10 Things You Didn’t Know About Elvin Bishop

Elvin Bishop2

Originally published in American Blues Scene.


This is the fifth and final installment of this series, which honors the 2016 Blues Hall of Fame inductees.


1.  Although Bishop was born in Glendale, California, he was raised on a farm outside Elliot, Iowa and moved with this family to Tulsa, Oklahoma at age 10.

2.  In 1960, Bishop won a National Merit Scholarship to the University of Chicago to study physics.

3.  He met Paul Butterfield (also a University of Chicago student at the time) in the Hyde Park area of South Chicago in 1963 and joined the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and was with them for five years, taking the lead guitar spot when Mike Bloomfield left the band in 1967.

4.  Due to his rural upbringing, Bishop acquired the nick-name “Pigboy Crabshaw” and in 1967 the band used it in the title of their third album, The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw.

5.  Bishop acquired his iconic, red Gibson ES-345 guitar by trading his Telecaster to blues guitarist and South By Southwest (SXSW) co-founder, Louis Meyers.  He named the guitar “Red Dog” after the legendary Allman Brothers roadie, Joseph “Red Dog” Campbell.

6.  He had a long and complicated relationship with Chicago bluesman Little Smokey Smothers.  Smothers who had played in Howlin’ Wolf’s band as well as leading his own group, The Pipelayers, was Bishop’s main influence and teacher in the blues. Later it was Bishop who replaced him in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.  In 2000, Alligator Records released, That’s My Partner, a live album featuring them both and recorded in San Francisco.  They also played together at the Chicago Blues Festival, Ground Zero in Clarksdale, Mississippi and several other places.  After Smothers had both legs amputated due to diabetes, Bishop put together a benefit album, Chicago Blues Buddies, a compilation of recordings with the both of them dating back to 1992, with proceeds paying the cost of Smothers’ medical bills.

7.  Bishop was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Traditional Blues Album category for his 2008 Delta Groove release, The Blues Rolls On. He has been nominated for fourteen Blues Music Awards, winning three in 2015 for Band of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year.

8.  This will be his third Hall of Fame induction as in 1998 he was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and in 2015 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

9.  Bishop is no stranger to tragedy.  In the summer of 2000, his former wife, her boyfriend, Bishop’s daughter and two others were murdered in a bizarre pseudo-religious extortion plot by a group calling themselves the “Children of Thunder”.

10. Along with his 26 album releases, Bishop has also played and recorded with The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, John Lee Hooker, bo diddley, BB King, James Cotton and Clifton Chenier.

J. Howard Rosier

J. Howard Rosier

J. Howard Rosier has a journalism degree from Columbia College. He is currently studying writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he also serves as News Editor for FNews.

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