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Michael Bloomfield's '59 Burst


Jimi Mac

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While reasearching Elvin Bishop after taking part in 4Hayden's nice thread on Elvin, I found contradicting information in Wiki (go figure) about the era in which Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield played together in The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Which appears to be somewhere in 1964 or 65 (he even appears on their 1965 debut album) after harmonica player Butterfield sat in with Bloomfield regularly in the local Chicago Blues clubs during that era. It may have been more of a loose affiliation than Bloomfield actually joining the band officially. It's still tough to define... So in clarifying that information I also happened to stumble across information about Mike Bloomfield's 1959 Gibson Les Paul Burst that I also didn't know...

 

I guess I assumed that Mike played that burst for much of his work with Butterfield, but apparently that's another of my own misconceptions...

 

I knew he originally played a Tele from his early recording session photo's, but I just figured he stumbled upon that burst and then used it as a staple for most of his career. But it appears that all of his work with Butterfield was played largely on a 1954 Gibson Les Paul just as much...

 

It's still tough to tell exactly when he acquired it, but it puts it at after or during 1966 when the East-West sessions took place as it was recorded in July 1966, and he lost it by sometime in 1968... Nearly as short a run as Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac for his Burst...

During his tenure with the Butterfield Blues Band he switched to a 1954
model, which he used for some of the
East-West
sessions and which he was said to have found in Boston. In due course, according to biographers Jan Mark Wolkin and Bill Keenom, Bloomfield swapped that guitar for a 1959 Les Paul Standard and $100. This was the guitar Bloomfield used as a member of the Electric Flag, and on the
Super Session
album and concerts. He later veered between the Les Paul and the Telecaster, but Bloomfield's use of the Les Paul—as did Keith Richards' with the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton's with John Mayall—influenced many others to use the model, helping prod Gibson to re-introduce the line (which it had discontinued in 1960) by mid-1968. Bloomfield eventually lost the guitar in
; Wolkin and Keenom's biography revealed a club owner kept the guitar as partial compensation after Bloomfield cut short a round of appearances. Its location today is unknown. Unlike contemporaries such as
and
, Bloomfield rarely experimented with feedback and distortion, preferring a loud but clean, almost chiming sound with a healthy amount of
. One of his
of choice was a 1965
. Bloomfield's solos, like most blues guitarists', were based primarily on the minor
and the
. However, his liberal use of
notes within the pentatonic framework, and his periodic lines based on Indian and Eastern modes, allowed a considerable degree of fluidity to his solos. He was also renowned for his use of
.

 

Gibson has since released a Michael Bloomfield Les Paul—replicating his 1959 Standard—in recognition of his effect on the blues genre, on helping to influence the revived production of the guitar, and on many other guitarists.
Because the actual guitar had been unaccounted for so many years, Gibson relied on hundreds of photographs provided by Bloomfield's family to reproduce the guitar. The model comes in two configurations—a clean Vintage Original Specifications (VOS) version with only Bloomfield's mismatched volume and control knobs, missing toggle switch cover, and kidney-shaped tuners replacing the Gibson originals indicating its inspiration; and, a faithful, process-aged reproduction of the guitar as it was when Bloomfield played it last, complete with the finish smudge below the bridge and various nicks and smudges elsewhere around the body.

 

Michael Bloomfield 1959 Les Paul Standard

f72a26d0-d918-482c-b4bd-329865e64872.jpg

 

So this (the actual original) guitar is still out there somewhere, possibly in Canada and is unaccounted-for since 1968...

 

Interesting...

 

Anywho, I can see that he (Bloomfield) was one of the Americans that had gravitated to the bursts that refueled the fires of Gibson to start producing Les Paul guitars again after having stopped in 1960, I find that statement a little bit misleading as so many of the British invasion guys were on them at the same time. Clapton was still prior on The Beano album with his '60 Burst and Peter Green was at the approx. same time playing his '59, I believe, with John Mayall's Blues Breakers on The Hard Road album recorded in October 1966 but it had not yet had the ill-fated "repair" at Selmer's; that left it out-of-phase in the middle position yet then I don't believe that took place until he left The Blues Breakers and struck out on his own with Fleetwood Mac in 1967.

