Crawdaddy

Blues ‘66, Part Two: John Lee Hooker and the Butterfield Blues Band

Crawdaddy Features John Lee Hooker
Share Tweet Submit Pin
Blues ‘66, Part Two: John Lee Hooker and the Butterfield Blues Band

This article originally appeared in Issue 6 of   Crawdaddy   on October 20, 1966.

[John Lee Hooker, of Clarksdale, Mississippi, and Detroit, Michigan, is one of America’s best-known blues singers, He sings and plays in an intensely personal style that is neither Chicago nor Delta; he has performed in almost every club and recorded for practically every blues label in the world. This interview was recorded June 30, 1966, at the Club 47 in Cambridge, Mass; Ken Dawson, engineer; Paul Williams, interviewer]

CRAWDADDY: How long have you been playing professionally?

JOHN LEE HOOKER: Well, professionally, since ‘49.

CRAWDADDY: Have you been using an electric guitar since the beginning?

JLH: No, l didn’t start with an electric guitar. I started with an acoustic, you know, with the round hole, an old Stella, and when I made “Boogie Chillun,” that’s what I made it on. “Boogie Chillun,” and a few more of my hits down the line, those were made with just a plain guitar.

CRAWDADDY: What made you start using an electric?

JLH: Well, some places you have to, because when you’re playing for dances you can’t sit down with an acoustic and people not hear you ‘cause you can’t hit it hard enough, and then the same thing when I play in bars, you know, the people drinking and you got to have something to be over them, don’t you just be there playing and nothing happening, so you figure you’ll just have to use that. But l love acoustic guitar. A house like this is the place for it, because people’re listening to what you’re doing.

CRAWDADDY: Do you do a different sort of thing when you’re playing a different instrument?

JLH: Yeah, and see with different types of audiences you do different types of things, and particularly you’ll find that some places you play some of them want it loud, that rock ‘n’ roll bunch, so you gotta be loud, ‘cause if you’re not you just better go somewhere and sit down, they don’t want to hear you when you’re quiet. Then you might run into a type of audience, they want it quiet, they want to listen, they want you just play it low and they want to hear what you’re saying, they want to hear your voice.

CRAWDADDY: And you use a different kind of material depending on the audience?

JLH: No, I use the same material. But just sort of, I could take the same thing that I’m playing now and play it for any audience, any nationality, and you could use it with the band, with a little more—it’s the same thing but it just got a little more punch to it. And, well, I won’t leave my style, because I’m known to have this style. No matter how and where I go, I’m gonna keep this trademark, I may hop it up or brush it up or have maybe a four- or five-piece band behind it, but I’m still playing John Lee Hooker.

CRAWDADDY: Most of the material you use is either stuff you wrote, or stuff you rewrote from traditional material. Do you still do a lot of songwriting?

JLH: Yeah. The Animals do a great deal of my stuff. You take Eric Burdon, I guess you heard of him, he’s with the Animals, I and him is real good friends and I go over there about three times a year you know, for the last five years or so. So I got to know them, they’re a bunch of nice fellows—and the Rolling Stones, I know them—so uh, they do a lot of my material, and I like the way they do it. Eric just recorded a new thing of mine called “Maudie.” He really does sing. It was very good, the way he did it.

CRAWDADDY: You worked in clubs over there? What sort of a scene was it?

JLH: Well, it was mostly a teenage scene, they like it loud. They’ve got some loud groups over there, but they’re good, though. There’s a lot of good blues groups over there too, Alexis Korner, Georgie Fame, Long John Baldry—you heard of him?

CRAWDADDY: I understand there are a lot of young kids over there who’ve been listening to the blues, who know what’s going on, more than over here.

JLH: Yeah, they do. They’re more hep to it than they are over here, they know just what’s going on. They know a lot of my old tunes that I done forgot, and they don’t just know them, they got them; they’re right down with it. People are more serious. They’re just right down to earth. They don’t pull no punches I mean, because they’re down with the blues and that’s just the way they are.

