Blues musician, composer, and producer Mark Naftalin played keyboards with the original Paul Butterfield Blues Band from 1965 to 1968. Since then he has recorded with top blues players like John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush, Percy Mayfield, James Cotton, Michael Bloomfield, Lowell Fulson, Big Joe Turner, and dozens of others -- a sideman on over 100 albums. Naftalin is sought after for his elegant, understated keyboard accompaniment and tasty solos. Although first known as an organist, he has also recorded on piano, guitar, accordion, vibes, and various electric keyboards. In his solo concerts he plays mostly acoustic piano.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1944, Naftalin moved to Chicago in 1961 and enrolled at the University of Chicago, where he jammed along on piano at many of the campus "twist parties," the rage at the time. It was at these parties that Naftalin had his first opportunity to play with harmonica player Paul Butterfield and guitarist Elvin Bishop, the nucleus of what was to become the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. In 1964, Naftalin moved to New York City, where he spent a year at the Mannes College of Music, and it was there that he sat in with the Butterfield band during a recording session warm-up song, playing the Hammond organ (for the first time!). Michael Bloomfield had recently joined the band. The group liked the organ sound (and his playing) and Naftalin went on to record eight of the 11 songs on the first Butterfield album that very day. Butterfield asked Naftalin to join the group during that first session.
In the late '60s, after the first four Butterfield albums, Naftalin went out on his own, settling in the San Francisco Bay area. There he put together the Mark Naftalin Rhythm & Blues Revue and became active in blues and rock recording sessions, solo gigs, and revue shows, and as a producer of concerts, festivals, and radio shows. He also played with Michael Bloomfield as a duo and in a band (most often called Mike Bloomfield & Friends) from the late '60s through the mid-'70s, and hosted Mark Naftalin's Blue Monday Party, a weekly blues show (1979-1983) that featured over 60 blues artists and groups and was the scene of 86 live radio broadcasts and three TV specials. In 1981 Naftalin began producing the Marin County Blues Festival, and also served as associate producer of the Monterey Jazz Festival's Blues Afternoon between 1982 and 1991.
Naftalin also co-founded the Blue Monday Foundation and, in 1988, started his own label, Winner Records, which issued classic-era recordings by artists including Paul Butterfield and Percy Mayfield. He continued to perform, both solo and in an ensemble, in the Bay Area and elsewhere, often with longtime associate slide guitar virtuoso Ron Thompson. His weekly radio show, Mark Naftalin's Blues Power Hour, has been on the air almost continuously since 1979 on San Francisco's KALW-FM. ~ Michael Erlewine, Rovi