A veteran guitarist who fused the blues with gospel, R&B, and country traditions, Elvin Bishopwas born in Glendale, CA, on October 21, 1942. He grew up on a farm in Iowa with no electricity or running water, and eventually moved to Oklahoma with his family when he was ten. Raised in an all-White community, his only exposure to African-American traditions was the radio, which introduced him to the sounds of blues stations in Shreveport, LA. The piercing sound of Jimmy Reed'sharmonica won his attention; Bishopwould later liken it to a crossword puzzle that he had to figure out. What was this music? Who made it? What was it all about? Inspired, he began to put the pieces together.
However, it was not until he won a National Merit Scholarship to the University of Chicago in 1959 that Bishopfound the real answers to his questions. He found himself in the middle of the Chicago blues scene and immersed himself in the genre. After two years of college, Bishopdropped out and pursued music full time, eventually meeting Howlin' Wolf's guitarist Smokey Smothersand learning the basics of blues guitar from him. In the early '60s, Bishopteamed up with Paul Butterfieldhelped form the core of the Butterfield Blues Band. Although he had only played guitar for a few years, he practiced frequently and played with Butterfieldin just about every place possible, including campuses, houses, parks, and -- in the venue that helped launch the band -- Big John's on Chicago's North Side. Bishopalso helped shape the sound of several Butterfieldalbums, including The Pigboy Crabshaw, whose title refers to Bishop'scountrified persona.
In 1968, Elvin Bishopleft Butterfield's band following the release of In My Own Dream. He launched a solo career and relocated to the San Francisco area, where he made frequent appearances at the Filmore with artists like Eric Clapton, B. B. King, Jimi Hendrix, and the Allman Brothers Band. Bishoprecorded for four albums for Epic Records and later signed with Capricorn in 1974. His recording of "Traveling Shoes" (from the album Let It Flow) made a dent on the charts, but the single "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" (from Struttin' My Stuff) made a bigger splash in 1976 when it peaked at number 3 on the Billboard charts. Over the next few years, the Elvin Bishop Groupdissolved. He released his album Best Ofin 1979 and lay low for several years, eventually resurfacing when he signed with the Alligator label in 1988.
Bishopthen released Big Funin 1988 and Don't Let the Bossman Get You Downin 1991, both of which were well received. He also participated in Alligator's 1992 20th Anniversary cross-country tour; three years later, he toured with veteran bluesman B.B. Kingand released an album entitled Ace in the Hole. The Skin I'm Infollowed in 1998, and 2000's That's My Partnersaw him teaming up with Smokey Smothers, the same musician who had originally taught him guitar. After a five-year hiatus, Bishopreleased Gettin' My Groove Backin 2005 via Blind Pig Records; he then jumped to the Delta Groove Music label for 2008's The Blues Rolls On, which featured guest spots by B.B. King, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, and others.