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Elvin Bishop Still Feels at Home Playing the Blues

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Elvin Bishop

The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame is set to induct five new members with its 2014 class this Saturday at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa.

Elvin Bishop’s family moved to Tulsa when he was 10 years old. He attended Will Rogers High School and won a scholarship as a National Merit Scholar to the University of Chicago, where he studied physics. Founding board member of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and author of the Oklahoma Music Guide Dr. Hugh Foley says that when Bishop wasn’t studying physics, he was studying the blues.

“When he gets there, he winds up hearing all these great blues musicians – Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf and so forth. He told me, ‘the first thing I did when I got there was to make friends with the black dudes working in the cafeteria at the university.’ And within a very short period of time, he was deep into the blues scene there in Chicago.”

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Bishop met harmonica player Paul Butterfield in 1963 and became a founding member of his blues band, switching between lead and rhythm guitar.

After a five year stint with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, he formed the Elvin Bishop Group and signed with Bill Graham’s Fillmore Records in 1968. He soon was playing bills alongside Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers.

Dr. Foley says that Bishop’s solo material landed at a cross-section between blues rock and southern rock.

“The core of it is this funky-blues style with his own country witticisms and ramblings and personality that goes along with his particular performance style.”

Perhaps his most well-known song was something of an anomaly for Bishop. With vocals by the soon to be singer of Jefferson Starship (Mickey Thomas), “Fooled Around and Fell In Love” hit number three on the Billboard charts in 1975. Some listeners might recognize the song from the recent movie Guardians of the Galaxy.

Bishop has been revered in song lyrics by Charlie Daniels and Molly Hatchet, which both play up his country persona. In August of this year, Bishop released his 19th studio album, Can't Even Do Wrong Right. And at the age of 71, Bishop sounds even more at home playing the blues than he ever has.

Bishop will be inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame on Saturday night at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. Other inductees to the 2014 class include guitarist J.J. Cale, blues guitarist Lowell Fulson, and drummers Jim Keltner and Chuck Blackwell.

We'll have a report on the other two inductees tomorrow.

Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
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