Tox Tunes #92: Born in Chicago (Paul Butterfield)

January 18, 2015, 11:23 pm

This is my favorite live version of Paul Butterfield’s blues classic “Born in Chicago” (written by Nick Gravenites.) It also features Rick Danko on bass and Blondie Chaplin on guitar. Although this visceral and gritty song does not specifically mention drugs, they are certainly alluded to in the lyrics:

Well, my first friend went down
When I was 17 year old
Well, my first friend went down
When I was 17 years old

Well, there’s one thing I can say about that boy
He gotta go

Well, my second friend went down
When I was 21 years of age
Well, my second friend went down
When I was 21 years of age

Well, there’s one thing I can say about that boy
He gotta pray.

As Steve Huey writes in his biography of Butterfield on allmusic.com:

Paul Butterfield was the first white harmonica player to develop a style original and powerful enough to place him in the pantheon of true blues greats. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the doors Butterfield opened: before he came to prominence, white American musicians treated the blues with cautious respect, afraid of coming off as inauthentic. . . . [Butterfield’s] storming sound was a major catalyst in bringing electric Chicago blues to white audiences who’d previously considered Delta blues the only really genuine article.

Speaking of Paul Butterfield, the follow clip where he is the mystery guest on the 1960s quiz show To Tell the Truth is absolutely surreal:

 

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