CRAWDADDY: Have you heard any of the blues groups that’re coming up over here? What do you think of them?

JLH: I like, uh, Paul Butterfield, good group. There’s another group over here in Boston that I like, too, can’t think of the name…the Hallucinations. They backed me once, I think they’re very good.

CRAWDADDY: Are you familiar with the people who are working in Chicago now?

JLH: Well, I don’t work too much in Chicago, but I get over there a lot. Chicago got some real swinging hip blues singers.

CRAWDADDY: Who do you really like?

JLH: Muddy Waters. A lot of them is good, but me and Muddy is such close friends. I always have admired him. See, he was recording before I was. And when I heard him, before I started to record, I said, “There’s one man I want to be like.” There’s a lot of other good blues singers, and don’t think l’m taking nothing from any of them, they’re good, but when you get to know a person personally, personal friends you know, it goes a little deeper.

CRAWDADDY: Do you find over the last couple of years it’s been easier to get gigs? I imagine there must have been slow periods, around ‘60, ‘61…

JLH: Well, I don’t know. I guess I must have been lucky, I never had a hard time getting work, because I had a field all to myself and a different style, so I didn’t have any problems. There’s a lot of musicians that’s real good, fantastic, but sometimes you done heard one you heard ‘em all. So I been lucky, I just had a field all to myself.

CRAWDADDY: How much do you work with a song? After you do it once, do you do it again the same way?

JLH: Well, some songs, yeah. Some I don’t. And it’s mostly, you know, the way l feel. Sometimes I do it different. Sometimes I feel like I can put something to it and make it better; and I do it, I do it deliberately. I feel like this: these words here that I’m going to say, it comes, it really rushes in me and I feel like I should do it, and I do.

CRAWDADDY: You’ve worked with a lot of labels, Crown, Vee-Jay, Chess, you’re working with Impulse now. What do you think of these places?

JLH: Vee-Jay was the best I worked for. I’d been with them so long, ten years, they just let me do what I wanted to do.

CRAWDADDY: Are you still recording 45s, singles?

JLH: Yeah, I got a new one out now, “Let’s Go Out Tonight,” on Chess, it’s an old recording but it’s got a modern beat on it. And also they’re putting out another album on me, too, they’ve got about twelve or sixteen sides of old stuff, So they’re putting out all this stuff because it’s selling bigger now, it’s got a bigger market. At the time I recorded that stuff, it was just sort of a lot of kids that didn’t know about no blues, which wasn’t buying none then, but they’re buying them today.

CRAWDADDY: Why do you think that changed?

JLH: Well, you know, everything changes, the whole world changes.

CRAWDADDY: Do you think the blues is gonna keep on, uh…

JLH: Oh yeah, they’re here to stay.

CRAWDADDY: Are there new people coming up that can play it?

JLH: Yeah, there’s new people coming up, the market’s getting bigger for the blues, more people understanding the blues, they’re digging the blues. So blues is here to stay, ‘cause blues is the root of all music, jazz, ballads, rock ‘n’ roll, everything comes from blues, just stepped it up and changed it a little bit but it’s all blues, when you get right down to where it’s at, it all come from the blues.

[The Butterfield Blues Band was formed in Chicago in 1964 and has developed into one of the finest small bands in the country in any field. The present members are: Paul Butterfield, harmonica and vocal; Mike Bloom?eld, guitar; Elvin Bishop, guitar; Jerome Arnold, bass; Mark Naftalin, organ and piano; and Billy Davenport, drums. This interview which concentrates on the more vocal members of the band, was recorded June 24, 1966, at Cambridge’s Club 47; Daniel Alexander, engineer: Pamela Mafz, transcriber; Paul Williams, interviewer and editor. The assistance of Mark Dorenson, road manager for the Butterfield Band, was extremely valuable in conducting the interview]

CRAWDADDY: The question is, basically, what do you call yourself now? Electric blues? Do you think you’re in some sort of a bag?

