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Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite Biography
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Elvin Bishop and Grammy-winning harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite are fellow blues travelers and living blues giants. The two history-making musicians—both Blues Hall of Famers—have over 100 years of professional musicianship between them. They are among the most famous bluesmen in the world. Although they’ve known each other since the early 1960’s, this is the first time that they ever teamed up to make an album together. 100 Years of Blues, the new release on Alligator Records, is blues at its deepest, warmest and most engaging. And they are touring behind the record and we are honored to have them here at Lancaster Roots and Blues.Read more about Charlie and Elvin below.
- 2019 GRAMMY Nominee NO MERCY IN THIS LAND with Ben Harper
- 2014 GRAMMY Winner GET UP with Ben Harper
- 13-time GRAMMY Nominee
- 33-time Blues Music Award Winner
- Many-time Living Blues Award Winner
Charlie Musselwhite’s journey through the blues was from his birth in Mississippi to Memphis, Chicago and California. Arriving in Chicago in the early sixties, he was just in time for the epochal blues revival. In 1966 at the age of 22 he recorded the landmark Stand Back! to rave reviews. A precipitous relocation to San Francisco in 1967, where his album was being played on underground radio, found him welcomed into the counterculture scene around the Fillmore West as an authentic purveyor of the real deal blues.
Fifty years of nonstop touring, performing and recording have reaped huge rewards. Charlie Musselwhite is living proof that great music only gets better with age. This man cut his (musical) teeth alongside Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and everyone on the South side of Chicago in the early 1960’s. Thank your lucky stars that he is still with us telling the truth with a voice and harp tone like no other.
More than 20 albums later he is at the top of his game, a revered elder statesman of the blues nowhere near ready to hang up his harps, his depth of expression as a singer and an instrumentalist unexcelled and only growing deeper.
Charlie has been collaborating with the world’s finest Artists for many years, including Ben Harper, Cyndi Lauper, Eddie Vedder, Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Gov’t Mule, INXS, Mickey Hart and Japan’s Kodo Drummers, George Thorogood, Eliades Ochoa, Cat Stevens and personal friend and best man at his wedding John Lee Hooker.
Musselwhite, more than any other harmonica player of his generation, can rightfully lay claim to inheriting the mantle of many of the great harp players that came before him with music as dark as Mississippi mud and as uplifting as the blue skies of California. In an era when the term legendary gets applied to auto-tuned pop stars, this singular blues harp player, singer, songwriter and guitarist has earned and deserves to be honored as a true master of American classic vernacular music.
Although Bishop has been performing his rollicking brand of electrified front porch blues for over 50 years (his first professional gig was as guitarist for Junior Wells’ band in 1962), he is as vital and creative an artist today as he was when he first hit the national scene in 1965 with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. He is still as slyly good-humored and instantly crowd-pleasing as he was when he was effortlessly creating solo hits during the 1970s. His reemergence on Alligator Records in the late 1980s and into the 1990s, along with his more recent releases on Blind Pig and Delta Groove, insure his place on the short list of bona fide blues guitar heroes. Elvin’s music mixes thick blues grooves with timeless rock flavors spiced with a touch of country, a dab of Moms Mabley’s and Pigmeat Markham’s ribald black comedy, and the laid back feel of his Northern California home. His guitar playing seems to improve with every performance, and his songwriting is filled with clever revelations and homespun wisdom. Living Blues says Elvin’s guitar playing is “as full of fresh licks and unbounded energy as the day he and Mike Bloomfield set the blues/rock world on its ear.”
Born in Glendale, CA on October 21, 1942, Elvin grew up on a farm in Iowa before relocating to Oklahoma when he was ten. He first got hooked on the blues listening to late night R&B radio as a teenager, and began collecting, listening to and absorbing blues music. Once Bishop realized that many of his favorite records were recorded in Chicago, he used his 1959 National Merit Scholarship as a way to get closer to his blues heroes by enrolling in the University of Chicago—its campus surrounded on three sides by the South Side black community. “The first thing I did when I got there,” Elvin recalls, “was make friends with the guys working in the cafeteria. Within fifteen minutes I was into the blues scene.” Leaving his physics studies behind, Bishop turned to blues music full time. He befriended bluesman Little Smokey Smothers and would hang out with him for hours on end. Smothers liked young Bishop and took the willing student under his wing, teaching Elvin how to really play—and live—the blues. In short order, Elvin became an accomplished and innovative player. Many years later, in 2000, Elvin and Smothers recorded their only album together, the appropriately titled That’s My Partner!, for Alligator.
After Elvin crossed paths with harmonica player and fellow University of Chicago student Paul Butterfield, the two began sitting in together at black blues clubs, often jamming with Buddy Guy and Otis Rush. They first formed The Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1963, adding Jerome Arnold on bass, Sam Lay on drums and Mark Naftalin on keyboards. Prior to cutting their debut LP in 1965, Michael Bloomfield joined the group as second lead guitarist, and created a groundbreaking, all-star band. The self-titled The Paul Butterfield Blues Band introduced electric Chicago blues to the rock audience for the first time. With the release of East/West in 1966, the band’s popularity hit an all-time high. Their straight Chicago blues sounds drifted further into progressive and experimental rock ‘n’ roll and—with two world-class lead guitarists on board—the band helped pave the way for groups featuring multiple virtuoso guitarists, like The Allman Brothers and Derek and the Dominos. The Rolling Stone Record Guide says that Bishop, along with Bloomfield, recorded “brilliant guitar passages that did as much as anything to establish the mystique and heroism of modern rock guitarists.”
Towards the end of the 1960s, after recording three albums with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Elvin decided to move on, heading for the San Francisco area. “I liked it there. I didn’t have to look over my shoulder,” Bishop recalls. He became a regular at the famed Fillmore Auditorium jam sessions, playing alongside Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, B.B. King and many others before embarking on a solo career. He recorded first for Fillmore Records, then Epic and then for Capricorn, where his career took off. He charted with Travelin’ Shoes before scoring big in 1975 with Fooled Around And Fell In Love (the song reached number three on the pop charts).
As Bishop continues to tour and release new music, his stature just continues to grow. Through the years his music has appeared in film and television, including the use of She Puts Me In The Mood (from Big Fun) in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. He performed on the televised Grammy Awards broadcast alongside Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Gretchen Wilson, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers’ guitarist Dickey Betts. He also appeared in the documentary Born In Chicago.
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