 

Anyway there were alot of the greats that were gravitating to A Gibson Les Paul Burst of the '58-'60 era at that time that prompted Gibson to re-release a Les Paul guitar. I can see how Bloomfield being an American probably got more of the American press and notoriety in taking part in that movement, but I find it a bit closed-minded to think he was so majorly responsible for that event and doesn't take into account our Limey British Brethren that were just as responsible for people clamoring for new Gibson Les Paul Guitars...

 

I'm also made curious by the piquant thought of where Mike Bloomfield's '54 Les Paul went and what that one looks like... If it was a GoldTop Standard or a Custom...

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I'm also made curious by the piquant thought of where Mike Bloomfield's '54 Les Paul went and what that one looks like... If it was a GoldTop Standard or a Custom...

If it's the one I've seen on album covers - and I'm pretty sure it must be - it was a Gold-Top (with P-90's, obviously).

 

And I've been saying for years that his influence in Gibson re-issuing the Sunburst is probably exaggerated.

I like Bloomfield's playing but, hey, come on....

 

If, say, he got it in '67 (as seems likely) that's TWO YEARS after the 'Beano' came out and one year after Green took over duties with Mayall.

Hell, even Mick Taylor was playing his 'burst with Mayall by mid-'67 - the same time as (probably) Bloomfield got his.

The guys who went on to play 'bursts - Walsh, Gibbons, Moore - always mention the 'Beano' as the reason they sought one out - rarely the Super Sessions.

 

Interestingly Taylor had played the second set of a Bluesbreakers gig back in '65 using Clapton's 'burst when Clapton failed to show up (his guitar had travelled with the rest of the kit).

 

P.

 

EDIT : Here you go, Jimi;

 

Bloomfield%20GT_zpsrzw9gqs7.jpg

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It's still tough to tell exactly when he acquired it, but it puts it at after or during 1966...

Just done a bit more reading through the books behind me...

 

The Butterfield Band played gigs in the UK in '66. Bloomfield, hardly by accident, went to gigs to see both Clapton and Green - who were, of course, playing their 'bursts.

"I wondered to myself how they knew that this guitar had all the inherent qualities of sustain, volume and tone that was just better than any other possible rock'n'roll guitar at that time."

(Mike Bloomfield).

After seeing these two players Bloomfield got his own 'burst in May '67.

Source; 'The Les Paul Guitar Book', Tony Bacon.

 

Back in the States, OTOH, by late '67 Bruce Bolen (Gibson's "Guitar Playing Representative") was out with a prototype of the soon-to-be-available-once-again Les Paul Custom.

What amount of influence can Bloomfield possibly have had if he only acquired his 'burst in May and there was a prototype out being demo'd before the end of the year? (Ibid).

 

P.

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Just done a bit more reading through the books behind me...

 

The Butterfield Band played gigs in the UK in '66. Bloomfield, hardly by accident, went to gigs to see both Clapton and Green - who were, of course, playing their 'bursts.

"I wondered to myself how they knew that this guitar had all the inherent qualities of sustain, volume and tone that was just better than any other possible rock'n'roll guitar at that time."

(Mike Bloomfield).

After seeing these two players Bloomfield got his own 'burst in May '67.

Source; 'The Les Paul Guitar Book', Tony Bacon.

 

Back in the States, OTOH, by late '67 Bruce Bolen (Gibson's "Guitar Playing Representative") was out with a prototype of the soon-to-be-available-once-again Les Paul Custom.

What amount of influence can Bloomfield possibly have had if he only acquired his 'burst in May and there was a prototype out being demo'd before the end of the year? (Ibid).

 

P.

