Down Beat Magazine feature article, 1970

New Blues: Inside The Elvin Bishop Group, by Tam Fiofori

Down Beat issue, February 5, 1970

Note the cover price of 50 cents!

The article itself ran nearly three full pages long. The section relevant to my history is quoted as follows:

(I do not claim the rights to this quotation. I've made some very minor edits, including corrected name spellings where needed)

"A year ago, when he left the Butterfield band, Bishop went to San Francisco with the idea of forming a group. He took his time, jammed with a lot of people trying out different combinations, and he ended up with his current group. He knew Applejack from Chicago where he had met him seven years ago and played with him in his groups in Chicago from 1963 to 1966.

Applejack heard Howling Wolf, Jimmy Reed, and Muddy Waters on the Big Bill Hill Show on the radio, and then sought them out in person.

'I used to sit in with Junior Wells at Theresa's,' he said. 'I used to hear him every weekend, so you might hear some Junior Wells licks coming out of me. I sat in with him mostly for the first couple of years.'

"On the harp, I do like everybody else tried to make my harp sound like somebody singing. My favorite harp players are all those Chicago players - James Cotton, Junior Wells, Big Walter, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson...guess I must play city-style blues 'cause I was in Chicago so long, playing with all those cats. People play me tapes and records of country blues from the '20s and '30s, and there were some good harp players back then.' He credits drummer Fred Below, bassist Sylvester Johnson, and Ray (Parrish), 'a real soulful cat,' with teaching him fundamentals.

The nickname Applejack he got from Bill Chavers, a cabdriver at whose record shop Charlie Musselwhite worked. When Chavers heard his name was Jack, he started calling him Applejack, and it stuck.

Applejack, who led his own bands in Chicago, is a prolific songwriter and has contributed some songs to the Bishop group's book and album, songs like 'Going Away'. He composes on the harp and feels he still has a lot of work and experimentation to do on the instrument. 'Back in the old days,' he observed, 'Sonny Terry used to speak while he was playing. Sometimes you can make notes with your voice and play a different note on the harp and make harmonies. The main thing on harp is the positions...first, second, and third are the main ones: the fourth and fifth are others. I like a chromatic harp, too, and occasionally I'll start out with one harp, and when it comes time for a solo, I'll switch to get that different effect, like switch to a higher harp to play some of that squealy stuff for a solo and down to the other one for the background. Sometimes I'd like my harp to sound like a trumpet, and it would be a groove if I could make it play like Lester Young on saxophone...I think the blues is a real natural kind of music."