal taste, however, whether he was innovative in his field can be questioned and judged. Paul’s wife, Kathryn Butterfield, describes that Paul was very focused upon being an innovator, and had no patience or respect for imitators.

“Paul didn’t have much respect for people who were imitators,” Kathryn says. “He didn’t have patience with them. He believed you should be an innovator. He loved musical challenges, especially ‘cutting sessions’ with other musicians. He just always wanted to be the best.” (Kathryn Butterfield in Wolfson, 1995: 14)

However, there is evidence that Butterfield travelled the blues circuit in Chicago in an attempt to learn his skills from the ‘great’ black blues musicians who surrounded him at the time, especially ‘Little’ Walter Jacobs. The following quotation is from Peter Butterfield, Paul’s brother:

But according to Peter, his time on the harmonica was more often “hours of playing by himself. He was listening to people and was picking up stuff from other players like Little Walter. But he was spending an enormous amount of time by himself playing. It was a very solitary effort. It was all internal, like he had a particular sound he wanted to get and he just worked to get it, like he was an isolated musician working alone in the country somewhere.” (Peter Butterfield and Tom Ellis III, in Wolfson, 1995: 14)

So was Butterfield an innovator or an imitator? It is the primary goal of this study to prove whether Butterfield was guilty of imitating other artists, or whether he achieved his desired status as an innovator.

In conjunction with the main objective stated above, it is also of interest as to whether Butterfield performed with the same intensity and emotion as the ‘great’ black blues musicians who went before him. This point is in direct relation to the following statement from Larkin (1993). Larkin also points out a common opinion of Butterfield, that he helped revolutionise the blues in the 1960s.

As a catalyst, Butterfield helped shape the development of blues music played by white musicians in the same way that John Mayall and Cyril Davis were doing in Britain. Butterfield had the advantage of standing in with Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and his mentor Little Walter. Butterfield Sang, composed and led a series of seminal bands throughout the 60s, but it was his earthy Chicago-style harmonica playing that gained him attention. He was arguably the first white man to play blues with the intensity and emotion of the great black blues harmonica players. (Larkin 1993: 65)

This study aims to discuss the different elements of the above quotations in order to prove whether Butterfield did perform with the same intensity of emotion, or whether he merely copied the ‘great’ black artists that surrounded him. Ultimately, this study will try to uncover whether Butterfield was an innovator in his time, pushing the boundaries of culture alongside composition, or whether he just copied his mentors, in an attempt to be accepted in a particular social group. Was he just in the right place at the right time, with the right people surrounding him?

Alongside these main directions, this investigation also intends to reflect other relevant aspects of Paul Butterfield’s achievements and experiences from his career. This investigation shall also try to uncover what was special about Paul Butterfield, which qualities he possessed, that allowed him to become the first commercially successful white blues harmonica player, and indeed, if this was the case at all.

Various topics have been selected in order to unravel the issues concerning the main question posed by this study. The first chapter gives a brief historical background of the blues harmonica, followed by a historical background of Paul Butterfield, as it is with this that this study is primarily focused and based upon. The second chapter involves a discussion concerning the issues of emotion and intensity in blues music, in order to understand the definition of these terms in relation to this study and Larkin’s statement included above. The third chapter will then provide a critical musical comparison of the harmonica techniques of Paul Butterfield and ‘Little’ Walter Jacobs, in an attempt to decipher the musical attributes of being a ‘great’ harmonica player. This section is delivered from a personal perspective, as no grading systems or examinations were around or relevant to the playing of this instrument in the 1960s Chicago environment. ‘Little’ Walter is chosen as Butterfield was said to have learned a great deal from him, as can be seen from the earlier quotation from Peter Butterfield, Paul looked up to Jacobs as one of the ‘greats’. This is in an attempt to uncover whether the term ‘great’ is associated with the musical ability of the player in question or whether that greatness is an attribute of the player’s personality. The fourth and final chapter investigates and draws upon the previous chapters in order to determine whether Butterfield was an imitator or an innovator in his field of blues music. These issues are viewed to be the most relevant points that need to be addressed and analysed in order to satisfy all the questions involved with this study area, finally answering the title question.

This study shall be undertaken in the form of an investigation, using quotations and supporting documents as evidence. The analysis shall be delivered from a sociological, historical and musicalogical perspective. A Compact Disc has also been submitted with this study, which can be found in Appendix A, in order to musically demonstrate the harmonica techniques of the two players in question. This will also serve as an example of blues music for the benefit and interest of the reader. The findings of this study will then be confirmed in the form of a conclusion.

Chapter 1 A

Historical Background of the Harmonica

 

The information given here has been cited from the Hohner USA website (the first harmonica production company). The address can be found in the webography on page 35.

The first harmonica was invented in 1821, by sixteen-year-old Christian Friedrich Buschmann. It was at this time that Buschmann registered the first European patents for his new instrument, named ‘Aura’. This was a free-reed instrument comprising of a series of steel reeds aligned horizontally in small channels, which allowed only ‘blow’ notes (no draw notes as yet!) that were arranged chromatically. The possibilities that arose from this invention seemed remarkable at the time, allowing the player versatility in dynamics and the ability to hold a note for as long as they would wish to. It is reported that Buschmann’s idea was widely imitated, leading to many developments and modifications. However, it was a bohemian instrument maker named Joseph Richter who, in 1826, developed a variation of the ‘aura’ that consisted of ten holes and twenty reeds that were placed on two separate blow and draw reed plates, in turn mounted upon either side of a central cedar comb. At this point, the tuning was developed, utilizing the diatonic scale, and it was this standard design that was known to Europeans as the ‘Mundharmonika’ or mouth organ.

