Like in the
legend where Arthur sends one of his knights in search of Christ’s holy chalice,
Mr Mike Bloomfield
has also sent his friends in search of the guitar that he dreamed about, that
he got, and that he many times converted into the aforementioned particular
holy grail: the 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard.
It might be that Mike Bloomfield is not as famous as Clapton, Gibbons or Page, but many of the leading new and vintage US guitar sellers who have been in business since the 60s have it very clear: Mike Bloomfield was the first person directly responsible for re-valuing what is vintage in the US, and everybody else afterwards. Why? Because the young man put all the determination in the world into finding the guitar that had gone to his head, the one that Clapton used on the legendary record with John Mayall; a guitar that Gibson had stopped producing due to low sales and that after being acquired by Bloomfield started to be the most sought after guitar in every recording studio around the world as everybody wanted the sound that the guitarist – of at that the time the recently formed band The Electric Flag - had got.
As we said Mike Bloomfield did not perhaps have the popular success of other artists of the period but he did enjoy total admiration within the guitar world clique, which meant that once he started to use the 59 Les Paul, many of his contemporaries sought Les Pauls to emulate the sound of the guitarist that they so admired, and this started a whole ‘vintage bubble’ that has not stopped growing to today. The best example of this is the model mentioned above, for which you can pay around 400,000 dollars today for one in good conditon.
However although we have been talking about one of the flagship 59 Les Paul’s, the career of Mike Bloomfield started with the assistance of another authentic classic of our world: the Fender Telecaster, the first quality guitar that he bought in his life and with which we can see him in photographs, and listen to him in recordings in the mid-60s, with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (while he continued looking for a 59 Les Paul, a model that, by the way, he could play regularly as his good friend John Sebastian of the Loving Spoonful had one; but while he lent it to him frequently, he never ended up selling it to him).
Finally Bloomfield managed to convince an old fan of his to sell him the 59 sunburst that the fan had in exchange for his Gibson Les Paul Goldtop and a bit of extra money: and the rest is the history of love between this model and this great guitarist who we have sought to capture a little of here. He ‘premiered’ it live the same day that he ‘premiered’ his band, The Electric Flag, in an event called the Monterrey Pop Festival, the real kilometre 0 of the great rock events of history, which changed live music for the rest of time. Two years previously, Bloomfield had also been at Bob Dylan’s side at the Newport Folk Festival, in which north-American culture gave a radical turn when the audience saw the man who had been built up as ‘the voice of a generation’ embrace rock, mainly led by the wild guitar of Mike Bloomfield, a guitarist whose mix of technique and viscerality make him one of the greatest blues and soul guitarists of all times and that perhaps is a lot more important in the history of music than many have previously believed...