Re: [Harp-L] The Life and Death of Paul Butterfield (Was To Tell the Truth)
I wasn't there... I don't know from fact....and I never met Butterfield or
anybody he ever knew...so take this more as a commentary about people in
general who try to live myths of any kind.
Whenever I read about Butterfield cruising around the South side and hanging
out in blues clubs there's always some mention of him being "like one of the
guys" as if hanging out in those clubs gave him some kind of position. What
a load. Maybe in the clubs with Muddy, Wolf, etc. it must have seemed cool
to carry and walk up all straight but even the toughest know its just luck.
As bad as you can be someone will still get you. I'm not going to play into
romance here myself but I've known more than my share of substance abusers
and "bad" folks from bikers to dealers and all of them met someone a lot
harder than themselves at one time or another. So have I...the hard way. It
I don't care if its Butterfield, Sally Fields, or Totie Fields, anybody who
is the son of a lawyer, is going to University of Chicago (one of THE best
Universities on the planet), and ends up losing it all because of a romantic
notion of life around 59th and Stony Island, isn't going to get sympathy
from anyone born there. Heroes with faults just aren't part of the equation.
I seriously doubt, no matter how much they loved the blues and it's mythic
"dark side of the force" lifestyle, that any of the bluesmen who lived there
because they HAD to wouldn't have traded everything for the life Butterfield
had before he met them. I'm literally 20 minutes of sidestreet driving from
South of Hyde Park and its the same sh#thole it was 45 years ago when
Butterfield and Bloomfield (another tourist from the cash end of another
part of town) ran around like kids in a candy store checking out shows we
all wish we'd seen ourselves.
I understand that they were pulled by the music, and I'm sure that the
"lifestyle" must have seemed exotic, but despite any claims to the contrary,
white boys (myself included) aint nothing but ethno-tourists, and jumping on
the band wagon because it looks "cool" is ridiculous. I love blues, and I
love playing harp, but I'll take my family and a safe home over a pipe of
rock and an apt in a housing project any day.
I think Paul Butterfield was a great musician and a great harp player but
anybody who carries a gun on a gameshow is either a front or a whack-job.
disclaimer: I haven't done my research, so I admit that I may be off on Paul
Butterfield's life and motives (Tom Ellis can probably take me to school on
all this), but I wanted to comment on the whole "heroes with faults"
romance. I consider Butterfield one of my musical heroes, but if he was here
right now I'd call him a junkie and kick his f*^cked up ass.
Somebody should have......it might have helped.
> From: Aeskow@xxxxxxx
> Date: Thu, 16 Sep 2004 19:12:33 EDT
> To: harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: [Harp-L] The Life and Death of Paul Butterfield (Was To Tell the
> The image of the young Butterfield--no doubt
> <stoned, hung-over, and
> <packing a .22 in a calf-holster or tucked under his
> <belt--staring across a
> <game-show set at the likes of George Gobel
> Someone responded:
> --Did ya'all know his dad was a lawyer?
> I did, in fact, know that his father was a lawyer. Also that he was offered
> collegiate scholarships in track and field, was an accomplished flute player
> in high school, and knew more entertaining bar-games with coins and
> matchsticks than anyone I've ever met. Apparently--if you ever talk to Nick
> Gravenites, or read the superb 4-part series that Tom Ellis wrote for Blues
> or had a chance to spend time with the man himself--the lawyer thing slipped
> his mind occasionally. In his youth, especially, he was so indiscreet with
> his backstage gunplay that Sam Lay--who'd already lost a testicle when his
> quick-draw exhibition went slightly wrong--and Jerome Arnold refused to go
> onstage with him when he was packing.
> I guess the point of all this--which is of course unrelated to what one's
> father does for a living (do we need to point out how badly the children of
> powerful can behave?)--is that, like many of us, Paul came up believing that
> to be a genuine bluesman you had to be hardcore. Cheap .38s,
> smack-and-coke, stealing women from pimps, willing to stare Mortality down
> with a sneer.
> The romance of the street. Some of us are lucky enough to live it for a
> while, then find some way out (having children did it for me; some of my
> needed help from penal institutions.) Sadly, of course, Paul never
> escaped it, and for him, The Street dead-ended in a lonely motel-room, with
> his cocaine and heroin and valium and reefer and vodka surrounding him,
> instead of some fellow musicians. I still mourn his loss. And I don't only
> his death by OD--I mean the slow-motion death that consumed him in the last
> ten years of his life. And unfortunately, when you've made that particular
> bargain with the devil, no lawyer on earth can find a loophole in it.
> I don't know if there are still young men attracted to the blues because of
> its aura of danger. But if there are any of you out there, remember that you
> can wield your harp like a .38, get high on your breath control, and be
> wildly sexual by wailing on one single note--you don't have to buy the myth
> The White Boy As Ghetto Badass. 'Cause if you follow that route much past
> 20s, you're likely to end up in that same bleak motel room--completely
> alone, dead as vaudeville, and no Daddy to come and make everything OK.
> Peace and Respect,
> Johnny T
> Harp-L is sponsored by SPAH, http://www.spah.org
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