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Guitar King

Guitar King
Michael Bloomfield's Life in the Blues

This first comprehensive biography of the late, great Michael Bloomfield brings to life a dazzling electric-guitar virtuoso who transformed rock ’n’ roll in the 1960s and made a lasting impact on the blues genre.

October 2019
Active (available)
776 pages | 6.125 x 9.25 | 35 b&w photos |

Named one of the world’s great blues-rock guitarists by Rolling Stone, Mike Bloomfield (1943–1981) remains beloved by fans nearly forty years after his untimely death. Taking readers backstage, onstage, and into the recording studio with this legendary virtuoso, David Dann tells the riveting stories behind Bloomfield’s work in the seminal Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the mesmerizing Electric Flag, as well as on the Super Session album with Al Kooper and Stephen Stills, Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, and soundtrack work with Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson.

In vivid chapters drawn from meticulous research, including more than seventy interviews with the musician’s friends, relatives, and band members, music historian David Dann brings to life Bloomfield’s worlds, from his comfortable upbringing in a Jewish family on Chicago’s North Shore to the gritty taverns and raucous nightclubs where this self-taught guitarist helped transform the sound of contemporary blues and rock music. With scenes that are as electrifying as Bloomfield’s solos, this is the story of a life lived at full volume.

  • Prologue
  • Part I. Guitar King
    • Chapter 1. Social Misfit
    • Chapter 2. North Shore Hotshot
    • Chapter 3. Folk Fanatic
    • Chapter 4. Marriage, the Pickle, and Big Joe
    • Chapter 5. Old Town
    • Chapter 6. Auditioning for Hammond
    • Chapter 7. Big John’s and the Group
    • Chapter 8. Butterfield Blues
    • Chapter 9. Plugging in at Newport
    • Chapter 10. Electrifying Dylan
  • Part II. His Holy Modal Majesty
    • Chapter 11. On the Road with Butter
    • Chapter 12. East-West
    • Chapter 13. Blues to Britain
    • Chapter 14. Hoisting the Flag
    • Chapter 15. Music, Love, and Flowers
    • Chapter 16. Groovin’ Is Easy
    • Chapter 17. Another Country
    • Chapter 18. Shucks and Sessions
  • Part III. Knockin’ Myself Out
    • Chapter 19. Entertainer No More
    • Chapter 20. Live Adventures
    • Chapter 21. Michael’s Lament
    • Chapter 22. Stoned Leisure
    • Chapter 23. Reed Street
    • Chapter 24. Loving These Blues
    • Chapter 25. Count Talent
    • Chapter 26. Last Call
  • Epilogue: Great Gifts from Heaven
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Additional Resources
  • Recordings
  • Acknowledgments
  • About the Author
  • Index

David Dann
White Sulphur Springs, New York

Dann is a commercial artist, music historian, writer, and amateur musician who worked for many years in the news industry, including serving as copublisher of an award-winning Catskills weekly. Most recently, he was editor of Artenol, a radical art journal described by the New York Times as “a cross between The New Republic and Mad Magazine.” He has produced radio and video documentaries of Michael Bloomfield and served as a consultant to Sony/Legacy on their recent Bloomfield box set.


“This monumental book illuminates the legacy of a musician who has been overshadowed by other Sixties luminaries but who helped bring the vernacular of the blues to rock and whose playing influenced the course of rock and roll.”
Library Journal, Starred Review

“A compelling narrative of a young blues fanatic whose problems with drugs and mental instability predated his fame...Those with a passion for the music will enjoy revisiting a time when Bloomfield's influence exceeded even Stevie Ray Vaughn's.”

“Dann makes a persuasive case for how this white kid from Glencoe, Illinois, played a central role in introducing white audiences to urban blues.”

“[A] monumental examination.”
Music Connection

“An important and compelling book about an important and compelling artist. Bloomfield’s peers—Hendrix, Clapton, Joplin, the Rolling Stones, and of course Dylan—have had their lives chronicled in exhaustive detail, and this biography is long overdue. Dann's research is excellent, and the writing strong and engaging, tracing Bloomfield's journey and telling his story with skill and understanding.”
Elijah Wald, author of Escaping the Delta and Dylan Goes Electric!

“David Dann has restored bluesman Michael Bloomfield’s premier place in the pantheon as the very first American rock guitar god. The author brings the excitement of Michael’s searing licks to the written word and paints a poignant portrait of a man who was unequipped for and uninterested in playing the games that the entertainment-industrial complex demands of artists. This soulful bio reminds us of one man’s dedication to excellence at the expense of fame and fortune.”
Michael Simmons, contributor to MOJO and author of liner notes to Michael Bloomfield: From His Head To His Heart To His Hands

“I love this book. It’s the best thing I’ve read about Mike Bloomfield and about the whole era.”
Charlie Musselwhite, Grammy Award-winning blues harmonica player and bandleader

“Michael Bloomfield was a heart-to-hand guitar player who was able to take everything he learned from B. B. King, Hubert Sumlin, and everyone else he ever encountered—including the piano style of Little Brother Montgomery—and turn it all inside out and make it his own. He is still the well I draw from for inspiration in the blues, and I drink from it daily. Written from heart to hand just like Bloomfield played his music, Guitar King is a must-read book for all guitar players and music fans alike. It should be the final word on Michael Bloomfield’s journey and his legacy.”
Jimmy Vivino, music director on Conan and leader of Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band