 

Exceptional collection of definitive information in yer books Pippy! Thanks so much for diving in to lend some pertinent and conclusive additions!

 

Every thing you've said strikes me exactly the same...

 

The only potential I can fathom is that when Mike came back to the states and acquired and touted his new Burst around to their gigs and shows, in the popular American music circles; West coast and New York, it got the American markets perked-up with his stateside presence. I even recall Robby Krieger of The Doors mentioning him as an influence even if it was to the point that he said everyone was trying to be like Bloomy when The Doors were coming of age, (which lends further credence to his potential influence on the American markets showing off a Burst) yet Robby was independent enough to want to go a different direction, of his own, than someone he mentions as hugely popular at the time.

 

And I knew Clapton and Green had to be instrumental in Mike's acquisition... It just had to be!

 

I also think there just had to be those that were playing them new that had purchased them new in their original years of release that were making the rounds with them and sounding exceptional. Obviously they were being played and acquired new by musicians. I just can't imagine nobody big was playing them in '59, '60 and a few short years later in '62-'64... Somebody (with a name) had to be playing them from new...

 

It also shows how influential Freddie King was too if guys like Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop were looking for and acquiring the guitars he was playing in the early 1960's...

 

Thanks Pippy for the pic of Bloomy with the '54... I'm surprised I don't recall that more...

 

I guess I must also admit to my own response to Bloomfield's playing as luke-warm at best. I try to get into him more from the hype and all of what so many have said about him and I find myself simply responding with a "meh..." at best.

 

That's not to say I don't thoroughly respect, appreciate, and even revere Bloomfield's carrying of The Blues torch. He had a Blues Jones and it was the epitome of his passion, much like my own...

 

There's a 1968 recording I've shared here befpre with Bloomfield and Johnny Winter; Live at The Fillmore, that is spectacular, sublime, and utterly exceptional and Johnny Winter simply schools Bloomfield in trading solos/leads...

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBjWgZ7kXik

 

Mike seemed to know it and was in awe of Johnny hisself... He seemed utterly respectful of Johnny's playing...

 

That took place in December of 1968 I believe and is potentially after Mike lost his '59 Burst in Canada...

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It's just a guitar.

 

rct

 

Listen, I get that... But at the very least it's a vintage original with all the mojo and tone of a true vintage original...

 

It's also iconic and as my research suggests it was heralded as something that helped Mike Bloomfield to stand-out in a crowd. Both the '54 and the '59 burst are legendary within the existential nature of guitar history...

 

Frankly it doesn't even make me like Bloomfield's playing any more than I personally do, I do like those guitars though and you have to admit that it could be in a closet or under a bed in Canada makes it intriguing...

 

Frankly I also, likely, prefer Peter Green's Burst or Bernie Marsden's The Beast. Peter Green's moves me for what Peter Green did with it and the odds-on "repair" that transformed his work into mystical epic out-of-phase uniqueness and Bernie Marsdens's moves me for the flame-top mojo and stunning, guttural, and powerful tone!

 

It interests me, and I like these guitars and am curious to hear them and their tone in competent hands the way these Bursts are played-out nowadays rather than museum pieces thanks to collectors that tour them with some of the best hand-picked guitarists on the planet...

 

At the very least, it's a tasteful Burst... [biggrin]

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Thanks guys for this thread. I always like these history threads.

 

I really DO like Bloomfield's playing and he has been as much an influence on me as Clapton and Green if not more so. Hendrix, of course, is in another league for me but I have never been moved by Moore - don't know why.

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I still like Bloomfield, though I don't have many of his recordings - the 1st Butterfield album, "Super Session", "Fathers and Sons"....

He was noticed - to say the least - as the lead guitarist when Dylan first went electric.

The Electric Flag weren't a huge commercial success but a lot of people in the USA heard them and bought the record, and Bloomfield's playing on Butterfield's "East-West" was pretty adventurous for the time.