In 1857 a German clock maker named Matthias Hohner began to manufacture harmonicas full-time and produced over six hundred instruments in that year alone. After adding comfortable steel covers bearing the name of the manufacturer, this harmonica was then introduced to North America in 1862, where it became very popular among the young black Americans of the time, being affordable and easy to carry around. Since then the harmonica as it is today has developed into a highly versatile instrument, at home in most genres of modern and traditional music.

 

Chapter 1 B

Historical Background of Paul Butterfield

This biography and historical background of Paul Butterfield has been cited from Michael Erlewine at AllMusic.com (the full address can be found in the webography at the end of this study). Erlewine gives an adaptation of Butterfield’s biography, which is in accordance with a magazine article originally written and compiled by Tom Ellis III in issue number twenty-three of Blues Access (1995) edited by Cary Wolfson (this publication is referenced in the bibliography on page 34).

Paul Butterfield was born on the 17th of December 1942, in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Butterfield grew up in Chicago’s Hyde Park, where he grew to be culturally sophisticated. His father was a well-known attorney in the Hyde Park area, and his mother was a painter. Butterfield took flute lessons from an early age and by the time he reached high school, he was studying with the first-chair flautist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He was surrounded with both classical and jazz music from an early age. Butterfield was also a young athlete who ran track in high school and was offered a running scholarship from Brown University, which he had to refuse after a serious knee injury. From that point onwards, he turned towards the music scene around him and began learning to play the guitar and harmonica. Butterfield then met vocalist Nick Gravenites and started ‘hanging out’ in and around the Chicago blues clubs, listening and learning his ‘trade to be’. He and Gravenites began to play together at various campuses, including the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Chicago. His parents sent him to the University of Illinois, but he would only attend a short academic week, and then return home early (but not check in!), and instead he would play and ‘hang out’ at the blues clubs. He soon began doing this six or seven days a week. He then dropped out of college altogether and turned towards music full time. Butterfield began to practice for long hours by himself, just playing over and over again. His brother Peter writes:

He listened to records, and he went places, but he also spent an awful lot of time, by himself, playing. He’d play outdoors. There’s a place called The Point in Hyde Park, a promontory of land that sticks out into Lake Michigan, and I can remember him out there for hours playing. He was just playing all the time … It was a very solitary effort. It was all internal, like he had a particular sound he wanted to get and he just worked to get it. (Peter Butterfield in Wolfson, 1995: 14)

In the meantime, Elvin Bishop had come from Oklahoma to the University of Illinois on a scholarship, and had discovered the various blues venues for himself.

Elvin remembers, “One day I was walking around the neighborhood and I saw a guy sitting on a porch drinking a quart of beer – White people that were interested in blues were very few and far between at that time. But this guy was singing some blues and singing it good. It was Butterfield. We gravitated together real quick and started playing parties around the neighborhood, you know, just acoustic. He was playing more guitar than harp when I first met him. But in about six months, he became serious about the harp. And he seemed to get about as good as he ever got in that six months. He was just a natural genius. And this was in 1960 or 1961. (Elvin Bishop in Wolfson, 1995: 14)

Butterfield and Bishop began going down to the clubs, sitting in, and playing with all the ‘great’ black blues players, who were then in their prime. This included players such as; Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Wells, Little Walter, and especially Muddy Waters. Butterfield and Bishop were often the only ‘whites’ there, but they were soon accepted due to their sincerity, sheer ability, and the protection offered from players like Muddy Waters, who befriended them. Big John’s, a club located on Chicago’s ‘white’ North Side invited Butterfield to bring his band there and perform on a regular basis. He said “sure,” and Butterfield and Bishop set about putting such a band together. They ‘pulled’ Jerome Arnold (bass guitar) and Sam Lay (drums) from Howlin’ Wolf’s band (with whom they had worked for the past six years), by offering them more money. Butterfield and Bishop, Arnold, and Lay, were all about the same age, and it was these four that became ‘the Butterfield Blues Band’. They had been around for a long time and knew the Chicago blues scene and its repertoire very well. This new racially mixed band opened at Big John’s, was very successful, and made a first great step to opening up the blues scene to white America. When the ‘new’ group thought about making an album, they looked around for a lead guitarist. Michael Bloomfield, who was known to Butterfield from his appearances at Big Johns, joined the band in early 1965. It took a while for Bloomfield to fit in, but by the summer of that year, the band was gelling together nicely. Mark Naftalin, another music student, joined the band as the first album was being recorded still in 1965. In fact, while they were in the studio creating that first album on Elektra Records, he sat in the session playing the Hammond organ for the first time, and Butterfield liked the sound. Naftalin recorded eight of the eleven tracks on the first album during the first session. Afterwards Paul invited Naftalin to join the band and go on the road with them. These six then became ‘The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’. The importance of the first and second Butterfield albums in particular shall be discussed within the body of this study. The debut release, entitled ‘The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’ went on to be one of America’s most definitive and influential albums, along with the second more contemporary release ‘East-West’ in 1966, which had a more experimental sound. The Butterfield band appeared at the Newport Folk Festival late in 1965 to rave reviews, where Butterfield supported Bob Dylan on electric instruments. This was the first time this had happened at a folk festival, the result being a riot at the expense of Dylan’s tactics.

