A LEGENDARY CAREER

Michael Bloomfield made much music during his remarkable career, but only a small portion of his work ever reached the listening public. Here are several downloadable Bloomfield recordings and two audio essays that endeavor to provide a fuller picture of the guitarist's contribution to popular music.

EXTRAS

Bloomfield sings during a "Super Session" show at the Fillmore East in December 1968. Marcel Raoul photo

AUDIO ESSAYS

Michael Bloomfield's Lost Masterpiece

An audio essay by David Dann

MICHAEL BLOOMFIELD HAD an encyclopedic knowledge of blues tunes, but he also knew countless pop and show pieces. His first instruction on guitar involved learning the chords to hundreds of standards, and later in his career he would occasionally include one or another of those classics in his stage performances. One such tune was a piece called "Maria Elena."

Bloomfield never recorded "Maria Elena." He apparently played it too infrequently for it to have been something he would have taken into the studio. But when he did perform it, he amazed audiences with his mastery of the genre. "Maria Elena" was an unusual selection by any standard for a blues audience, but Bloomfield invariably electrified and delighted his listeners with it. His renditions approached the facility of a jazz improviser; he clearly knew the piece inside and out.

It is ironic that we would never have even known that Mike Bloomfield played "Maria Elena" without recordings made by two of his fans. Those tapes have only recently come to light. They catch Bloomfield in rare form late in his career, playing the piece in a relaxed club setting. Each performance can only be described as a minor masterpiece – it's difficult to imagine any other rock or blues guitarist attempting such a challenging and unorthodox piece.

What follows is an audio essay on Mike Bloomfield's versions of "Maria Elena." It contains a brief history of the tune, earlier interpretations and both amateur recordings of Bloomfield performing it. The essay was recorded at WJFF-FM studios in Jeffersonville, NY, and is narrated by David Dann. Thanks to Peggy McVickar for providing the recordings.

In a footnote to this essay, the taper of the first version of "Maria Elena" – the show from the Catalyst – recently informed us that it took place on Sunday, September 5, 1976. He also graciously supplied a photo of the original cassette used to make the recording, above.

Click the player below to hear "Mike Bloomfield's Lost Masterpiece," or download it. Download

MICHAEL BLOOMFIELD | AN AMERICAN GUITARIST

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