MIKE BLOOMFIELD: We used to be in what you would call an exclusively Chicago blues thing, but we’ve come out of it in the last few months and we’re gradually working into the establishment of possibly a new idiom. Who knows?

CRAWDADDY: You’re not moving in any specific direction, it’s just what you want to do now?

BLOOMFIELD: It’s just what’s coming out of us.

PAUL BUTTERFIELD [off-mike]: You guys take care of it. I sign my name.

BLOOMFIELD: Everybody in the groups got a different background, a different thing. And everybody also, with the different backgrounds, has a very much mutual background due to the heterogeneous nature of our organization—you know, we get our own uniquely musical blend on certain numbers. And I’ll say this, the level of musicianship of our group is higher than almost any group of this nature that I’ve heard in the country. Almost any rock band that I’ve heard. Paul’s the best in his field; there’s not a person living in the world today that can cut him.

CRAWDADDY: What is your personal background? I know you had a contract with Columbia for a while…

BLOOMFIELD: l’ve been playing professional rock ‘n’ roll since I was fifteen.

CRAWDADDY: What sort of stuff were you doing before you got together with the band?

BLOOMFIELD: Working with a guy named Nick Gravenites, a band with him.

CRAWDADDY: You had a rock band then?

BLOOMFIELD: Well, no, it was a band sort of like this, but not nearly as tight or as good. But it was mostly Nick’s tunes, he’s a songwriter.

CRAWDADDY: What’s he doing now?

BLOOMFIELD: He’s running a club in Chicago. Nick Gravenites in Chicago is one of the greatest singers and composers in the folk idiom, in the blues idiom, in the last five or ten years. And B. B. King is one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived, and more people should listen to B. B. King’s records and his band work and his guitar playing, ‘cause he’s one of the greatest ones of all. Percy Mayfield too.

CRAWDADDY: You’ve been with the band since Sam Lay quit?

BILLY DAVENPORT: Yes, since December.

CRAWDADDY: Have you done any r&b drumming before?

DAVENPORT: Oh yes, l worked with quite a few men, but not no longer. It was mostly local, back in Chicago.

CRAWDADDY: What’s going on in Chicago now?

DAVENPORT: Well, there’s quite a few blues things going on now in Chicago, more so than in the jazz field, even rock ‘n’ roll, because like the South Side is full of blues now, and it’s getting more further north than it was a few years ago.

CRAWDADDY: What sort of an audience does a man like, say, Johnny Young—guys who aren’t as well-known as Muddy Waters—get? Is it still largely a Negro audience?

DAVENPORT: Well, you find that now, like I say, it’s moving mostly to the north, and you can find it mixed. It’s not exactly one audience now, one particular race of people. Everybody’s beginning to learn more of the blues here than it was, like five, ten years ago.

CRAWDADDY: You find it’s more the young kids who are coming in?

DAVENPORT: Yeah, I’d say right now there’s at least 60 or 70 percent of the younger people that is catching on to the blues.

CRAWDADDY: Do you think that’s because of the interest some of the rock ‘n’ roll groups are showing in the blues?

DAVENPORT: Yeah, because for instance the Beatles, I believe when they first started they were strictly rock, but they’ve done quite a few blues now, and you can’t say it’s because they were listening to the Negro, you know, altogether; it’s just some blues things have a pretty good meaning to it, and if it’s a song I say it’s a song, I don’t care who wrote it or playing it. That’s the way I am, whether it’s rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, or blues, if it’s got a good meaning to it, it’s a good song.

CRAWDADDY: How do you feel about what you’re doing with the Butterfield Band right now? I mean you started out as the newest person in the group. You feel pretty much at ease?

