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"Michael Bloomfield: If You Love These Blues," by Jan Mark Wolkin & Bill Keenom

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Michael's Words

   The following quotes are taken from interviews in various music magazines and periodicals over the course of Michael's career. 


Melody Maker, 1966 (horns)

   "Personally I'm very interested in how bands with horns play I mean bands all the way from Don Redman to Gill Evans. Because just now guitarists are beginning to realize the electric guitar's possibilities. It should sound like a horn, not like an acoustic guitar. This is the future."


Hit Parader, January 1967 (jazz musicians)

     "I like a lot of jazz guys. The ones that can blow real hard. Powerful musicians. Roland Kirk is one of the most incredible musicians I've ever seen in my life. You watch him and you're so filled with joy, you're seeing so much beauty and power pouring out of that guy, you just start laughing uncontrollably. Archie Shepp, too. Guys like Thelonius Monk and Charlie Mingus, real geniuses with great ideas. They're humorous and intelligent people and their music is witty. If you hear it and understand it, you're really in for some pleasant intellectual developments."


Hit Parader, February 1967 (feeling the music)

   "Guys like B.B. King and Muddy Waters who are speaking to the people-there are so many things in their music that just completely pass by the kids. Most kids listen to their music because it has a beat or because they know it's Muddy Waters and it means something cloudy and obscure to them. There's so much going on lyrically - an afficione will appreciate things that another cat will miss. I'm using that Spanish word because it's the only one. You have to live it, it's got to be part of you. To get emotional is the most important thing in all music. If you can't get emotions out of your audience, it doesn't mean a thing."


Hit Parader, April 1967 (favorite records)

"B.B. King Live at the Regal - It's a beautiful record. Superb music.

The Best of Muddy Waters - It's got some of his most moving stuff (w/Little Walter)

Thelonius By Himself - It's genius playing and it especially pleases me.

Ray Charles in Person - It's just a superb album and has an exquisite version of

 'Drown in My Own Tears'"


The G.Q. Scene, Winter 1967-68 (Paul Butterfield)

   "Paul's the best in his field; there's not a person living in the world today that can cut him. I didn't get to understand playing the blues correctly until I started working with Butterfield. I learned a whole lot working with him."


Hit Parader, April 1968 (Steve Cropper)

   "One of the songs I'm working on will be "Dedication to Steve Cropper." He's a beautiful cat. His music is so heavy and hip. I love Stax. Steve is the whole Stax thing. Cropper's band was easily the best band at the Monterey Festival. Duck Dunn is the best bass player. All they had was a tenor and a trumpet and they were incredible."


Rolling Stone, April 1968  (playing guitar)

   "Expression, pure expression. Without a guitar, I'm like a poet with no hands. Actually I can articulate much clearer on the guitar than anything else."


Rolling Stone, April 1968  (sweet sound)

   "When I'm playing blues guitar real well, it's a lot like B.B. King. But I don't know, it's my own thing when there are major notes and sweet runs. You know I like sweet blues. The English cats play very hard funky blues. Like Aretha sings is how they play guitar. I play sweet blues. I can't explain it. I want to be singing. I want to be sweet."


Hit Parader, June 1968  (Bob Dylan)

   "Dylan is a hero because he tells the truth. He says all the little things that a kid knows are happening. On 'Like a Rolling Stone' he tells it all. That's such an old story. That's why Lenny Bruce and Malcom X and John F. Kennedy were heroes. They were truthful."


Vogue, June 1968  (Electric Flag)

   "With brass, we sound like a whole church full of people singing together. I love it. I feel just like B.B. King."


Down Beat, June 1969  (advice for young guitarists)

   "I would tell them to try to play as simply as possible, to reassess their musical knowledge to see how much of their music is just mechanized licks, just something they can play with their eyes closed, just involuntary hand usage, and to assess their music on that point-and then clear all that garbage away. Think, if you've got a lick, where can you use it, and break it down into just notes, leading one note into another, see the logic of music, and learn the value of a note. You should be hearing the music in your head, what you want to play, a definite musical pattern.Then play it the way you're hearing it."


Music Maker, February 1970  (session work)

   "I love the idea of complementing another musician. I love to play behind him and give him a nice framework to play off. That's what the old blues guys used to call a second guitar or accompanist a complementor. It's playing the right background; it's the vehicle for you to do your thing on, the proper and correct one. It's the sugar in your coffee. I like that in music. I like a whole band to play that way that's how a band should play."


Guitar Player, June 1971  (vocal sounds)

   "It took me a long time to get interested in singing, not me singing but listening to vocal sounds because the finest guitarists are those that imitate voices. And the more vocally you can play guitar, the more human you're going to sound."