Perhaps the next major event for the Butterfield band came when drummer Sam Lay became ill, late in 1965. Jazz drummer Billy Davenport was called in and soon became a permanent member of the group. Davenport was to become a key element in the development of the second Butterfield Blues Band album, East-West, in particular the extended solo of the same name. Fuelled by Bloomfield’s infatuation with Eastern music and aided by Davenport’s jazz-driven sophistication on drums, there arose in the group a new musical form that was to greatly influence rock music, the ‘extended solo’. The first two albums served as a wakeup call to an entire generation of white would-be blues musicians. The third album (released in 1967), ‘The Butterfield Blues Band’, ‘The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw’, is the last album that preserves any of the pure blues direction of the original group. By this time, Bloomfield had left to create his own group. Mark Naftalin left the group soon after this album and the Butterfield band took on other forms. After Bloomfield and Naftalin left the group, Butterfield spun off on his own more and more. The next two albums, ‘In My Own Dream’ (1968) and ‘Keep on Moving’ (1969), moved still further away from the blues roots until, in 1972, Butterfield dissolved the group, forming another group called ‘Better Days’. This new group recorded two albums, ‘Paul Butterfield’s Better Days’ and ‘It All Comes Back’. After that, Butterfield faded into the general rock scene, with an occasional appearance here and there, as in the documentary ‘The Last Waltz’ (1976), which was a farewell concert from The Band. The albums ‘Put It in Your Ear’ (1976) and ‘North South’ (1981) were attempts to make a comeback, but both failed. Paul Butterfield died of a drug-related heart failure on May the 4th, 1987, in Hollywood.

Chapter 2

Emotion in Blues Music

This chapter aims to explore the meaning of the term ‘emotion’ in relation to blues music and blues musicians. The topic of emotion infers other relative issues that shall also be discussed. These issues include emotional integrity, continuity of mood and the use of association to communicate emotion in music. This is in an attempt to understand the importance of these contributory factors of blues music, especially when considering the ‘authenticity’ of Butterfield’s compositions and performances. Also, it shall be discussed just how important these factors are in relation to the apparent ‘greatness’ of some of the black blues musicians who went before him. Ultimately, this chapter will show that the communication and continuity of emotion are essential to the success and reputation of any blues musician, be they black or white. Davidson et al. (1985) states that the word ‘emotion’ means:

A moving of the feelings: agitation of the mind: one of the three groups of the phenomena of the mind-feeling, distinguished from cognition and will. (Davidson et al., 1985: 312)

One of the most important words in the above description is the word ‘phenomena’. Assuming that emotions are phenomena of the mind, and that most or all humans have emotions, it could be said that the expression of one’s emotions through the medium of music is also a phenomenon. In the context of this study, the appliance of emotion or performing with emotion constitutes the communication of one humans ‘feeling’ or ‘feelings’ to another human being. In this way, it can be understood that an emotion is a direct consequence of any action or event relative to the parties concerned. In relation to the above explanation, the word agitation is itself an action word: ‘to agitate…to keep moving: to stir violently’ (Davidson et al., 1985: 16). This clarifies emotion to be a reaction to an action or event. So why is emotion relevant in relation to blues music? The following quotation explains some of the fundamental aspects of the blues.

‘Bluesman.’ To define it as someone who sings the blues is too narrow. It’s true, but it only defines one dimension, one aspect of the blues. To define it as someone who responds to his life, to his environment, in terms of the artistic language known as the blues comes closer to it. Closer – and at the same time suggests some of the music’s larger dimensions. One of the most important functions of the blues is the act of self-definition, and it’s this that gives the blues its validity as language – as the language of the black culture in America.

To someone involved with the blues as an integral part of his life the music was a clarification of the realities of his experience. The language itself was an expression of the shared reality of an entire culture, and the bluesman’s definition of the reality became a way to objectify the experience, to somehow keep it at a distance. Sometimes, when you talk to Bukka White, you feel that the blues he sings are the reality – or at least they’re as close to it as he can come. (Charters, 1975: 35-36)

In relation to blues music, emotions could be seen to be phenomenal psychological reactions to everyday events that immediately affect the individual. As Charters describes, blues music is fundamentally based upon the objectifying of ones life experiences. Charters goes on to explain that blues music is a response to an individuals life, a reaction to the experiences that any individual may have gone through. Could it be said that blues music itself is an emotion, i.e. a reaction to an action? Or is it indeed a way of life as Charters points out? The truth is, that blues music is an amalgamation of the two. It is an emotional way of life that affects an entire culture. Further to this, Charters tells of the importance of the act of self-definition as a function of blues music. This suggests that the act of objectifying ones experiences through the language of blues music actually allows a realisation of individuality. It is the mutual understanding of this concept within the culture that gives the blues it’s ‘validity as language’, as Charters described.

Longhurst also depicts blues music to reflect human life experiences whilst at the same time containing attitudes of emotion.

Like most songs, blues reflects human life in general, though concentrating on the experiences relevant to the singer/composer and immediate audience. Blues songs are thus, not surprisingly, concerned with such topics as sexual relations, travelling, drinking, being broke, work and the lack of it, etc., etc. If there is one central emotional attitude typical of the music it is that of irony. (Longhurst, 2000: 137)

Longhurst suggests that the life experiences of both performer and immediate audience are relevant to each other. If an affinity did not exist between the artist and the audience, then the performance could not be appreciated to it’s full potential. For example, if I was to go to a concert of a band whose singer sang in French, I would not be able to appreciate the music to it’s absolute potential, as I do not understand the French language. The intention of the performer could not be understood completely, no matter how well the musical content was understood. This outlines the importance of affinity between the audience and the performer, as well as revealing the importance of communication especially in blues music.

The irony that Longhurst speaks of could be considered as a fundamental part of coping with life in the hard times that surrounded Americans especially between the 1920s and the 1960s. In a positive way, blues music objectifies the experience of life, and then amazingly laughs in the face of adversity when life is particularly hard. At the point where humans have had so much bad luck, a reaction through blues music is to just smile or dance and metaphorically ‘shrug ones shoulders’.

