Guitar prodigy Michael Bloomfield was a wealthy Jewish kid who loved the blues. A left-handed social-outcast with such a passion for his instrument he flipped his guitar and learned to play right-handed. He grew up filthy rich in a Chicago Suburb, but wasn’t interested in fortune. So he crossed to the other side of the tracks, where the streets were rough, life was dangerous, and the music was smokin’ hot.
Soon he was backin’ the best of the blues giants. One listen and they heard he was the real deal. Bob Dylan heard it too. In ’65 he was lookin’ to change up his sound. Shake up the folk scene. And he knew just who to call to bring the electricity…Mike Bloomfield. In the studio that day was producer, keyboardist, and aspiring guitarist, Al Kooper:
“I was invited to the session by the producer to watch cause he found out that I was a Bob Dylan fan. But I wanted to play on the Bob Dylan session. And I was about 90% ambition, and 10% talent. And so I practiced, and I plugged in and waited and I was gonna tell the producer that I misunderstood him, that was my cover. And so the session was for one o’clock and I got there at twelve o’clock. About 12:15 Bob Dylan and this other guy came in and the other guy was a guitar player and he sat down next to me and he said “hello,” and he took out his guitar and started warming up. And I had never in my life heard anybody play like that and I was like, oh my God, what am I gonna do, I can’t play that good. And plus he looked to be about the same age as me, so I said well my plan is now dead. So I lit up a cigarette, I put my guitar in the case and I went back in the control room where I belonged. And that was the first time I met Mike Bloomfield.”
After his younger brother started playing, Bloomfield got his first guitar from his grandfather’s pawnshop at 13. By 15 he was working with rock and roll bands. By 17 he was gigging in black clubs on the south side. Before long Bloomfield made friends and began to work with Chicago’s blues royalty. He jammed with the likes of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, and formed a band with Big Joe Williams, Yank Rachell, and Sleepy John Estes.
Bloomfield was a staple of the early sixties blues scene in Chicago before joining Paul Butterfield’s band in 1965. Soon he was laying down licks on now classics–Like a Rolling Stone, the Highway 61 LP, Butterfield’s debut album and his raga-blues East-West, as well as Super Session, his collaboration with Al Kooper. Bloomfield left Butterfield’s band in ’67 to form the Electric Flag, a short lived endeavor, due to poor management and heroin abuse.
Mike Bloomfield kicked off his first solo album It’s Not Killing Me in 1969, and continued to do session and back up work through 1980. But heroin took it’s toll, and Bloomfield was found dead on February 15, 1981 of an apparent overdose.