Elvin Bishop Loves the Blues

Elvin Bishop hardly has blues roots. He was born in Glendale, CA and lived near Elliott, IA until he was ten, when his family moved to Tulsa. His community was all white. But there had radios, and Bishop fell in love with the blues through the airwaves.

Bishop was a good student. Indeed, he was a National Merit Scholar finalist and won a full scholarship to the University of Chicago. He studied physics, which perhaps came in hand in his guitar work later. Wikipedia and Bishop himself, in a video interview, say that his first exposure to live blues was in the Windy City.

It was perfect, in fact. Bishop said that the location of the university made it an island of learning in a sea of the blues. Bishop met blues harmonica player and fellow student Paul Butterfield. The two spent most of their time in the black neighborhoods where they heard the likes of Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Howlin’ Wolf.

Bishop joined The Paul Butterfield Blues Band where he remained for five years. The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year. Bishop then formed The Elvin Bishop Group, which featured Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield. A side note is that the group was on the bill when The Allman Brothers Band played their famous 1971 concerts at the Fillmore East in New York City.

Bishop’s biggest hits were “Travelin’ Shoes” and “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” There is not a lot of good video available for either. There is good video of Bishop, however. Above is “Rock My Soul” and below is “Crazy ‘Bout You Baby.” They show his affection for gospel and jazz as well as the blues.

Wikipedia, Elvin Bishop’s website and Michael Erlewine’s profile at AllMusic were used to write this post. Homepage photo: Michael Sierra.

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