Track 01 (found on the CD included in Appendix A) is performed by Bill Withers, and the track is called ‘I Can’t Write Left-Handed’. This song highlights the use of humour directly in contrast to the sad and sensitive nature of the song, using the irony that Longhurst describes as a major device in performing blues music. This track in particular is about a soldier who had his right arm removed after being shot during the Vietnam War. Bill Withers tells the story of the soldier before performing the song, and tells of how the soldier had said that “getting shot at didn’t bother him, it was the getting shot that shook him up”, at this point the audience laugh in the background, moments before Bill Withers enters with the first line of the song, ‘I can’t write left-handed’. This is an excellent example of how the blues objectifies life experience, and uses irony in such a way as to augment the emotional content of the song.

The success of this transmission of emotion from performer to audience (and audience to performer) greatly influences the ‘authentic’ nature of a performance. The success of a blues performer also greatly depends on the success of this transmission. It is far easier to believe a performance to be authentic if a performer appears to have experienced at least some of the things that they may be singing about. However, performance on a non-lyrical instrument still carries the intention of communicating emotion. In this case emotion is communicated through the use of performance tools such as musical taste, sensitivity, diction and energy. This transmission allows the audience to have an affinity with the emotions and experiences of the performer, whether lyrics are present or not.

The power of association is also an important factor relating to the success of a performance. For example, it is often described that the colour red instigates feelings of warmth to the receiver, as the colour blue induces a cold feeling. In musical terms, a performer who chooses to play fast major melodies within a composition generally induces feelings of happiness and life. Traditionally however, slow music in a minor key is associated with a more melancholic emotion, shared with feelings of sensitivity and sentiment. In blues music terms, this power of association is greatly advanced, containing level upon level of emotion, experiences and meanings. Could this be why blues music is so successful and well received? After all, the actual harmonic content traditional to blues music (the I IV V chord progression for example) can be musically restrictive, often repetitive, yet the popularity of the form does not seem to diminish. It appears that the emotional content of blues music in particular is more than enough to keep the audience interested and sympathetic.

Integrity in performing blues music is just as important as the original emotional content, however perhaps a more important factor is the continuity of this integrity. Integrity involves the sincerity behind the emotions being portrayed, whether the emotions be happy or sad, yet it is often the collaboration of the two that instigates a more authentic feeling to a performance, one being used to compliment the other.

Performance integrity draws in places, times, works, players, audiences, and other matters not only because these figure as the focus of ritual attention, but also because they contribute jointly to mood. Ultimately, the wholeness or completeness of a performance is a matter of mood maintenance. Why must the show go on? Try stopping it, taking a break. Not much remains. (Godlovitch, 1998: 41)

Godlovitch explains how several factors concurrently contribute to the mood of a performance. The emotion in a performance can be affected by factors other than those that are controlled by the performer. These include the place in which the performance takes place, the particular audience at the occasion, and the style of music being played. More importantly Godlovitch points out the importance of ‘mood maintenance’. It seems imperative that during a live emotional performance, the mood of the performance must be maintained in order to allow the audience to feel comfortable in the trust that what they are hearing is genuine. Godlovitch also suggests how much attention a performer can be given during a performance, describing it as a ‘ritual’. This infers the possibility of a trance-like attention from the audience that, if disturbed, leaves the performance completely empty. Integrity also relies upon the intention of the performer, and whether this intention was successfully communicated to the audience or not.

Two examples where integrity can be heard are on the accompanying Compact Disc in appendix A. This involves an original composition by Jimi Hendrix called ‘Little Wing’ (Track 02) which is a good example of someone performing with emotion. The track following this is also ‘Little Wing’ (Track 03), however performed by Stevie Ray Vaughan. When comparing these two versions of the same song, it seems apparent that Stevie Ray Vaughan’s version holds the same integrity of emotion as the original itself. This is only a personal opinion, however, as a listener, the continuity and emotion involved in the performances of this piece gives a distinct impression that Stevie Ray Vaughan shared similar feelings with Jimi Hendrix. This could be because their life experiences were not altogether dissimilar to each other. The result is that both versions of the song were very popular and viewed with similar respect. It is believed that this is due to the integrity and the continuity of integrity, as well as the intention of the performer being communicated very successfully to the audiences who were there at the time.

This chapter has explored the fundamental qualities involved with the emotional performance of blues music. It is these qualities amongst others that augment the success of a musician or performer. These factors are seen to be the most relevant characteristics that describe the ‘great’ blues musicians of our time. In terms of this study, it is relevant to ascertain the qualities that are fundamental to the performance of blues music, so that a fair judgement towards Paul Butterfield can be established in the comparison held in chapter 3. Now that these qualities have been outlined, it is possible to at least judge to some degree whether Butterfield in particular shared these qualities. This shall be reflected upon in chapter four.

Chapter 3

Comparison of Harmonica Techniques

 

This chapter aims to compare the harmonica playing techniques of ‘Little’ Walter Jacobs and Paul Butterfield. This is carried out in an attempt to decipher whether Butterfield was an imitator or an innovator regarding the blues harmonica. In judging Butterfield’s authenticity, it is important to establish whether he shared similarities with other artists that were already recognized at the time. Shaar Murray describes some of the more recognized harmonica ‘greats’:

His [Muddy Waters’] bands launched a second wave of Chicago Blues Stars, including guitarist Jimmy Rogers, harmonica players James Cotton, Junior Wells, Walter Horton and – the greatest of them all – virtuoso and innovator ‘Little Walter’ Jacobs. Little Walter, who died in a street brawl in 1967, gave the harmonica both the tonal and harmonic resource of a tenor sax, and as visionary a notion of the possibilities of amplification as Hendrix himself. (Shaar Murray, 1990: 133)

‘Little’ Walter was known to be one of the ‘great’ black blues harmonica players, however, the basis for conducting this comparison with ‘Little’ Walter Jacobs is the fact that Butterfield saw Jacobs to be his mentor, and someone who he learned a great deal from. Proof of this can be seen in the following statements, both of which were included in the introduction.

