Elvin Bishop - guitar, vocals; Jo Baker - lead vocals; Perry Welsh - lead vocals, harp; Stephen Miller - piano, organ, vocals; Kip Maercklein - bass; John Chambers - drums
Following his years with Chicago's legendary Butterfield Blues Band, Elvin Bishop relocated to San Francisco and became a mainstay of the Bay Area jam scene prior to forming his own band. To Bishop's credit, the Elvin Bishop Group was more than a "group" in name, as he did not always dominate the material. Everyone contributed with Bishop often handing off the lead vocal spotlight to others, while he focused on his strength as a guitarist.
Although deeply rooted in the blues, the Elvin Bishop Group soon developed a wide-ranging repertoire that reflected all the talent in the band. Although Bishop remained the central figure and was the biggest draw, he often turned the spotlight over to vocalists Jo Baker and Perry Welsh, as well as keyboard player Stephen Miller, the other primary soloist in the group. Miller, who had previously gained local recognition in the band Linn County (NOT to be confused with Steve Miller), was an extremely gifted musician, who along with Bishop, had become a ubiquitous presence during the late 1960s free-form jam scene in San Francisco. Anchored by the crack rhythm section of bassist Kip Maercklein and drummer John Chambers, Bishop's band soon became a popular Bay Area attraction and on the strength of their performances at Fillmore West, was pursued by Bill Graham, who signed them to his fledgling record label, Fillmore Records.
Here is a short, but quite remarkable recording of the Elvin Bishop Group at Fillmore West on the second night of a four-night engagement opening for Miles Davis in May of 1971. What makes this recording so noteworthy, aside from the outstanding performances, is that the two songs heard here were not included on the Elvin Bishop Group albums of this era. The first of these, a cover of William York's "Pipeliner," was recorded by the Elvin Bishop Group as a track on Stephen Miller's self-titled solo album, released on Phillips the previous year. "Pipeliner" showcases Miller's strengths, featuring plenty of his signature propulsive organ work and his lead vocals. Blues-based, this number also finds Bishop in fine form, peeling off stinging leads in all the right places. The second song gets a bit mellower with singer Jo Baker soulfully fronting the group on "Slow Train" a gospel favored blues number written by Memphis legends Steve Cropper and William Bell.
Short and sweet, this is a prime slice of the original lineup of the Elvin Bishop Group in fine form, playing two numbers few have ever heard.