Guitar Player, June 1971  (Electric Flag)

   "The Flag was a good band but it got incredibly pushed into the making. Real-fast- to-make-it-real-big syndrome. And we never had time to mature as a band, dialectically, or even as people. If somebody had taken control of the group, we would be together now. We'd have been even more beautiful."


Guitar Player, June 1971  (folk music)

   "At 15 years old, I started with an acoustic, f-hole type dance band guitar and then I went to electric and played as many lounges and gigs as I could. Then I got me a Martin and started learning folk music. I started playing as much of that as I could. I was really interested in playing ethnic folk music, bluegrass and Travis picking. By the time I was 18 I was about as good at that as anyone. I was a mean picker and can still play that way. I call it now, piano guitar, playing guitar like a piano."


Guitar Player, August 1971  (total musician)

   "Ideally, as a musician, I would like to be like Ornette Coleman or like Roland Kirk. I would just like to play melody, just endless streams of melody and have it have no name, no compartment. I would just get up there and play endless streams of melody encompassing every sort of tradition that my ears have come upon."


Guitar Player, August 1971  (Jimi Hendrix)

   "Sound was his thing. He played the guitar, but he could get any sound in the world through it, and sound was what he was looking for. I think that he was the most advanced. There was no one near him in any way. He had everything: speed, control, and on and on. The cat was the most amazing guitarist I had ever met in my life. I think his work will be studied for years and years."


Guitar Player, August 1971  (favorite jazz guitarists)

   "I like Django Reinhardt very much. I like Wes Montgomery very much. I like Luiz Bonfa and George Van Epps very much, too. For funky jazz guitar, I like Grant Green and George Benson. I sort of like Phil Upchurch. There's a guy named Sonny Greenwich, from Canada, he's a phenomenon. They talk about John McLaughlin, but dig this Sonny cat, he's the Coltrane of guitar players."


Guitar Player, August 1971  (more advice for young guitarists)

   "All you young guitar players, keep those hands moving and play as much as you can; but my God, if you don't play you must listen because listening to music is sometimes as important as playing. And just don't try to cop hot licks. Try to understand the whole field of music, the whole genre. And once you understand that, then you will see how everything relates to everything. One of my greatest fetishes is American music and how everything relates to it."


Guitar Player, August 1971  (guitar lesson)

   "Sometimes I bend seven or eight frets and I know where I'm going. To bend strings micro-tonally means playing across the fingerboard instead of up and down. There are 14 possible notes within seven frets. If you have a good enough ear-like Ravi Shankar or Jimi Hendrix-there are 21 steps within those seven frets. Your guitar will sound more vocal if you play like that."


Improvising Rock Guitar, 1973 (improvisation)

   "All my life I've played improvised or semi-improvised guitar music. Even in my earliest music-playing years, I would alter and "play with" pieces my teachers wanted me to learn verbatim. I've never regretted those alterations. Improvisation is a unique way to assert your personality, wit and mind into an ordered form. That form is music."


Melody Maker, 1976 (If You Love These Blues LP)

   "It's the best playing I've ever done in my life. I tried to show as many styles of the blues as possible. I'd demonstrate two periods of B.B. King and T-Bone Walker and it was a very personal record to make. I was extremely flattered that Guitar Player asked me to do it. I read the magazine and feel a great affinity for guitar players all over the world."


Melody Maker, 1976 (Professor Bloomfield)

 Note: Michael lectured on ethnomusicology at Mills College and Stanford University and taught classes at Family Light School in Sausalito

   "It's a class about innovation and imitation in American popular music from World War II to the mid-sixties. I adore it. It's an enormously comprehensive field. We study independent record labels, crossovers, markets and how cover versions became so popular."               


Guitar Player, 1979 (first rock-n-roll influences)

   "Scotty Moore, Elvis' guitar player. Also Cliff Gallup, who played with Gene Vincent's Blue Caps. See, when I was 15, I couldn't really differentiate between rockabilly and blues. It all sort of sounded the same to me. All I knew was that it had a lot of energy. It all had this sort of outlaw quality to it that I was dying to get into any way I could."


ELECTRICity, July 1980 (meeting Woody Harris)

   "Woody came into the Old Waldorf and sat in.  God, are you good, I said.  I was amazed by his talent and asked him if he'd like to make a record. Later on we decided that the musical form we'd use would be gospel. Woody's lady was Margaret Edmondson, a superb cellist, and that's how it all fell in place."


 

 

 

more to come...

 


 

 


Michael demonstrates his fire-breathing trick, a stunt he often performed while playing "East-West" with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1966.

Photo courtesy of

Deborah Chesher