As a catalyst, Butterfield helped shape the development of blues music played by white musicians in the same way that John Mayall and Cyril Davis were doing in Britain. Butterfield had the advantage of standing in with Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and his mentor Little Walter. Butterfield Sang, composed and led a series of seminal bands throughout the 60s, but it was his earthy Chicago-style harmonica playing that gained him attention. He was arguably the first white man to play blues with the intensity and emotion of the great black blues harmonica players. (Larkin 1993: 65)

Larkin states that Butterfield got the chance to stand in with his ‘mentor’ ‘Little’ Walter. However, Peter Butterfield, Paul’s brother, reveals that Paul was ‘picking up stuff’ from other players, especially ‘Little’ Walter.

But according to Peter, his time on the harmonica was more often “hours of playing by himself. He was listening to people and was picking up stuff from other players like Little Walter. But he was spending an enormous amount of time by himself playing. It was a very solitary effort. It was all internal, like he had a particular sound he wanted to get and he just worked to get it, like he was an isolated musician working alone in the country somewhere.” (Peter Butterfield and Tom Ellis III, in Wolfson, 1995: 14)

This is extremely relevant, as this gives the prospect of comparing the two players a lot more ground. This is proof that Butterfield was influenced (to some degree) by Jacobs’ playing in particular. Therefore, the point of this chapter is to find out just how much influence exists in Butterfield’s playing that can be attributed to ‘Little’ Walter’s style. If he was influenced, what similarities or differences were there? How far did the influence go? And, when does influence become imitation? These issues shall be answered within this chapter.

In support to this evidence, it comes as no surprise that two of the tracks from Butterfield’s debut album ‘The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’, were covers originally written by Jacobs himself. These tracks are ‘Blues With A Feeling’, and ‘Last Night’. ‘Blues With A Feeling’ shall be used primarily as an example, to compare the playing styles of each player. These tracks are included in appendix A. ‘Blues With A Feeling’ by ‘Little’ Walter is track 04, and ‘Blues With A Feeling’ by ‘The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’ is track 05. This is also evidence of Paul Butterfield imitating another artist. However, even though the act of performing another artists track could be called copying, it is the content of the track that is important. Artists have been performing other people’s work for hundreds of years, yet this is not direct proof that an artist is actually trying to copy someone else, or that the original composer has influenced the artist. It merely states that someone performed another artist’s work. It would be wrong to assume that every performance of other people’s work was carried out because the original had influenced the ‘new’ artist, or that the track was being directly copied. There are a lot of different reasons why people perform other people’s work. For example, if I was to perform a piece for a colleagues’ performance exam, I may not necessarily enjoy the track, I would merely be performing a track for the sake of helping a friend. Therefore, the secret of how influenced an artist has been by another, lies in the fundamentals of how the ‘new’ and original artists communicate to the audience. In this case, how Jacobs and Butterfield played harmonica, and what intricate similarities lie in both players playing style, if any at all.

Throughout this comparison, areas of technique have been chosen that are relevant to harmonica playing. The areas to be studied include melodic phrasing, use of rhythm, improvisation characteristics, and tonal quality.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 Extract from ‘Blues With A Feeling’ – written by ‘Little’ Walter Jacobs. This example shows the basis of the main melody of the song, which is played on the harmonica during the introduction of the track.

The only un-notated part of this melody is the trill that occurs on the first note of each bar to varying degrees on the CD recording. It is interesting to note that the first melody is only repeated three times before the harmonic shift to chord four occurs a bar earlier than in traditional blues songs. Despite this irregularity, the harmonica melody behaves in much the same way as a standard bass guitar line, being simple and pointing out the guide tones of the chords. Using the harmonica in this way was a popular method of establishing a basis upon which an improvisation could take place. It is also this use of simplicity that compliments the more adventurous improvisation that occurs later in the track. The melody in the first three bars is played in the second position on the diatonic harmonica, which centres on the second hole. The melody then modulates to the third position, which centres on the fourth hole being drawn rather than blown.

The rhythm of this piece focuses mainly on a quaver triplet feel, accenting the downbeat and occasionally the offbeat, which is especially during the solo section. A common technique when playing the harmonica is to alternate between the third and fifth note of the scale using a trill effect. This appears as the sound of alternating semi-quavers. This is a technique often used by harmonica players, however this skill takes a great deal of control to achieve successfully. ‘Little’ Walter uses this technique with subtlety and a great deal of control. This technique is used mostly within the solo section, resolving each melodic phrase with this ‘warble’. The other most noticeable attribute to Jacobs’ playing style is the use of accents. This takes the form of doubling the bass or guitar parts, whilst adding extra stab notes, acting as a call and response to the bass and guitar. This also gives the harmonica the quality of a saxophone.

In terms of improvisation characteristics, Jacobs emphasises guide tones with a trill that lasts for the duration of a bar for most of the way through the solo. The only place where this is not the case is at the turn-around four bars into the solo, and at the end of the solo going into the verse. It is only here that Jacobs plays a more intricate pattern with more conviction and emotion. It is believed that this is a key point in describing Jacobs’ playing style. This involves the contrast between simplicity and emotional complexity of rhythm and melody, simplicity being used to severely augment the moments when Jacobs does play intricate more complex rhythms and melodies. Subtlety is also another tool that Jacobs uses very well, quietly playing in the gaps when not singing. The use of bending notes also frequents this track, however there are varying degrees that harmonica players bend the note. Jacobs appears to bend the note by a fraction, rather than bending it by a full semitone. The solo section also follows the melody from the introduction, improvising using the guide tones as before.

