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Paul Butterfield - "THE POWER AND THE GLORY OF PAUL VAUGHN BUTTERFIELD"- RICH BUCKLAND'S EPIPHANY NOTEBOOK - "Born In Chicago" - Full Performance With Rick Danko, 1979

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“THE POWER AND THE GLORY OF PAUL VAUGHN BUTTERFIELD”- RICH BUCKLAND’S EPIPHANY NOTEBOOK “I guess if you stay around long enough, they can’t get rid of you.” – Paul Butterfield There are few actual magicians within the arena of mythical musicians. I’m talking about the specialists who dedicate all of their being to the specialized magic in their blood. The harmonica can be a particularly spellbinding thing. It can fit into the palm of your hand or as in the case of Paul Butterfield, it can be transplanted into your very heart and harmonize an articulate blues dream with each breath exercised. For Paul, the real trick was surviving in a world of hurt. Great Blues men and women have historically been stalked by hell hounds, resulting in a desperate fight between the ultimate hope of a life frequented by self expression, the mortal soul and Mephistopheles. This was the Butterfield battlefield. He lived on a tightrope constructed by Robert Johnson, Little Walter Jacobs, Big Walter Horton, James Cotton, Sonny Boy Williamson, Sonny Terry and Junior Wells. As a vocalist he was strikingly under appreciated due to a kind and tender persona not immediately reflective of the storm warning about to be issued. As a showman there were few superior in the territory where he was sheriff . Butterfield was also the only white virtuoso to ever swim like an Olympian in the sacred waters of the African America blues harp tradition. Once again, not an easy trick and impossible to follow. Paul was a tough kid from Chicago who in 1963 assembled an organization eventually featuring guitar prodigy Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop and the extraordinary drummer Sam Lay. Their initial Elektra Records release is considered a Top Ten All Time blues recording. It is stamped with a song titled “Born In Chicago” written by original band mate and “Electric Flag” legend Nick “The Greek” Gravenites. This chant became his personal National Anthem. Somehow Paul managed to keep driftin’ and driftin’, remaining highly visable and afloat through the musical and cultural changes the 70’s and 80’s presented and he worked constantly. His every day expedition was devoured by his devotion to his instrument and search for an evolved rhythmic purpose, infusing Jazz into his endeavors. It was also inevitably ravaged by the old saga of one nighters, firewater and a lot of other bad medicine. But the melancholy and joy his work distilled for a quarter century is the real story. Paul Butterfield is the only blues artist to appear at The Newport Folk Festival in ‘65, Monterey Pop Festival in ‘67 and Woodstock in ‘69. This trifecta is the signature of his importance to the history of a bountiful blues heritage. His passing in 1987 at 44 years of age is still a loss to be reckoned with. We too often hear the words “the one nnd only” in terms of influence. We are all a One and Only. But somehow in this instance, those old Walking Shoes as fulfilled by Robert Johnson fit perfectly on the supreme feet of the man they called Butter.


By Rich Buckland 01/10/2020 08:19 PM

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