Every spring, I try to pick a musical artist to be my Summer favorite…..usually it’s someone that’d I’d recently seen in concert, or someone recommended to me by a musician friend. With the restrictions of COVID for the past year, I haven’t been to any concerts, and really have been limited in interaction with a lot of musicians.
As I was flipping through my streaming services the other day, I stumbled upon a documentary on Amazon Prime that I knew was released a few years back, but was impossible for me to find. It’s the documentary “Horn From the Heart – The Paul Butterfield Story.”
Paul Butterfield was a legendary blues musician, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band was at one point a dominant force in both blues and rock music, as they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. Butterfield’s impact both musically and socially in blues music will never be replicated. Growing up in the Hyde Park section of Chicago, he was blessed with the opportunity to not only learn the blues from legends like Little Walter, Muddy Waters and Albert King, he was encouraged to sit in with these guys as his way to becoming an amazing blues musician. His harmonica playing was always top-notch, and as he became known around the Windy City, he was an integral part of introducing the blues to White audiences.
This lead to the formation of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, made up of both Black and White musicians. The band’s biggest years were from 1965 – 1971, and they took blues, rock and a little bit of psychedelia in a direction never taken before. Their albums East-West, The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, In My Own Dream, and Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin’ bring many different styles and tonality to both blues and rock music, and their performance at Woodstock was downright phenomenal, as they had a horn section (featuring a young David Sanborn) that was comparable to the other horn bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago.
Although I’ve owned a few of these albums before watching the documentary, I found a renewed passion for them over the past few days. As Butterfield lived in Woodstock from the late 60’s to the early 80’s, this music also makes me think about growing up there, and how much I look forward to going back after being restricted by COVID.
I really look forward to rediscovering these albums all over again this summer….even though it’s the blues, it’s a sound and style that is truly energizing, and when I listen, “sometimes I just feel like smilin!”
Rest In Peace, Paul Butterfield. Thank you for leaving us with your incredible musical legacy.