The tonal qualities of Jacobs’ playing are distinctively centred on a ‘boxy’ mid-frequency range. This quality is achieved by holding the hands tightly around the harmonica and microphone, in order to create a small airtight chamber in the hands. The mid-tones of Jacobs’ sound have a distorted quality that allows the sound to cut through the surrounding middle frequencies of the guitar and drums. The manipulation of this tone gives Jacobs his quality of sound. It is also important to notice that the notes in the higher register do not have the treble qualities that one would expect of a harmonica. The high-end seems to be rounded off, yet cutting through the mix. This is a very important aspect of playing the harmonica, as this is where the emotion or intensity of emotion comes across, higher than the control of the melody and the rhythm. The tonal qualities of the harmonica are almost a separate part of playing the instrument, where expression is communicated through the very subtle control of this ‘tone’.

Paul Butterfield’s version of the same track directly follows Jacobs’ version in appendix A (Track 05). The first important difference here is the use of more complicated melodies and rhythms. It is immediately noticeable in the introduction that Butterfield elaborates the melody. This takes the form of improvising an original established melody, however this is performed in a rather erratic manner, showing less consistency in relation to the simplicity that Jacobs relies on. Perhaps a better way to describe Butterfield’s methods is more ‘adventurous’. This applies in terms of both melody and rhythm throughout the content of the song. The main melody of the song is still adhered to, however Butterfield’s version is more elaborate.

Rhythmically, Butterfield appears to accent the offbeat rather more than Jacobs. In a similar manner as the melodic content, this takes the form of ‘improving’ the original harmonica part. Whether this was actually achieved or not is another matter altogether.

From an improvisation perspective, Butterfield seems to play with a more direct approach, going for the ‘high note’ of the solo from the start. There is also a lot more movement in terms of melodic content, more adventurous ideas being employed more frequently. Butterfield also tends to bend the notes with more vigour, and to lower points, in contrast to Jacobs. It is also important to notice that Butterfield does not focus upon the guide tones of the song in the same way that Jacobs does. It seems more apparent that Butterfield uses more jazz orientated notes, such as the major ninth interval, which can be seen from figure 1.2 below, in the third bar of the example.

Figure 1.2

Figure 1.2 Extract from Butterfield’s version of ‘Blues With A Feeling’, two bars before the harmonica solo, two and a half minutes into the track.

The tone that Butterfield achieves contains higher frequencies, giving a more cutting sound than Jacobs. However, the same ‘boxy’ quality does remain, and similarities in the tone of both players can certainly be heard. It seems that this could be where Jacobs’ playing influenced Butterfield the most. One reason for the ‘cutting’ sound that Butterfield achieves could be that the back-line consists of more instruments, including more guitars and an organ, it would be necessary to give the harmonica, which is the featured instrument of the track, a little more space at the same time as having a ‘raunchy’ quality. It is believed that it is this quality that lends itself to the term ‘raunchy’ Chicago blues. The last point to note is that Butterfield’s version is performed a tone lower than Jacobs’ version. Bearing this in mind, it seems more relevant that the quality of Butterfield’s tone still contains higher frequencies. Could it be the case that this decision was made due to the harshness of the harmonica in a higher key? This question cannot be answered, however this does show that Butterfield was at least trying to differ from Jacobs in some way.

These differences in technique can be heard within other tracks by both artists. Track 06 in appendix A is called ‘My Babe’, also written and performed by ‘Little’ Walter. During the introduction, Jacobs again plays in a very simple manner using subtlety and repeating melodic phrases. The same can be said for the solo section, where improvised ideas are repeated on a regular basis, allowing more suspense to arise when the pattern is broken by a new phrase. In Jacobs’ original version of ‘Last Night’ (track 07 in appendix A), the same thoughtful playing style is recognizable, the solo here is very similar to the solo found in Jacobs’ version of ‘Blues With A Feeling’, using the same trill technique that is played for the length of a bar, until a turnaround occurs. This pattern can be heard throughout many of Jacobs’ compositions.

To the same degree, Butterfield is ‘predictably unpredictable’ throughout his compositions, choosing to experiment rather than repeat phrases. It is only in Butterfield’s later works that some kind of form similar to Jacobs can be found. ‘One More Heartache’ (track 08 in appendix A) is such a track. The most important evidence of Butterfield’s passion for experimentation lies in an original composition entitled ‘East West’ (track 09 in appendix A).  This track is a thirteen-minute ‘raga-rock’, which is a free improvisation track closer to jazz or psychedelia than traditional blues music. This track in particular created a lot of attention and popularity for Butterfield, but more importantly was very influential to other white musicians at the time (see chapter 4). ‘East West’ is centred on experimentation, incorporating eastern melodies and rhythms. Butterfield’s harmonica in this track is more incidental and building than in his earlier works, and is certainly simpler sounding in terms of rhythm. Shaar Murray describes ‘East West’:

Paul Butterfield’s Blues Band, to many the epitome of Chicago blues revivalist orthodoxy, featured a hard-swinging, sparklingly intense version of Cannonball Adderley’s ‘Work Song’ on their second album, East West (1966), but it was overshadowed by the title tune, a 13-minute ‘raga-rock’ improvisation which owed considerably more to John Coltrane’s Shankarisms than to George Harrison’s. (Shaar Murray, 1990: 196)

The conclusion of this comparison is that fundamentally, the differences between ‘Little’ Walter and Butterfield greatly out-weigh the similarities. The nearest similarity is the tonal quality of both players, and in this matter it is believed that Butterfield was at least influenced somewhat by Jacobs’ tone. So at what point does influence become the direct imitation of another artist? It is believed that this could be when the similarities actually out-weigh the differences between the players in question. However, the similarities in this case are not substantial enough to warrant that Butterfield did directly copy Jacobs. It is the opinion at this point that Butterfield did indeed have his own desires and his own technique, especially in comparison to Jacobs. However, whether Butterfield was different or not does not answer the question of Butterfield’s innovativeness. In order to finally conclude this point, it is necessary to consider the opinions of various people familiar with Butterfield’s playing style, alongside a reflection of the previous evidence supplied in this study. This shall be covered in chapter four.

