Born In Chicago b/w Shake Your Moneymaker
August 31st, 2009 by NumberSix

Yes, I know it's the wrong single but bear with me.

Yes, I know it's the wrong single but bear with me.

What have I accomplished by selecting the Paul Butterfield Blues Band for the featured single of the day? Apart from coming up with yet another blog entry, I also have come up with a single that’s marginally older than “One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later” – the Dylan single was released in February 1966, and this single was released in 1965. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (Paul Butterfield – harmonica and vocals; Mike Bloomfield – lead guitar; Elvin Bishop – guitar; Mark Naftalin – organ; Jerome Arnold – bass; Sam Lay – drums) started not too long after Butterfield met Bishop (then a University of Chicago physics student); the two shared a love for the blues and began hanging out with blues musicians such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Junior Wells. Soon, the pair formed a band by adding Jerome Arnold and Sam Lay from Howlin’ Wolf’s band. The band was signed to Electra Records after adding Mike Bloomfield on lead guitar, and before the first album was recorded, they recruited an organ player, Mark Naftalin.

“Born In Chicago” is a Nick Gravenites-penned tune, and is the first track off the first album. The song is a simple 12-bar blues arrangement, with Butterfield’s harmonica and Bloomfield’s guitar being the most identifiable characteristics (Lay’s drum plods along nicely as well). The lyrics are very simple: I count a total of seventeen lines, and four of the seventeen are simply the previous line repeated. The lyrical content is appropriately bleak: “I was born in Chicago in nineteen forty-one/I was born in Chicago in nineteen forty-one/Well my father told me/Son you had better get a gun”. [This probably didn’t reflect the reality of living in Chicago for Butterfield, the son of an affluent lawyer, but he nonetheless does an effective job in laying down the vocal track.] As the song winds down, Butterfield really wails away on the harmonica; indeed, his harmonica dominates the rest of the track up to the fade-out.

“Shake Your Moneymaker” is a cover version of the old Elmore James tune (originally included on the B-side of his 1961 single “Look On Yonder Wall”), and this version is pretty much faithful to the original, with a few notable differences. (1) The Elmore James version starts with the chorus (this one doesn’t). (2) This version has a slightly different chord progression than the original. (3) The guitars are more restrained on the James version (the original had James playing his celebrated slide guitar) and of course Paul Butterfield wails away on the vocal track on the cover version. (4) Check out this lyrical modification: the original first verse goes: I got a girl who lives up on the hill/I got a girl who lives up on the hill/Talk she gonna love me/But I don’t believe she will”. The second couplet is modified to “Sometimes she won’t/Sometimes I think she will”. The second lyric is changed from “I got a girl and she just won’t be true/I got a girl and she just won’t be true/She’s locked to the bridge/She won’t do a thing I tell her to do” to “Go on baby, go on back to school/Go on baby, go on back to school/Your mama told me/You’re nothing but a fool”. It’s not Shakespeare, but it is interesting that the band took such poetic license (more than that maybe: they practically rewrote the lyrics) with the words, perhaps a sign that the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, one of the first blues bands to be fronted by whites, was a force to be reckoned with. Or perhaps they just felt like changing the words. Anyhow, it’s a good tune.

Paul Butterfield performing Born In Chicago live in 1985

Paul Butterfield and Foghat performing Shake Your Moneymaker live in 1978

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