DAVENPORT: Yeah, when I first started I was all on edge because it was the first time, you know, that I had ever played with a mixed band, for one thing, and I didn’t really know how it would work out at all. And what it is, well, it worked out wonderful for me, I mean everybody respects me and I respect them. And what they got is mine if l need it and everything. In fact, when I left home, I left home with three dollars in my pocket, but it wasn’t for long, though. And then you say it’s a new thing, but it’s not really a new thing—because if you go back years and years you find like guys like Benny Goodman had guys like Lionel Hampton, and I can’t think of the clarinet player, he had Billie Holiday singing vocal. You know, it’s not a new thing, but it’s more of a popular thing now than it was then, because musicians now, when you’re on the bandstand now there’s no one thinking in terms of race, they’re thinking in terms of music. If you’re qualified to play what the next guy’s playing, good. If you’re not, then they get somebody else.

CRAWDADDY: Do you find that playing with guys like Paul, they really have the same feel for the stuff that the people you were playing with in Chicago do? Because the background’s different, I mean you’d expect they’d at least have a different orientation.

DAVENPORT: Well, I don’t know, because when you speak of one particular city like that, everybody is just about on the same thing. I’ve known Paul—and Elvin and Jerome, too—about six or seven years now. And I can’t say there’s a difference; once a guy learns how to play his instrument and you learn what he’s doing, it’s about the same.

CRAWDADDY: What’s the recording scene like right now? It seems a number of people are getting recorded who didn’t get that chance before.

DAVENPORT: Well, it’s like I said, there’s a change here going on in the last four, maybe five years or so. Then, if you didn’t have a name, I don’t think there was too many recording companies accepting an unknown to cut blues. But now if you’ve got a good sound and you’re playing the blues, it’s a matter of if the company like you and they accept you. Because the band here, we cut an album and it was a strictly blues album, although we have a couple of tunes that’s a little rock on there, but it’s mostly a blues album and the company was thrilled over it, everything came out perfect.

CRAWDADDY: I don’t know if there’s much you can say or not, but I’m interested in your comments on your own work as a drummer.

DAVENPORT: Well, I feel like I got to get down to a little more studying, because there’s whole lots yet I got to learn, and because I feel that sometimes I’m capable of putting on a good show, and the next time it looks like there’s something lacking, l don’t know. But right now I keeps in my books every day, you know, I goes over my rudiments and things; and maybe another couple of years I’ll be halfway where I want to be. I’m not the best, I’m not the worst, I’m in between there somewhere.

CRAWDADDY: You’ve been doing both club gigs and concert gigs; are concerts pretty much of a drag?

DAVENPORT: No, I think they’re wonderful. For one thing, you don’t have to work so hard so long. You do a half an hour’s work and you get a full week’s pay.

CRAWDADDY: At some of the concerts they have a lot of trouble setting up the sound system and that sort of thing…

DAVENPORT: I wasn’t worried about the sound. I was worried about who was going to pay me.

CRAWDADDY: What are the cities where you find you can draw the most people now?

DAVENPORT: Well, I would say number one really is San Francisco. And this is a very nice club to work in here, though I wish it was a little bigger…

CRAWDADDY: About this new electric blues business…

MIKE BLOOMFIELD: The blues has been electric since the forties. Most blues guitar players, even the old country cats, have electric guitars. They all do. They record for Folkways and Prestige without electric guitars, but they have them. Electric is ethnic, man, electric is where it’s at, it’s old as can be…and I think electric music is really the music of the future. You’II find that all music will be amplified one day. It’s a new type of musicianship. It’s a musicianship of this generation.

CRAWDADDY: Is the band pretty much open to doing any kind of music?

BLOOMFIELD: No, different cats are purists, different cats simply refuse to do certain kinds of music. There’s music that I just can’t get interested in. We have our hang-ups, but there’s tunes we agree upon. Besides, we play blues, blues-based music, best.

CRAWDADDY: A number of people are interested in a particular style of yours, the slide guitar.

BLOOMFIELD: I don’t play slide but very seldom.

CRAWDADDY: Yeah, I noticed you did more earlier this year than you do now.

BLOOMFIELD: Right, because my main style is playing the slide guitar with my fingers, not using the slide, you know, doing it by tremeloing your fingers. Slide guitar was put on the record. It’s bottleneck. I don’t use it much, just for certain tunes, and for certain effects which I can get much clearer with my fingers than I can with a slide.

