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Nine O'clock Blues: Elvin Bishop

Blind Pig Records

Elvin Bishop has been a power on the blues scene since his stint with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the mid-1960s.

The Glendale, California born guitarist, vocalist, and song-writer grew up on an Iowa farm. His family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma when he was 10 years old in 1952. Being a very fine scholar, Elvin attended Will Rogers High School and won a full scholarship to The University of Chicago as a National Merit Scholar finalist.

If that isn’t proof enough of Elvin Bishop’s intellect, his major was physics!

It was in 1963 that he met harmonica player Paul Butterfield and everything changed. Elvin and Paul went to Chicago Blues clubs several times a week and, quickly hooked on the Blues, Bishop joined Butterfield’s now legendary band. Elvin’s prowess on guitar was amply demonstrated by the fact that he was able to hold his own in the band alongside the phenomenal Mike Bloomfield.

After 5 years with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bishop went solo and has gone on to a career that has included appearances and recordings with a who’s who of great artists such as B. B. King, John Lee Hooker, The Allman Brothers, Bo Diddley and many more. Elvin has become a favorite on Blues club and festival stages around the world.

In 2000 Elvin’s daughter and ex-wife were murdered in an elaborate extortion scheme and, as a result, Elvin took a hiatus, reemerging with the appropriately named album, “Gettin’ My Groove Back”.

Soon after releasing the album, Bishop played The Greeley Blues Jam, which subtitled that year’s event “Party ‘Til the Cows Come Home” after a song from the album. It was that name which resulted in the now iconic Blues Jam image of the Blues Brothers cows, complete with bovine bling. The tee shirts from that year’s event are collectibles that people at the time were requesting by mail from across the country. You couldn’t possibly get mine away from me.

It was because of The Greeley Blues Jam that I had the very good fortune to interview Elvin and I found him a wonderfully positive and very funny person and I cherish the memory.

This week on The Nine O’clock Blues we’ll hear a set of four pieces from four different Elvin Bishop albums, plus a song each from father and daughter Johnny and Shemekia Copeland. Also on the show will be one of the better known songs of guitarist and vocalist Michael Burks, who passed away on May 6th.

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