When discussing the greatest guitarists of all time, names like Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix often dominate the conversation. However, there exists a lesser-known virtuoso whose impact resonated deeply within the musical world, garnering admiration from even the likes of Clapton, Dylan, and Hendrix.
The Quiet Brilliance
Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1943, Michael Bernard Bloomfield, a master of his craft, dedicated his life to guitar playing during the vibrant era of the 1960s. Amid the sessions for Bob Dylan’s iconic album, Highway 61 Revisited, in mid-1965, an eye-opening moment occurred during a dinner with studio musicians. Guitarist Michael Bloomfield, a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, astounded everyone with his extraordinary talent. This was just the beginning of his journey, which saw him collaborate with various blues and jazz bands before rising to prominence.
Endorsement from Legends
Nick Gravenites, a fellow musician who shared the stage with Bloomfield in the Electric Flag band, emphasized the profound impact Bloomfield had on those who truly knew him. Gravenites expressed, “People that knew Michael, they loved him. Even to this day 30 years after his death, people that knew him and loved him knew he was the best. He was absolutely the best guitar player of his generation. Dylan thought he was. Hendrix thought he was. Clapton thought he was.” Gravenites revealed Bloomfield’s aversion to being idolized, stating, “He wanted people to sit there and love the music and get involved in it and not get all hero-worshipped. He didn’t like that part of the music scene. Thought it was ridiculous. Never catered to it at all. God, he turned down Dylan! Turned down Dylan! I mean, this is the kind of guy he was.”
The Unseen Legacy
Even in 2009, Bob Dylan recalled Bloomfield’s soulful prowess during an interview with Rolling Stone, stating, “He had so much soul. And he knew all the styles.” Unfortunately, Bloomfield’s desire to stay true to his craft rather than seek the spotlight led to his relative obscurity in the broader music world. Fellow musician Barry Goldberg echoed the sentiment, remarking, “His bombastic playing, those notes that just went into the air, when he shook that string it just went right through you. The intensity in his playing was like no one I’ve ever played with, including Jimi Hendrix.”