CRAWDADDY: Are you familiar with other people who are playing this sort of electric guitar?

BLOOMFIELD: The masters I’m familiar with: Elmore James and Muddy Waters. And I’m familiar with a few other cats in the country who play guitar in my style and are my equal or better—Harvey Mandel in Chicago; Eliot lngberton [spelling uncertain] in Los Angeles; a very good cat, Robbie Robertson, from Canada, who plays with Bob Dylan; and uh, there’s me; and a cat named John DeWeiss who isn’t quite where those other cats are, but he’s very good. He’s right here from Boston. And Jeff Beck, who’s one of the finest modern blues guitar players strictly in the blues idiom that I’ve ever met in my life. It’s unfortunate that he doesn’t play that way on the Yardbird records. But I’ve had the privilege, the stone privilege of hearing that dude play blues. He’s number one out of sight, a great guitar player. And there’s a guy named Alex is
Korner that’s very good; he’s been around for many years in England.

CRAWDADDY: What do you think of your new album?

BLOOMFIELD: Well, there’s one very long piece that I like. And Elvin sings a tune I’m very fond of on the album. I like it, it’s more modern than our other album, but I still don’t think it’s as good as us in person. And I thought that first album was one of the poorest production jobs, in terms of sound…but it was my fault, too, ‘cause I was there at the editing and I didn’t take care of business as well as I should have.

CRAWDADDY: What’s your opinion of the Elektra recording studios?

BLOOMFIELD: I don’t think Elektra is as good as you’ll find. I don’t think Elektra holds a candle to Motown, the Motown sound. The Beach Boys and the Beatles on Capitol, their sound is far superior to Elektra’s [editor’s note: neither group, however, has ever actually recorded in Capitol’s studios].

JEROME ARNOLD: Even Garfunkel and those people on Columbia with Bob Johnston are much better. See, when we recorded the first album we were dealing with engineers and a&r people who had just been working with folk music, and they had never done any amplified stuff before, and that put us at sort of a disadvantage. A lot of things got away; the things that they did catch, I don’t think they utilized them to the fullest.

BLOOMFIELD: Absolutely. My sentiments exactly.

CRAWDADDY: Who do you think is important that’s working now?

PAUL BUTTERFIELD: Let me turn it over to my man Elvin…

ELVIN BISHOP: As far as blues in general is concerned, very few people are important that don’t originate in Chicago: Wolf, Otis Flush, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, us to a certain extent, and none of the other white blues groups that l know of. None of them, that I’ve heard, that is, really have anything. And we don’t primarily do blues anymore. The tunes that Paul does now are pretty indicative. It’s not really stone-hard-down blues anymore; he does one of Wolf’s tunes that is uptempo r&b. He does two Percy Mayfield tunes, both of which are arranged by Ray Charles, and just tough modern r&b. The thing is, everything we do is blues-based, but music is getting more complex, further away from the nitty-gritty down-home sound.

CRAWDADDY: Like that last jam [“East-West”], for example.

BISHOP: Yeah, well this thing—well, you could call it jazz—it’s sort of an experimental thing, it changes every time we do it. It has a general structure, but outside of that, the things that we do vary with the set. Tunes like that that we do reflect the collective background of the group, which includes not only—basically, with everyone it’s down-home blues, but there’s also jazz. People listen to Indian music, different genres of jazz, like from Cannonball on up to Ornette Coleman.

CRAWDADDY: Do you think there’s anything in what the guys are doing who aren’t working in the electric sounds? I mean like Koerner, Ray & Glover, and…

BISHOP: Well you see, the thing is, that type of music by definition is dead. It can’t develop any further. It’s like classical languages and literature. Cats can sit and cop from a record that was recorded in 1920 or ‘30, and there’s nothing more they can do with it. It’s always going to be a ways off, a relatively cold thing without any blood, because that’s not the environment they grew up in. You take Paul and I, and certain other members of the group, namely Billy and Jerome—actually, Billy and Jerome grew up with the thing, the Chicago blues thing, and Paul and I have been in it for five, six, seven years…And the music that we play, the Chicago blues, we can connect that with experiences that we’ve had over the last six or seven years, the people that we know. When I was in school, the cats that taught me were the guitar players on the South Side that played in blues bands. I would go and stay with them and learn, and for certain periods of time live the way that they lived, and have the same concerns. And when you go to the bandstand, the things that you’re singing about and the tunes that you’re playing have a whole lot to do with the life that you’re living. It’s like a thing that you’re in, rather than a thing you’re outside of that you try to cop.

