Paul Butterfield: Wikis


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Paul Butterfield

Paul Butterfield performing at the Woodstock Reunion Parr Meadows Ridge, NY Courtesy of Bob Sanderson
Background information
Born December 17, 1942(1942-12-17)
Chicago, Illinois
Died May 4, 1987 (aged 44)
Genres Blues-rock, Chicago blues, Electric blues, Blue-eyed soul
Occupations Musician
Instruments Harmonica, Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Years active 1963 - 1987
Associated acts The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Paul Butterfield (17 December 1942 – 4 May 1987) was an American blues vocalist and harmonica player, who founded the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the early 1960s and performed at the original Woodstock Festival. He died of drug related heart failure.[1]



The son of a lawyer, Paul Butterfield was born and raised in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood.[2], where he attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, a private school associated with the University of Chicago. After studying classical flute with Walfrid Kujala of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a teenager,[2] he developed a love for the blues harmonica, and hooked up with white, blues-loving, University of Chicago physics student Elvin Bishop ("Fooled Around and Fell in Love").[2] The pair started hanging around black blues musicians such as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter and Otis Rush. Butterfield and Bishop soon formed a band with Jerome Arnold and Sam Lay (both of Howlin' Wolf's band). In 1963, the racially mixed ensemble was made the house band at Big John's, a folk music club in the Old Town district on Chicago's north side. Butterfield was still underage (as was guitarist Mike Bloomfield. Butterfield played Hohner harmonicas, in particular the 'Marine Band' model, which he held in his left hand.[3]

Butterfield Blues Band

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band was signed to Elektra Records after adding Bloomfield as lead guitarist.[2] Their original debut album was scrapped, then re-recorded after the addition of organist Mark Naftalin.[2] Some of the discarded tracks appeared on the What's Shakin LP shared with the Lovin' Spoonful. Their self-titled debut, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, containing Nick Gravenites' "Born in Chicago," was released in 1965.

At the Newport Folk Festival of 1965, Bob Dylan closed the event backed by Butterfield's amplified band (without Butterfield himself, however), a move considered controversial at the time by much of the folk music establishment.[2]

After the release of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Lay became ill with pneumonia and pleurisy and Billy Davenport took over on drums. The Butterfield Band's second album was 1966's East-West.

Mike Bloomfield quit the band and formed The Electric Flag with Gravenites, and Bishop began playing lead guitar on The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw (1967). The band now included saxophonists David Sanborn, Gene Dinwiddie, bassist Bugsy Maugh, and drummer Philip Wilson.

The Butterfield Blues Band played the Monterey International Pop Festival along with The Electric Flag, Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar, and many others.

After 1968's release In My Own Dream, both Bishop and Naftalin left at the end of the year. Nineteen-year-old guitarist, Buzzy Feiten, joined the band on its 1969 release, Keep On Moving, produced by Jerry Ragavoy. The Butterfield band played at the Woodstock Festival, although their performance wasn't included in the resulting Woodstock film. In 1969, Butterfield also took part in a concert at Chicago's Auditorium Theater and a subsequent recording session organized by record producer Norman Dayron, featuring Muddy Waters and backed by pianist Otis Spann, Michael Bloomfield, Sam Lay, Donald "Duck" Dunn, and Buddy Miles, which was recorded and portions released on Fathers And Sons on Chess Records.

Better Days

Following the releases of Live in 1970 and Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smiling in 1971, Butterfield broke up the horn band with Sanborn and Dinwiddie, and returned to Woodstock, New York. He formed a new group including Chris Parker on drums, guitarist Amos Garrett, Geoff Muldaur, pianist Ronnie Barron and bassist Billy Rich, and named the ensemble 'Better Days'. This group released Paul Butterfield's Better Days and It All Comes Back in 1972 and 1973 respectively.

In 1976, Butterfield performed at The Band's final concert, The Last Waltz. Together with The Band he performed the song "Mystery Train" and backed Muddy Waters on "Mannish Boy".

With Rick Danko. Woodstock Reunion, 9/7/79


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.[4]


Paul Butterfield died in May, 1987 [5] at his home in North Hollywood, California. A month earlier, he was featured on B.B. King & Friends, a filmed concert that also included Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Etta James, Gladys Knight and Eric Clapton. Its subsequent release was dedicated to Butterfield in memoriam.

In 2005, the Paul Butterfield Fund and Society was founded; one of their aims is to petition for Butterfield's inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


  • 1965 – The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  • 1966 – The Butterfield Blues Band - East-West
  • 1966 – The Butterfield Blues Band - Live at Unicorn Coffee House
  • 1966 - The Butterfield Blues Band - What's Shakin' - Elektra compilation album
  • 1967 – The Butterfield Blues Band - The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw
  • 1967 - John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Paul Butterfield - John Mayall's Bluesbreakers with Paul Butterfield, EP
  • 1968 – The Butterfield Blues Band - In My Own Dream
  • 1969 – The Butterfield Blues Band - Keep on Moving
  • 1970 - The Butterfield Blues Band - Live
  • 1971 – The Butterfield Blues Band - Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin'
  • 1972 - The Butterfield Blues Band - An Offer You Can't Refuse (recorded 1963)
  • 1972 - Paul Butterfield Blues Band - Golden Butter/The Best of the Butterfield Blues Band
  • 1973 – Paul Butterfield's Better Days - Better Days
  • 1973 – Paul Butterfield's Better Days - It All Comes Back
  • 1976 - Paul Butterfield - Put It In Your Ear
  • 1981 - Paul Butterfield - North-South
  • 1986 - Paul Butterfield - The Legendary Paul Butterfield Rides Again
  • 1995 - The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - The Original Lost Elektra Sessions (recorded 1964)
  • 1996 - The Butterfield Blues Band - Strawberry Jam
  • 1996 – The Butterfield Blues Band - East-West Live (recorded between 1966-1967)
  • 1997 - The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - An Anthology: The Elektra Years (2 CD's)
  • 2005 - The Butterfield Blues Band - Live - (Limited Edition with additional tracks)

Butterfield also played harmonica for:

  • 1968 - Jimi Hendrix - Blues at Midnight
  • 1969 - Muddy Waters - Fathers and sons
  • 1972 - Bonnie Raitt - Give It Up
  • 1975 - Muddy Waters - Woodstock Album
  • 1976 - The Band - The Last Waltz


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