Elvin Bishop’s 2007 release Booty Bumpin’, captures the blues legend at home in front of a live audience, doing what he does best; stirring up a party with a bluesy stew of slide guitar and groovin’ rhythms. With a set featuring both old favorites and recent triumphs, the album exemplifies why Elvin has become one of the most respected and beloved artists to come out of the 60’s blues-rock explosion.
Growing up in the 1940s on a farm in Iowa with a loving but non-musical family, Elvin seldom heard music as a kid. “This was before TV,” Elvin says, “and on the radio you got a lot of Frank Sinatra and ‘How Much Is That Doggie In the Window’ type of stuff.” The family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, when Elvin was 10, in 1952. Tulsa was “totally segregated,” says Elvin, “I mean, hard core.” However, “the one thing they couldn’t segregate was the airwaves. When rock and roll started up, in the mid-’50s, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Little Richard showed up on white radio.”
And then, late one night when Elvin was 14 or 15, the atmospheric conditions a little rough, Jimmy Reed’s harmonica came cutting through the static from WLAC in Nashville, and Elvin Bishop’s life was changed. The song was “Honest I Do.” “That piercing harp came through, cutting in like a knife, and I said, ‘Oh, man, that’s it.’ I found out that blues was where the good part of rock and roll was coming from.”
And about that time, he started trying to play guitar. “I wanted to play it from the beginning,” Elvin says. “I kept trying and then quitting it, hurtin’ my fingers, playing those old pawn-shop guitars with the strings two inches off the fret board. Nobody I knew played.” But he kept after it. “Not being able to dance, and seeing how the musicians did with the girls, and loving the music, I finally stuck with it.”
Hooked on the sounds emerging from the radio, Elvin had to find out where they were coming from and who was responsible. When he was awarded a National Merit Scholarship in 1959, he could have gone to pretty much any college he wanted, but chose The University Of Chicago, because that’s where the blues were. And so he landed in the middle of one of the richest and most vital scenes in blues history. “Any night of the week you could hear Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, Hound Dog Taylor, Otis Rush, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam, Bobby King, Eddie King, Little Smokey, Big Smokey, and a whole ton of people you never heard of.”