Elvin Bishop - vocals, lead guitar; Fly Brooks - bass; Bill Slais - keyboards; Johnny Vernazza - guitar; Donny Baldwin - drums, vocals; Reni Slais - backing vocals; Mickey Thomas - lead and background vocals
Shortly after recording this show for the King Biscuit Flower Hour in April 1976, Elvin Bishop, along with his current album at that time, Struttin' My Stuff, made it to the #2 position on the Billboard pop chart and went gold (thanks, in large part, to its hit single, "Fooled Around And Fell In Love"). The single was already a hit, but it was this Biscuit show that gave Bishop his first extensive national radio exposure.
In addition to Elvin Bishop himself on guitar and vocals, the group featured on his recording was made up of bassist Fly Brooks, keyboardist Bill Slais, second guitarist Johnny Vernazza, drummer Donny Baldwin and vocalists Reni Slais and Mickey Thomas. Thomas, who had charted his first international hit as the singer on "Fooled Around," would emerge two years later (along with Baldwin) as a member of rock-revamped Jefferson Starship, with whom they would reach superstar status, thanks to hits like "Find Your Way Back" and "We Built This City."
"That was a good band," remembers Bishop, "we were together for a while back then…" Indeed, that chemistry is more than evident on this recording. From the very start of "Juke Joint Jump," this show is a tour de force for Bishop, who delivers a platter of rock-solid musical gems that stand on par with the best material of Little Feat or The Meters. Drawing most of their material from Struttin' My Stuff, Bishop and the band crank out soulful renditions of "Calling All Cows," "Put On My Traveling Shoes" and "Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey." A six-minute-plus version of "Fooled Around" is tucked neatly in the middle of the set, which ultimately climaxes with "Rock My Soul" and "Party 'Til The Cows Come Home."
Bishop was born and raised in Tulsa, where he grew up listening to Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf records played late night on Nashville's pioneer R&B radio station, WLAC. When a National Merit Scholarship sent him to the University of Chicago in the early 1960s, he soon became obsessed with the Windy City's thriving blues scene. In 1963, Bishop met up with a young, white harmonica player named Paul Butterfield, and another aspiring white guitarist named Mike Bloomfield. Together, with an all-black rhythm section, they formed the Paul Butterfield Blues - one of the first interracial acts to tour the U.S. during the Civil Rights movement and the Kennedy/Johnson years.
Behind Bloomfield's wailing harp, Bishop and Bloomfield developed the dual guitar jamming style that would influence a whole generation of rock bands (think of The Allman Brothers Band and Aerosmith, to name just two). The group gained international recognition with a series of acclaimed blues and rock albums on Elektra Records, in addition to a classic performance at the Newport Folk and Blues Festival the same year Bob Dylan plugged-in and got booed.
By the end of 1960s, the Butterfield Blues Band was starting to buckle beneath an overload of talent, so Bishop decided to jump ship and headed for San Francisco, where he formed the first version of the Elvin Bishop Group. He initially signed with Bill Graham and released two albums on his Fillmore label, and then released an album on Epic, and then two on One Way. Bishop was then brought to the attention Capricorn Records prexy Phil Waldren by the Allmans' axeman, Dickey Betts. Capricorn, at that time, had effectively taken over the mainstream music scene after facilitating the platinum success of the Allmans and the emergence of Southern rock. Bishop was now on a label that could give him the financial and promotional support he needed to break through. "Travelin' Shoes" was his first hit off 1974's Let It Flow, and then "Fooled Around" exploded on the charts during the tour on which this King Biscuit show was recorded.
"What I really liked about it was that I really didn't have to change my style to fit in with his roster of artists," Bishop adds. "I was from Oklahoma after all. It was one of the few times in my career where I had a media spot that I could easily fit into." Today, after releasing a series of popular blues albums on Alligator Records, Elvin Bishop remains a popular touring act. Only a handful of these songs remain in his current show, and the classic hit "Fooled Around" has been transformed into a slide guitar instrumental.