If there were any doubts about Elvin Bishop’s commitment to his craft, they were erased at the bluesman’s Masonic Temple show a while back.
Bishop brought a crackerjack band of Bay Area musicians and rollicked through a couple of sets of jolting, red-hot blues. When harpman Norton Buffalo, who opened the show, joined Bishop on stage, the show kicked into hyperdrive.
Bishop will appear Saturday evening at Pullman’s Beasley Coliseum. It’s the final performance of Washington State University’s Hip Cats Blues Festival.
For a while there, it appeared as if Bishop was destined to play the role of Blues Fool. His aw-shucks persona and good-timey shenanigans often seemed at odds with his genuine talent for the blues.
And what a talent: Bishop emerged into the ‘60s blues renaissance playing guitar in the Chicago-based Paul Butterfield Blues Band alongside second guitarist Michael Bloomfield.
It was while he was with Butterfield that Bishop created an alter ego he called Pigboy Crabshaw. Crabshaw was part bumpkin, part shyster, and he gave Bishop a chance to exercise his freewheeling sense of humor.
In 1968, the Butterfield Blues Band even released an album called “The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw.”
The Butterfield Band consistently redefined modern blues, and when Bishop departed for San Francisco in 1968, he took the legacy with him. He became a regular at the Fillmore jam sessions, trading licks with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and B.B. King, and formed the Elvin Bishop Blues Band.
Bishop’s career peaked in 1976 with the success of a single, “Fooled Around And Fell In Love,” from his third solo album. That song was sung by Mickey Thomas, who shortly thereafter abandoned Bishop for Jefferson Starship.
It was a foolish move: The Starship has foundered musically and commercially, while Bishop got his feet under him and became a top-notch touring act. He even had a modest hit in 1991 with “Don’t Let The Bossman Get You Down.”
Bishop is on top of his game these days, with a sharp, fast-paced show that falls back on the old Pigboy Crabshaw humor as a nice accent to a powerful blues workout. Always a fun act, Bishop’s is also a strong one.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Elvin Bishop Location and time: Beasley Coliseum, Saturday, 8 p.m. Tickets: $10
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