Who Was ‘Best Guitarist of the Generation’ For Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix?


The debate over who deserves the title of the ‘greatest guitarist of all time’ is an argument that’s nearly impossible to settle definitively. While every fan has their own opinion, one thing is certain: Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix will undoubtedly be among the top contenders.

These legendary names have cemented their legacies in the history of rock and roll. Since the moment each artist soared to the peak of their fame, fans have been following every detail of their creative ambitions.

But what about the unassuming artist? The one who remains in the shadows, unable to grasp the global recognition that so many yearn for?

For Mike Bloomfield, this was an undeniable reality.

Often hailed as the ‘favorite guitarist’s favorite guitarist,’ Michael Bernard Bloomfield might not be the first name to arise in the debate on the greatest guitarists, yet he stands as an artist who profoundly influences the brilliance of modern music.

Born in the heart of Chicago, Illinois, in 1943, Bloomfield’s name buzzed within the circles of the swinging sixties. Though he might not share the same limelight as some peers, there was a time when Bloomfield was the sole guitarist that truly mattered. With his unmatched instrumental mastery, he rubbed shoulders with luminaries of Chicago’s blues and jazz scene before embarking on his own journey.

mike bloomfield greatest guitarist

Regarded as one of the key figures in popularizing the blues sound—an influence that paved the way for bands like The Rolling Stones and countless others—Bloomfield preferred to remain in the background. It wasn’t until 1969 that he unveiled his singing voice, a decision that added another layer to his enigmatic persona. Prior to that, he played a pivotal role in launching some of the most iconic names and beloved songs in music history.

In 1965, for instance, Bloomfield came to the aid of Bob Dylan, contributing his magic to Dylan’s sixth studio album, “Highway 61 Revisited,” and making an indelible mark on the lead single, ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’ Even more remarkably, Bloomfield’s subtle influence resurfaced shortly after as he performed alongside Dylan himself during the groundbreaking and appropriately controversial Newport Folk Festival performance.

Nick Gravenites, a bandmate from Electric Flag, vividly recalls Bloomfield’s monumental impact. “People that knew Michael, they loved him,” Gravenites said. “It had nothing to do with liking the guy, they loved him. Even to this day 30 years after his death, people that knew him and loved him knew he was the best. He was absolutely the best guitar player of his generation. Dylan thought he was. Hendrix thought he was. Clapton thought he was.”

Gravenites added: “He wanted people to sit there and love the music and get involved in it and not get all hero worshipped. He didn’t like that part of the music scene. Thought it was ridiculous. Never catered to it at all. God, he turned down Dylan! Turned down Dylan! I mean, this is the kind of guy he was.”

The desire not to chase fame on the coattails of others is perhaps one of the most significant reasons why Bloomfield isn’t held in the same regard Dylan, Hendrix, Clapton et al. However, it is this single-minded approach to his craft that has meant that he is adored by the musicians that he inspired.

“His bombastic playing, those notes that just went into the air, when he shook that string it just went right through you. the intensity in his playing was like no one I’ve ever played with, including Jimi Hendrix,” Barry Goldberg later explained.

In a world where the spotlight often blinds, Mike Bloomfield found his sanctuary in the background, shaping the music scene’s very core. He wasn’t concerned with hero worship or fleeting fame; his focus was on the timeless essence of his craft. In this, his legacy thrives—a reminder that the truest artistry is etched not just in fame, but in the hearts of those who truly understand and celebrate its power.

1 comment
  1. To put Dylan in there as one of the greatest is hyperbole at its worst. Why do you think he had Michael play with him?

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