Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Paul Butterfield retrospective, with Tom Ellis

May 27, 2022 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 62
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Paul Butterfield retrospective, with Tom Ellis
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Tom Ellis joins me on episode 62 for something a little bit different as we do a retrospective of the legendary Paul Butterfield, with Tom our resident expert. 

Born in 1942 in Chicago, Butterfield frequented many of the South Side blues clubs located there and even had the audacity to hire Howling Wolf’s rhythm section before going on to record his seminal album ‘The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’. His high energy form of blues launched him on the scene and he quickly followed this with the genre busting East West album, with the band evolving further in the following albums by incorporating horns. 

Butter moved to Woodstock and formed Better Days. He also appeared in some notable sideman roles, including The Last Waltz concert with The Band.

Butterfield has left us a tremendous body of work. He helped bring blues to the mainstream and created his own sound on harmonica that is as influential as any of the classic harmonica players.


Tom’s Blues Access magazine articles on Butterfield:

East West Live album review:

Horn From The Heart documentary:

Homespun instructional material:


Album with John Mayall:

Performing at Woodstock in 1969:

Mystery Train with The Band:

Playing with Muddy Waters:

Performing with BB King, Eric Clapton, Steve Ray Vaughan:

2015 Hall of Fame Induction, with Jason Ricci:

Podcast website:

If you want to make a voluntary donation to help support the running costs of the podcast then please use this link (or visit the podcast website link above):

Spotify Playlist:
Also check out the Spotify Playlist, which contains most of the songs discussed in the podcast:

Podcast sponsors:
This podcast is sponsored by SEYDEL harmonicas - visit the oldest harmonica factory in the world at www.seydel1847.com  or on Facebook or Instagram at SEYDEL HARMONICAS
and Blows Me Away Productions: http://www.blowsmeaway.com/

Paul Butterfield retrospective
Where Tom gained his in-depth knowledge of Butter
Tom read an article where Butter said he didn’t think The Doors played authentic blues
Tom has written extensively on Butter, including some liner notes on two of his albums
Tom saw Butter play at the campground of a festival
And interviewed him in Houston
Butter had a tough guy image, but he was friendly when Tom met him
Butter was born in 1942 and classical flute was his first instrument, with this musical knowledge being essential as a bandleader with great musicians
Got to a good level playing flute
His father was a lawyer (although not a wealthy one) and his mother a teacher
Brother Peter was a big jazz fan, which influenced Butter
Grew up in the Hyde Park area of South Chicago, where of the blues clubs were situated
Sat in with lots of the black blues players in the Chicago clubs, along with Charlie Musselwhite
Met Muddy Waters who went on to become his mentor
Hired Howling Wolf’s rhythm section for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, forming one of the first interracial bands and bringing blues to a white audience
Started making a name with the band playing in a club in the north side of Chicago
Before forming the Paul Butterfield Blues Band he played in a duo with Nick Gravenites, Elvin Bishop joined them and this trio went on to form the band
Paul Butterfield Blues Band first album was released in 1965, with the Lost Elektra Sessions recorded before then but released later
Mike Bloomfield joined the band, who choose Butter instead over Bob Dylan
Newport Folk Festival in 1965 where the band backed Bob Dylan (without Butter)
Butterfield Blues Band performance at Newport blew the audience away
More on the first album
East West album in 1966
Butter had a unique style of playing the harmonica
Live performances of East West often went on for almost an hour
Did some recordings with John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers in London
Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw and In My Own Dream albums introduced a horn section
Father And Sons album with Muddy Waters in 1969
Played at the famous Woodstock concert in 1969, with the band developed into a stellar line-up
Butterfield was a greatest soloist
Last album with Butterfield Blues Band in 1971 before forming new band, Better Days, based in the creative area of Woodstock
Better Days was more of a roots band, with it’s folk influences from Woodstock
Woodstock album with Muddy Waters in 1975
Appeared in The Last Waltz concert
Released first solo album in 1976: Put It In Your Ear
Last few albums weren’t as strong as earlier output
Last album: The Legendary Paul Butterfield Rides Again in 1985, financed by some wealthy fans
Substance abuse had started to take it’s toll on Butter
Other performances and session work towards the end of his life
Health problems and started using heroin
Died of an overdose in 1987
Horn From The Heart documentary
Also a great singer and bandleader, with William Clarke a fan
Soundtrack of a Jane Fonda movie: Steelyard Blues
Album with Levon Helm RCO Allstars
Blues Harmonica masterclass with Homespun owner Happy Traum and acoustic playing
Entered the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2015
Played a little chromatic
Tom has a microphone business where he has provided mics to many of the top players
Butter played through the Shure 545 gun mic (before that an ElectroVoice mic)
He mainly used a Fender Super Reverb amp
Difference between high and low impedance mics
Other amps used
Played a Hohner Marine Band, upside down and embouchre
Influence of flute playing on his playing and embouchre
Butter’s legacy to harmonica players and music in general