Chapter 4

Paul Butterfield: Imitator or Innovator?

This chapter aims to reflect upon the findings of this study at the same time as delivering new evidence in an attempt to finally judge whether Butterfield was an innovator in blues music.

After extensive research it is clear that Butterfield certainly influenced many people. The general view tends to describe Butterfield as innovative and influential. One thing is for certain, Butterfield was very well respected as a harmonica player, composer and as a person. Not only did Butterfield seem to achieve the status that he desired as an innovator, but he also established himself as an individual, to the extent that many people remark on just how unique he was. Michael Erlewine describes a common opinion of the effect that ‘The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’ had on America, especially the white audience.

The first two Butterfield Blues Band albums are essential from a historical perspective. While East-West, the second album, with its Eastern influence and extended solos set the tone for psychedelic rockers, it was that incredible first album that alerted the music scene as to what was coming. Although it has been perhaps over-emphasized in recent years, it is important to point out that the release of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band on Elektra Records in 1965, had a huge effect on the White music culture of the time. Used to hearing blues covered by groups like the Rolling Stones, that first album had an enormous impact on young (and primarily White) rock players. Here is no deferential imitation of Black music by Whites, but a racially mixed hard-driving blues album that, in a word, rocked. It was a signal to White players to stop making respectful tributes to Black music, and just play it. In a flash the image of blues as old-time music was gone. Modern Chicago style urban blues was out of the closet and introduced to mainstream White audiences, who loved it. (Erlewine, 1992-2002)

Erlewine describes that Butterfield’s debut album had a huge effect on the white music culture of the time. He also points out that the message sent by Butterfield’s release was to ‘just play it’. This is certainly some evidence of the status that Butterfield achieved. However, an important point to note is the mention of the word ‘imitation’ in Erlewine’s description. Could it be that Erlewine was aware of the issues of imitation related to Butterfield? This is not the case. It seems that Butterfield’s style was just different to anything else that was going on at the time, so much so in fact, that it was actually one of the most noticeable features of listening to him as an artist. Erlewine goes on to describe Butterfield’s unique individuality.

The effect of the Butterfield Blues Band on aspiring White blues musicians was enormous and the impact of the band on live audiences was stunning. Butterfield the performer was always intense, serious, and definitive — no doubt about this guy. Blues purists sometimes like to quibble about Butterfield’s voice and singing style, but the moment he picked up a harmonica, that was it. He is one of the finest harp players (period). Butterfield and the six members of the original Paul Butterfield Blues Band made a huge contribution to modern music, turning a whole generation of White music lovers onto the blues as something other than a quaint piece of music history. The musical repercussions of the second Butterfield album, East-West continue to echo through the music scene even today! (Erlewine, 1992-2002)

This is a very passionate opinion that can be seen from many other sources. The most important issue here being the influence that Butterfield had over the white music culture in America. Erlewine also mentions his own personal opinion of Butterfield’s harmonica style, describing him as one of the finest harmonica players. So what other evidence is there of Butterfield’s innovative nature?

Possibly one of the most famous and influential musical moments in American history occurred at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. Bob Dylan, the poet and folk musician entered the stage with electric instruments. As is described below, Dylan was met with great hostility from the audience, however this act was to redefine the American music scene. Dylan was seen to sell out to the commercial world, when in truth he was merely trying to push his ideas further. Butterfield and his band were the second act, following Dylan. They also used electric instruments.

However it happened, Robbie and Levon, with Harvey Brooks on bass and Al Kooper on electric piano, backed Dylan at his chaotic August 28th, 1965, concert at Forest Hills, New York – the first show to follow the infamous Newport Folk Festival performance where Dylan, with Kooper and members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, scandalized much of the audience by subjecting his folk poetry to commercial electric accompaniment, thus demonstrating that he’d sold out to the almighty dollar. (“Cocksucker!” shouted one offended fan at Forest Hills. “Aw, it’s not that bad,” Dylan replied.) An audience tape of the Forest Hills show (not exactly full of presence for the music, startlingly immediate in its capture of what sounds like a continuing riot in the crowd) is included on Bob Dylan Chronicles: 1965, a weirdly completist fourteen-CD bootleg apparently comprised of every 1965 Bob Dylan recorded moment not officially released. (Marcus, 2000: 247)

This certainly gained the band some attention, but more importantly this act supports the innovative nature said of Butterfield. In contrast, opinions exist referring to the copying of well-known artists in America by ‘up and coming’ American artists and the British artists such as the ‘Rolling Stones’ and ‘John Mayall’. Shaar Murray describes how the ‘new’ ‘Chicagoans’ were more authentic than the British.

The best of the white Chicagoans learned their lessons very well indeed. They soaked up attitude and ambience as well as licks and riffs, and their ‘blues’ was certainly idiomatically purer and more authentic than anything the Brits were playing. As imitators of the ‘real guys’, they had their transatlantic counterparts beaten all hollow, as any direct comparison of, say, the first Paul Butterfield Blues Band album with the early work of The Yardbirds or the Stones will demonstrate. (Shaar Murray, 2000: 293)

Here still exists a hint that these artists were copying their tutors. It seems however that what Shaar Murray is referring to, is the successful progression from student to master, where the basics of a ‘trade’ are studied and then built upon, allowing the student to have more personal control over their new found skills. It is believed that this is what Shaar Murray means when he says ‘learned their lessons well’. Not only did Butterfield learn his lesson well, he had also learned the skills and employed them far better than anyone had done before, as according to Keil.

