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Elvin Bishop: Can't Even Do Wrong Right

Elvin Bishop's CD Can't Even Do Wrong Right

Like many teenagers in the 1950s, Elvin Bishop learned about the music he loves from radio.

Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, there wasn’t much local radio that piqued his interest, but the 1950s were the era of 50,000 watt clear channel AM signals.

There were several stations across the dial that shared those characteristics, but the one mentioned most frequently is WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee.

WLAC's legendary late night DJs, Gene Nobles, John R, and Hoss Allen were devoted to Blues and Rhythm & Blues. When Elvin found WLAC, and heard Jimmy Reed singing  “Honest I Do,” it changed his life. From that point forward, he began listening to, absorbing and collecting blues music.

A National Merit Scholarship in hand, Elvin enrolled at the University of Chicago to study physics. He chose Chicago because he discovered that many of his favorite blues records were recorded there.

He quickly got into Chicago's blues scene, where he was mentored by Little Smokey Smothers. He soon met Paul Butterfield and in 1963 became a charter member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band that also featured fellow guitarist Michael Bloomfield, Mark Naftalin and Sam Lay. Elvin recorded recorded three highly successful albums with the band before he left Chicago in the late 1960s.

He settled in the San Francisco area and began working his own band. He recorded for Capricorn and scored with the 1976 album Struttin' My Stuff, powered by the gold single “Fooled Around And Fell In Love.”

This success put him on the road, and there were no new records for seven years until he returned to the fray in 1988. Since that time he has averaged a new album every year or two. His latest is Can't Even Do Wrong Right.

Can't Even Do Wrong Right is one of the finest CDs of Elvin's career, and it introduces Maurice, a character destined to take his place in blues lore next to the Jody Man and the Back Door Man. 

Featured guests include longtime Bishop pals such as Mickey Thomas (Vocalist on “Fooled Around And Fell In Love”) and harpmaster Charlie Musslewhite, who make telling contributions.

There is an upbeat, goodtime vibe throughout this album. It has been a more than fifty year journey for Elvin Bishop and if they ever decided to award a National Merit Scholarship for blues, he’d be an easy winner.

   - Bob Porter, host of WBGO's Portraits In Blue and Saturday Morning Function

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