CRAWDADDY: And you feel that whatever you are doing now has developed out of the Chicago blues band?

BISHOP: Well, to me, mine has. I can’t speak for the other people.

CRAWDADDY: Would you call what you’re doing the electronic sound?

BISHOP: l would never think of it that way. Ever since I’ve been listening to music, I’ve heard bands that use electronic amplification, and it’s just a natural thing to me. You’d have to come from a background of folk music before you’d think that using electronic instruments was anything exceptional.

CRAWDADDY: But it isn’t just playing an instrument and amplifying it. It seems to me that, at least for you, it’s more of a unique sound characteristic of the electronic machine.

BISHOP: Well, if you’re a decent musician, then you’re able to use the resources that your instrument makes available to you, and since we use electric instruments we try to take advantage of the characteristics of that type of instrument.

BUTTERFIELD: You see, it’s just a different armature, a different way of playing, playing amplified. You have a lot of different subtleties you can get out, and it’s much different than playing the acoustical.

BISHOP: Say you’re singing, or playing an instrument, be it a saxophone, a flute, or a harmonica, through a microphone; if you’re singing without a microphone, it’s not exactly a different instrument. You’re playing the same notes, but it’s a matter of technique. If you’re singing straight out or playing a harmonica straight out without a microphone, you just go ahead and do what you’re going to do, but if you’ve got a microphone you have to consider it as another dimension. You back up from the mike when you sing loud, to keep the thing the same and yet increase the intensity of your voice…If you sing loud right into the microphone, it’s going to bring a certain element of distortion in. What you do is just learn to automatically back the mike up from your mouth and get the degree of distortion that you want, because distortion is sometimes desirable. Same thing with a guitar. Playing an acoustic guitar, well, it’s just all the same, you know. If you play an electric you have two or three more things that you have to take into consideration, because of, like, unwanted noises that wouldn’t really show up if you were playing an acoustic guitar, and like, there’s a certain grating sound that you can get by, uh—if you turn your amplifier up and your guitar down, you get distortion. If you turn your guitar up and your amplifier down, you get a clearer sound. You can learn to control that to get the amount of distortion that you want, because distortion on an electric guitar can be very exciting if you handle it right.

CRAWDADDY: How about the difference here between your performing and your recording? I imagine it’s almost two different media.

BISHOP: Well, yeah, it’s a whole art in itself, learning how to conduct yourself in a recording studio, because it’s just a whole different set of resources that are at your fingertips. Recording is much easier than playing on the bandstand, because when you’re on the bandstand, well, it’s just you and the people. If you want to sing—say you have a real driving, loud background, your voice has to be strong to match it. In a recording studio, you can pre-record a loud, driving background and then sing at a softer level and have the engineer turn your singing up. When you record in a studio, you usually have a mike on each instrument, or each person, each voice, and the engineer can mix them to his own desire, you know, like the relative volumes are completely changeable. When you’re on the bandstand you have to take care of your own part right then and there. It’s an on-the-spot thing, you really have to be together to make it sound right.

CRAWDADDY: What difference does it make having an audience there?

BISHOP: It’s a world of difference.

CRAWDADDY: Do you feel the audience?