 

However like a lot of guitarists he didn't really sing or write his own original stuff too much and never quite found the ideal band/situation for his playing.

Add to that his personality - he spent a lot of time getting out of it as so many did in those days, and I don't think he had the confidence and stubborness to lead a band.

You have to believe in yourself. That means total confidence going into arrogance when necessary.

 

I was sad when he died - a waste, a shame and he never fulfilled his potential IMO.

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Guest Farnsbarns

Thanks guys for this thread. I always like these history threads.

 

I really DO like Bloomfield's playing and he has been as much an influence on me as Clapton and Green if not more so. Hendrix, of course, is in another league for me but I have never been moved by Moore - don't know why.

 

 

I personaly didn't mind Moore's work. I found his phrasing in many ways to be like that of Frampton's, sort of close. Similar jazz backgrounds maybe?

Bernie? Always good.

 

I like GM's playing a lot. There is certainly a measure of cliché to it but I think that's part of the man and I think he embraced it rather than go for emulating the edgeyness of other players who came before. I think that's where magic comes in, when a player accepts who they are musically and concentrates on making music they like.

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I still like Bloomfield, though I don't have many of his recordings - the 1st Butterfield album, "Super Session", "Fathers and Sons"....

I was sad when he died - a waste, a shame and he never fulfilled his potential IMO.

 

Agreed!

 

I too don't think he ever achieved what his potential promised. At least not int he bigger picture. I suspect at some of his live gigs he may have been sublime...

 

His own words about his heroine addiction is indicative of not only the times, but the self-indulgence that permeated our culture and society and had such a terrible impact on musicians in that era. It's a shame really...

 

I should like him more than I do just as I do Danny Kirwan because his playing is just real enough to be something I could potentially play. He was sloppy enough to really be human in his playing. My hero Danny Kirwan is a far more attainable level than the Godlike abilities of Peter Green. I think Mike Bloomfield may well be much the same... It is was gives me some affinity for some of these guys. I don't know why I have such a block about Bloomy...

 

As for Gary Moore, I like him... Yes hes a widdler (noodler) but his fiery style has alot of emotion and he has serious reverence for Blues and the pioneering originators. There's something about him that I can get into when I just can't for a guy like Joe Bonamassa...

 

Bernie is very good and I like him and his playing alot and some of that has to do with the tone of The Beast that just speaks to me...

 

His Whitesnake career, not so much. It is more commercial rock oriented and albeit it is far more commecially successful than his Blues stuff, (and we all know I'm a Blues mental-case) he was more Bluesy prior with;

, and post Whitesnake he's done alot more Blues work in his solo/live gigs and projects including his Moody-Marsden Band & M3 (Marsden-Moody-Murray) work with former Whitesnake member Mickey Moody...

 

is really great!
It was based on Notodden Blues Festival, Norway. 11th August 1995 when they played together... He's also got a Peter Green tribute album that was to come out at the same time as Gary Moore's Blues for Greeny, called
, so he postponed-it and then Gary died and it it was difficult to release and get any traction with the ongoing memorium for Gary at the time... It's a really good album!

 

I think I'm going to peruse Bloomy's work again and see if I can't find more affinity for it...

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Let's muddy the waters a little more... (no pun intended [tongue])

 

This Butterfield/Bloomfield reunion took place on my 4th birthday in 1971, it it sure appears that Bloomy is playing a Burst to me...

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps3x-_JdIeg

 

In black and white it's tough to tell, but it sure looks like a burst to me. The tell-tale perimeter shadowing looks like a classically fading vintage Burst...

 

But this yet again contradicts the information provided in several places on his possession of his '59 Burst if this is indeed that guitar in his hands in 1971...

 

Maybe a different one? Another Burst or simply another more contemporary Standard with a Sunburst?

 

Or my brain is simply pulling thought outta my @$$ to fill in what my eyes simply cannot detect by this footage...