It is also worth noting that the white copies of Negro originals show greater skill, sensitivity and fidelity than ever before. The young Chicagoans Paul Butterfield and Elvin Bishop are well on their way toward mastering the rough city blues idiom typified by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, much as the young Chicagoans Bix Beiderbecke, Eddie Condon, George Wettling, and friends learned the New Orleans jazz style brought to the Windy City by King Oliver and Louis Armstrong almost fifty years earlier. (Keil, 1991: 47)

Here is yet another reference to copying earlier established masters, however it is clear that the intention was to reinvent rather than to just copy the earlier artists. It was recognized by many people that Butterfield had new ideas, even though he did learn his trade from other artists. Seemingly, it was the interpretation of the skills that were learned, which gave Butterfield his unique style.

Paul Rothchild was a high-powered record producer that assisted Jac Holzman (the founder of Elektra Records) to sign new artists from the first days of Elektra Records. This included one of Rothchild’s first independent signings, ‘The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’. As a final word on the matter, Rothchild explains simply just how influential Butterfield’s band was.

Bottom Line, the Butterfield Band opened another door to American musicianship. It made the electric blues a viable form of popular music, made it possible for hundreds of American performers to play electric music. (Rothchild in Daws & Holzman, 1998: 117)

Considering the evidence provided in each chapter of this study, it is concluded that Paul Butterfield was an innovator in his field of blues music. Even though it was stated that Butterfield learned his trade by spending time with the older, more recognized blues artists of the time, it is very clear that this was a stepping stone towards something far bigger. Would Claude Monet have been a master painter if no one had explained to him what the colour red was? I think not. It is essential if any human is to progress, to build upon existing knowledge and talent, rather than to merely copy it. Butterfield was also an imitator. He was imitating all those people in the world who have dreams. As far as he was concerned, he was not an imitator. To be an imitator, one must not improve on ideas, or add personal characteristics to the copied item. Butterfield was definitely not guilty of this. He did however take on board his lessons of life and the skills he needed, and then added his personal distinctive style.

Answering the question of intensity and emotion next to the ‘greats’ from chapter 2, it was the skill of communicating emotion that Butterfield was most successful. It is believed that Butterfield did in fact perform with the same intensity and emotion, as much as ‘Little’ Walter at least. He achieved this through his use of control of tone and his intense manner of playing style. This was the lesson that Butterfield learned from his mentors, to just play, play your heart out, and play the blues. It is my opinion that Butterfield’s fans and all the people he inspired understood this about him, just from hearing him. Butterfield was one of a kind.

Conclusion

Chapter two gave several accounts of what defines the term emotion in blues music. This was a preparatory chapter that was used to understand the functions of the important aspects of performing blues music. In relation to Butterfield, it was concluded that within the tonal control of his instrument, the same intensity and emotion was present, if not more apparent, than the chosen comparative player ‘Little’ Walter Jacobs. Butterfield exercised all of the qualities that were discussed in chapter two, and this helped him to become as successful as he was. It is believed that Butterfield may have learned how to express his emotions through the skills he gained from spending time with the established masters who were on the circuit at the same time. However, Butterfield adopted these methods and developed them to a new level, which was recognized by most who saw him perform. It was explained in chapter three just how different Butterfield’s playing style was in comparison to ‘Little’ Walter Jacobs’. Butterfield certainly was not an imitator. In order to clarify that he was actually an innovator, chapter four gave several opinions of Butterfield’s reputation. It was proved beyond reasonable doubt, after considering all the evidence that Butterfield was in fact an innovator in his field of music.

Appendix A


Suggested listening: (Ref:)

 

Track 01: ‘I Can’t Write Left-Handed’ (Withers) – Bill Withers

 

Track 02: ‘Little Wing’ (Hendrix) – Jimi Hendrix

 

Track 03: ‘Little Wing’ (Hendrix) – Stevie Ray Vaughan

 

Track 04: ‘Blues With A Feeling’ (Jacobs) – ‘Little’ Walter Jacobs

 

Track 05: ‘Blues With A Feeling’ (Jacobs) – The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

 

Track 06: ‘My Babe’ (Jacobs) – ‘Little’ Walter Jacobs

 

Track 07: ‘Last Night’ (Jacobs) – ‘Little’ Walter Jacobs

 

Track 08: ‘One More Heartache’ (Butterfield) – The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

 

Track 09: ‘East West’ (Butterfield) – The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

 

 

Bibliography

 

Charters, S. (1975) The Legacy Of The Blues: A glimpse into the lives of twelve great bluesmen, London: Calder & Boyars LTD.

Davidson, G W., Seaton, M A., & Simpson, J. (eds) (1985) Chambers Concise 20th Century Dictionary, Bath: The Pitman Press.

Daws, G. & Holzman, J. (1998) Follow The Music: The Life and High Times of Elektra Records in the Great Years of American Pop Culture, California: FirstMedia Books, a unit of F.M. Group Inc.

Godlovitch, S. (1998) Musical Performance: A Philosophical Study, London: Routledge.

Keil, C. (1991) Urban Blues, London: The University of Chicago Press, Ltd.

Larkin, C. (1993) The Guinness Who’s Who Of Blues, Middlesex: Guinness Publishing LTD.

Longhurst, B (2000) Popular Music & Society, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Marcus, G. (2000) Mystery Train, London: Faber and Faber Limited.

Shaar Murray, C. (1990) Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and post-war pop, London: Faber and Faber Limited.

Shaar Murray, C. (ed) (2000) Boogie Man: The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century, London: Penguin Books Ltd.

Wolfson, C. (ed) (1995) Blues Access: No.23: Fall, Boulder (Colorado): Blues Access.

Webography

 

(2002) In The Beginning. Available from:

http://www.hohnerusa.com/2000/harmonicas/hist/history.html

Erlewine, M. (1992-2002) Paul Butterfield (Page 1). Available from: http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=Bom3zef5khgfn

 

Erlewine, M. (1992-2002) Paul Butterfield (Page 2). Available from:

http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=Baq1tk6rx9krw~C