Twisted Systems

Guitar Influences, Part 1: Mike Bloomfield

I have been asked on several occasions to write about the guitar players who have had the greatest influences on me.

While I have talked about this short list in interviews, I have never gone into any specifics as to the what, when & why of my choices.

Here then, for my loyal readers of Copper, is a more detailed description of the guitar players who have had the greatest impact on my life.

#1: Mike Bloomfield

Everyone who creates finds a portal. That is the entry point by which a world of wonder and learning descends upon one’s imagination and literally pushes out everything else that could get in the way of learning about and a deep desire to figure out why one feels so enveloped by what one has just experienced.

Yes, at the age of 10 I learned my first guitar chords from my brother and my summer camp counselor, Mike Meeropol. Weavers records were always being played in my house.

Through both my brother and Mike Meeropol, I learned at the age of 10 how to “Travis Pick” because, in 1962, folk music was all the rage.

I know how to play this pretty complex style of playing but have never needed to use it and it remains just an interesting sidebar to my blues/metal style.

For the next 5 years, especially through the love of the Beatles, my love of guitar playing was relegated to bass playing because there were never enough bass players for the local bands and I was studying upright bass playing in junior high school.

As much as I loved the Beatles I strangely never liked their guitar sound particularly and, though both John & George were great players in their respective positions, never looked up to them as guitar heroes.

It wasn’t until I joined a blues band at the age of 15 and watched a local guitar hero, Nick Katzman, copy the guitar style of Mike Bloomfield, that the fire of inspiration began to burn through me.

I was given a copy of the first album by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band because we were playing many songs from that album. Although the opening song “I Was Born in Chicago” is one of my all time favorites, it wasn’t until the opening guitar riff from the song “Blues With a Feeling” that nailed it.  The sound of his guitar and the fluidity of the opening guitar riff followed by the guitar solo became the gate with which I entered the world of lead guitar fascination.

 

I had to know how it was played.

I had to know how that sound was created.

I played the album and that song especially, over and over.

Shortly after I got the album I bought my first electric guitar. It was a Fender Telecaster because that is what Bloomfield was holding in the photo on the back of the cover. This was very early 1968, and I went down to 48th street in NYC to a store called Jimmy’s because the famous Manny’s Music wanted $147.50. I only had $135.00 and Jimmy’s took it!

In the spring of 1968 I got a very bad case of mononucleosis and was ordered by my doctor to stay home from school for 3 weeks. It was during that time that I played 8 hours a day. I slept with my guitar in my bed.

All day I practiced the guitar riffs of Mike Bloomfield.

As the days rolled on, I began to understand the placement of the notes and the timing of the lead parts.

When I finally recovered for mono and arose from my sick bed that spring, I was a lead guitar player!

This desire was so overwhelming and the passion so deep that even today, when I wonder if I can play well enough, I can always go back to that time where anything and everything was possible.

Thank you Mike Bloomfield for being that guiding light and hand.

Next up: Keith Richard