Electric Flag Biography

The brief career of the much-vaunted Electric Flag was begun in 1967 by Mike Bloomfield (Michael Bernard Bloomfield, 28 July 1943, Chicago, Illinois, USA, d. 15 February 1981, San Francisco, California, USA), following his departure from the influential Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The original band comprised Bloomfield, Buddy Miles (b. George Allen Miles Jnr., 5 September 1947, Omaha, Nebraska, USA, d. 26 February 2008, Austin, Texas, USA; drums/vocals), Nick Gravenites (b. Chicago, Illinois, USA; vocals), Barry Goldberg (b. Chicago, Illinois, USA; keyboards), Harvey Brooks (b. Harvey Goldstein, USA; bass), Peter Strazza (tenor saxophone), Marcus Doubleday (trumpet) and Herbie Rich (baritone saxophone). All members were well-seasoned professionals coming from a variety of musical backgrounds. The group recorded the soundtrack for the 1967 movie The Trip before making a noble live debut at the same year’s Monterey Pop Festival. Their excellent A Long Time Comin’ was released in 1968 with additional members Stemziel (Stemsy) Hunter and Mike Fonfara, and was a significant hit in the USA. The tight, brassy-tinged blues numbers were laced with Bloomfield’s sparse but bitingly crisp Fender Stratocaster guitar. Their cover version of ‘Killing Floor’ was a fine example of the sound that Bloomfield was aiming to achieve, but the band was unable to follow this release and immediately began to dissolve, with Goldberg and Bloomfield the first to go. Miles attempted to hold the band together but the second album was a pale shadow of their debut, with only ‘See To Your Neighbour’ showing signs of a unified performance.

Miles then left to form the Buddy Miles Express, while Gravenites became a songwriting legend in San Francisco. Brooks, following years of session work that included the Bloomfield/ Al Kooper / Stephen Stills Super Session, reappeared as a member of Sky. An abortive Electric Flag reunion produced 1974’s lacklustre and inappropriately titled The Band Kept Playing.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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