Horn From The Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story

Thu. Nov 14, 2019 at 7:30pm EST
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All Ages
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The Shea Theater will present a screening of Horn From The Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story, on Thursday November 14 at 7:30. Tom Reney, producer of Jazz a la Mode at New England Public Radio, will introduce the documentary and host a Q&A following the feature-length film. The New York Times hailed Horn From the Heart as “smart and thorough,” and said that “spending 90 minutes with [Butterfield] and his music is exhilarating.”

Paul Butterfield is one of only a handful of musicians elected to both the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame (2015) and the Blues Hall of Fame (2006). He is the only bandleader to have performed at three of the most significant music festivals of the Sixties: the 1965 Newport Folk Festival; Monterey Pop; and Woodstock. The film includes performance clips from all three fests.

Produced by Sandra Warren and directed by Chicago-based filmmaker John Anderson, Horn From The Heart celebrates Paul Butterfield’s pivotal role as a trailblazing bandleader whose group delivered the blues to white, middle-class audiences in the mid-1960s. Butterfield’s powerful singing and virtuosic harmonica playing, honed in the blues bars of Chicago’s South Side, established him by age 23 as the archetypal white bluesman. His racially integrated band included guitarists Michael Bloomfield, renowned as America’s first blues-rock guitar hero, and Elvin Bishop, and the powerhouse rhythm section of Jerome Arnold and Sam Lay, who had formerly worked with Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter.

The Butterfield Blues Band would eventually include such players as David Sanborn, Buzzy Feitin, Trevor Lawrence, Mark Naftalin, and Geoff Muldaur. They, along with Bishop and Lay, appear in Horn From The Heart. The documentary features extensive, rarely seen performance footage, and includes interviews with Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, Maria Muldaur, Nick Gravenites, Jim Rooney, Todd Rundgren, Clydie King, Happy Traum, Paul Shaffer, and Al Kooper.  Together with the perspectives of Butterfield’s sons Gabriel and Lee, his wife Kathy, brother Peter, and sister-in-law Pam, Horn From the Heart provides an intimate and unsparing look at a brilliant and daring musician whose career became hampered by ill health and drug and alcohol addiction. Butterfield died in 1987 at 44.

Horn From The Heart provides a detailed account of Butterfield’s appearance at the legendary 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where the controversy generated by his performance of amplified Chicago blues led to Bob Dylan’s appearance later that weekend backed by members of the Butterfield Blues Band. Dylan’s decision to “go electric” continues to make Newport ’65 a major landmark of rock history. Butterfield’s appearance at Newport, the subsequent release of his debut album, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and its single “Born in Chicago,” and his continual promotion of the blues masters he knew and learned from, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Little Walter, and B.B. King, helped bring this influential but largely segregated mode of American music to the attention of a vast new audience.

Tom Reney has hosted Jazz a la Mode at New England Public Radio since 1984. A winner of the Marian McPartland-Willis Conover Award for Career Excellence in Broadcasting, he has written extensively on Paul Butterfield for various publications and for his blog at NEPR.net

Reney served as a consultant to the filmmakers during the making of Horn From the Heart, and he’s hosted screenings of the film throughout New England. His feature on Butterfield’s induction into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame links to several other articles he’s  written about the blues harp legend.



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Shea Theater Arts Center 71 Avenue A
Turner's Falls, MA Massachusetts 01376