Michael Bloomfield, the legendary guitarist who many say was rock's first American guitar hero, died 40 years ago this Monday -- February 15th, 1981.He was found slumped behind the wheel of his 1971 Mercury in San Francisco, the victim of a drug overdose. Born and raised in Chicago, he befriended and played with many of that town's legendary blues players in the late '50s and early '60s, including Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters.
The Bo and Jim Show, witnessed his Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 as a member of The Paul Butterfeld Blues Band, Bloomfield is also known for his playing on Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited album, particularly his work on "Like a Rolling Stone."
Three months to the day before his death, November 15th, 1980, he joined Dylan on stage in San Francisco. Introducing Bloomfield,Dylan recounted a story of how they met in Chicago in the early '60s.
"He played all kinds of things, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of them. Does Big Bill Broonzy ring a bell? Or Sonny Boy Williamson and that type of thing? He just played circles around anything I could play and I always remembered that. Anyway, we were back in New York [in 1965] and I needed a guitar player on a session I was doing. And I called up.. he played with me on the record and I think we played some other dates..."
One of those dates was July 25th, 1965, when Dylan went electric and was booed at the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island.
Following his time in the Butterfield band, Bloomfield formed The Electric Flag, one of the first rock bands with horns. He also recorded the Super Sessions album with Al Kooper before embarking on a solo career.
Among the guitarists who cite him as an influence are Joe Bonamassa, Carlos Santana, Slash, Jimmy Vivino, Eric Johnson, The Cars' Elliot Easton, and G.E. Smith.
And in the late '70s, Bloomfield commented on some of the current day guitarists he liked, including Queen's Brian May and Ace Frehley of KISS.
When we told Brian May what Bloomfield said, he told us, "Wow! That’s amazing. Gives me a very warm feeling. Mike Bloomfield was such a hero to us when we first started forming a group at school. That first Paul Butterfield Blues Band album was one of our bibles."
Michael Bloomfield was 37.