 

Beats the hell outta me at this point... :blink:

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...My hero Danny Kirwan is a far more attainable level than the Godlike abilities of Peter Green...

Really, Jimi? That's interesting. I'm the other way around.

I find PG's phrasing comes pretty much 'second-nature' but I really have to work at understanding DK's thought processes...

 

This Butterfield/Bloomfield reunion took place on my 4th birthday in 1971, it it sure appears that Bloomy is playing a Burst to me...But this yet again contradicts the information provided in several places on his possession of his '59 Burst if this is indeed that guitar in his hands in 1971...Maybe a different one? Another Burst or simply another more contemporary Standard with a Sunburst?...

Why? Was it suggested for the 'club-owner-keeping-the-guitar-in-compensation' thing happened prior to '71?

I don't have that information to hand and I can't (yet) see anything on the web about it.

 

The guitar certainly appears to be the one we know with the mis-matched vol/tone knobs and so forth.

Furthermore there weren't really any more contemporary '59-style 'bursts to be had at this time and the hen's-teeth few that had been made were all (AFAIK) tobacco sunburst.

 

P.

 

EDIT : DOH! How silly am I? (Don't answer that - rhetoric, you know...).

Mike Bloomfield's official site (!) suggests the 'burst was left in Canada in either '74 or '75 so the guitar in the clip is undoubtedly the famous one.

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Going back to a point raised earlier in the thread;

...So this (the actual original) guitar is still out there somewhere, possibly in Canada and is unaccounted-for since 1968...
Just begin to imagine, if that guitar was found, how much it would be worth now (wow). And the '54.

From the same site as mentioned in my previous post;

 

"Where is Michael's '59 Les Paul Standard...? The answer to (this) question is at present incomplete....

...The Sunburst was later sold to a private collector who has preferred to remain anonymous. Wherever its present location, fans can be assured that the instrument is in the hands of someone who knows its value, both as a rare Les Paul and as a revered '60s icon.".

 

The '54 (+$100) was traded in at Dan Elewine's dealership for the 'burst.

In the link there is a photo of Mr. Erlewine, himself, playing the guitar in 1966 with a border note which reads;

"1966. My Les Paul which I traded to Bloomfield".

Pip.

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It's just a guitar.

 

rct

December 7th was just a raid.

 

Somehow, for some reason, a musician or guitar player can't go anywhere without kicking an LP. There must be millions of them out there. And Strats.

 

When I go to GC, (if and when), It's a wall of Les Pauls, a wall of Strats, mixed in with a few SG's on one side and a few Tele's on the other. Then, like 3 or 4 335 types and/or Gretches.

 

Personally, I'd like it if it was a wall of 335's/355's/345's, some L-5CES's thrown in, and 3 or 4 LP's.

 

We would be better off, but history didn't work out that way.

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My favorite Bloomfield album is Al Kooper's compilation titled:

 

"Don't Say That I Ain't Your Man: Michael Bloomfield Essential Blues"

 

Amazing stuff & very much worth a listen for anyone interested in his best work.

 

And for some essential written info about Bloomfield, Vintage Guitar Magazine did a major write up on him within the last year. Some very detailed info on his life and music. Can't recall if it's in this particular issue, but somewhere I've read an interesting George Gruhn piece on Bloomfield's use of the LP burst & his notably significant influence.

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How's that?

Just think: If Clapton hadn't been "seen" with the LP on the Beano cover, or perhaps if Keef would have went with a different axe, or Bloomfield played the Tele more and never got the LP...

 

Basically, a few well known and well respected guitarist decided to go with what was, back then, just a cheap, USED guitar. And it became hip, and suddenly, everyone had to have what was basically a discontinued model of a "lesser" expensive guitar.

 

It's in many ways, fascinating to me how it all went down. How it all came to be. Because of this space in time, basically by chance, now the LP is one of the most popular, well known and desired guitars ever.

 

All from 1800 origonals that were made, didn't sell all that well, and really weren't all that well regarded when they were being made.

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