BISHOP: Well, I’ve seen a lot of bands that don’t seem to, but our band, well, if you’ll pardon the expression, the soul is real close to the surface. The way people react really makes a big difference. Because with our band, we rehearse occasionally and get our tunes together and make up the arrangements and so forth, and that helps, but the real thing that the whole performance hinges on is how each person feels at the moment. If you’ve got a lot of people out there that are on your side, then you’re going to, you know, just sing your butt off. It’s just a matter of how you feel, because you may be out onstage and if the people aren’t digging it, then self-consciousness sets in, you get uptight and nervous and everything. That doesn’t happen so much with us, but it’s just like being turned off. Our normal thing is being just keyed up and oblivious of everything but the music, and we could have our eyes closed and just—you could practice at home and get your technique down and so forth, but when it comes to really blowing those beautiful phrases and the really exceptional things, that comes from feeling.

And within the last few months the people in this group have really gotten together to the point that any time we get together to play we just sort of, after you count “one-two, one-two-three-four, POW!” you’re into it, until it really doesn’t make much difference who’s out there too much. Like if an audience is really yelling and screaming and digging it, that can have a positive effect, but really nothing too much can have a negative effect, because we’re playing our music and we know we’re playing it, and we can hear the other cats playing it and it’s just a matter of close your eyes and groove.

CRAWDADDY: Where’s your favorite place to play?

BISHOP: San Francisco.

CRAWDADDY: Yeah, that’s what they all say. Why?

BISHOP: Well, because we seem to have a very large following there. The people dig our music. We played a concert at Berkeley and 7,000 people showed up, and we played the Fillmore Auditorium a few times and it was capacity both times. And the people seemed to understand. People are much freer in San Francisco than other places.

CRAWDADDY: Do you ever pick up a very big Negro audience?

BISHOP: Sure, in Chicago. This is the first group l ever played in with any other white members.

CRAWDADDY: What blues singers do you particularly enjoy?

BISHOP: When I listen to blues, it tends to be the more polished, more complex type. l mean cats like B. B. King and Percy Mayfield are classified as blues singers, and they keep the basic soul, but still in a more sophisticated context. When I listen to jazz, it tends to be the more blues-influenced sound like Cannonball and Horace Silver, Kenny Burrell. Five years ago when
I started playing, I listened to John Lee Hooker and Lightning Hopkins, and I dug them and I gradually got into what they were doing, and then l sort of craved something with a little bit more something to it. And I started listening to cats that made the right changes I won’t say the right changes, but twelve-bar changes, like Jimmy Reed maybe is the next step up, and then after that Muddy Waters and Little Walter, and when you’re through with them, start listening to B. B. King, which is another level of complexity and subtlety. And then after B. B. King, the natural thing is to go into what is called jazz but actually is blues, like a lot of things that Horace Silver does, or Cannonball Adderley, Kenny Burrell, Gene Ammons…

CRAWDADDY: How have people been reacting to the Butterfield Band around the country? What sort of scene have you found?

BISHOP: The funny thing is, it’s only been lately that people have begun to look at us objectively as what we are, the thing we’ve got going, our own particular sound. Because when we first started—like we came to the East Coast, the people were trying to judge us by their own standards, as they would judge a jug band or a single blues singer like John Koerner. In other words, they tried to put us in the folk bag, and then relate us to that. Other places we’d go, like Detroit, the West Coast, people would try to relate us to the rock ‘n’ roll bands they’d heard. So we were caught in-between. But lately our own sound has been sort of jelling, we’ve been getting our own thing together and people just had to recognize it. They’re looking at us now as a unique phenomenon.

[This concludes our series of interviews on “Blues ‘66.”John Lee Hooker’s most recent, and most easily obtainable, LPs, are: …And Seven Nights on Verve-Folkways and lt Serve You Right To Suffer, on Impulse. Also recommended are his early recordings on Chess (John Lee Hooker Sings and Plays the Blues) and Vee-Jay (I’m John Lee Hooker). The Butterfield Blues Band have two albums on Elektra Records; the more recent, East-West, is an excellent and exciting re-creation (when played on the best equipment) of the way the band sounded live at approximately the time of the above interview. A review of this album, by Jon Landau, will be found on page 27.]

ShareTweetSubmitPinMore
Recently in Crawdaddy