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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Sunday, November 27, 2011


 Jerome Arnold, bass-player for Howlin Wolf and in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band - and thereby the man who played bass at Newport 1965 for Bob Dylan's debute electric performance - turned 75 yesterday. An interesting man, who subsequently changed his name to Julio Finn (which Wikipedia still doesn't seem to know), here's his entry in my Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:

Arnold, Jerome [1936 - ]
Jerome Arnold, a year younger than his more famous harmonica-playing brother Billy Boy Arnold, was born in Chicago on November 26, 1936. He was playing bass guitar in the city in the 1950s and from around 1957 played in HOWLIN WOLF’s band (though he didn’t play on Wolf’s records till the 1962 session that yielded ‘Tail Dragger’, to which the lyric of Dylan’s 1990 blues ‘Cat’s In The Well’ slyly alludes.) He and SAM LAY were poached from Wolf in 1963 by PAUL BUTTERFIELD, who was forming the pioneering Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Arnold and Lay were the bi-racial band’s black members, and the authentic Chicago blues rhythm section on which the band’s white soloists built. Arnold kept things solid when MIKE BLOOMFIELD introduced Indian music into the band on their second album, East-West, yet while reportedly uneasy with the ‘progressive’ organ-playing of Mark Naftalin (who joined in 1964), he was more than capable of laying down jazz-rooted bass lines flowing around behind Bloomfield on the 8-minute-long ‘Work Song’, which emerged on the Bloomfield compilation Don’t Say That I Ain’t Your Man: Essential Blues 1964-1969. He continued to play on Howlin’ Wolf records after joining the Butterfield outfit.

Arnold, described by Butterfield Blues Band enthusiast Charles Sawyer as ‘quiet and unassuming; a conservative dresser given to double knits and loafers’, was nevertheless one of those who played behind Dylan - with Bloomfield, AL KOOPER, BARRY GOLDBERG and Sam Lay - at Dylan’s controversial electric début at the 1965 NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL. It was the only time he played behind Dylan; he continued with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, which Butterfield disbanded in 1972.

By 1978 he had changed his name to Julio Finn and moved to London. Now playing more harmonica than bass, he played with jazz acts, including Archie Shepp (for instance on the album Black Gipsy) and the Art Ensemble of Chicago (Certain Blacks, recorded in Paris in 1970). On the 1970 eponymously-titled album by Archie Shepp & Philly Joe Jones, Finn is credited as composer of the 21-minute-long ‘Howling in the Silence’, on which he contributes vocals as well as harmonica.

In 1981 he was asked to write the sleevenotes for the UK label Charley’s album Crying and Pleading, by his brother Billy Boy Arnold. He agreed, mentioned their relationship in his notes but still signed as Julio Finn. Interested in gay rights and in black history, he wrote the 1986 book The Blues Man: The Musical Heritage of Black Men and Women in the Americas, which was published in London by Quartet Books.

Finn / Arnold still keeps open his playing and academic options, and still ranges widely without abandoning the blues. In 1998 he played harmonica on the Linton Kwesi Johnson album Independent Intavenshan; in 2000 he was the respondent at a panel discussion on ‘The Blues as Individual and Collective History’ at a conference on ‘The Blues Tradition’ at Penn State University.

[Bob Dylan with Jerome Arnold et al: ‘Maggie’s Farm’, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ & ‘It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry’, Newport RI, 25 Jul 1965. Charles Sawyer quote from ‘Blues With A Feeling: A Biography of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’, 1994, online Jul 2 2005 at]


Blogger LarryK said...

An obscure talent, surely deserving of this notice...I was there at Newport '65 and still have/listen to the Butterfield discs...great bass work on "East/West"!

5:35 pm  
Blogger Al Wheels said...

Saw him 3-4 times with Paul at the Fillmore, and Winterland.
The best yrs of my life musically speaking.

1:34 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Julio Finn is NOT Jerome Arnold. He is brother Augustus Arnold.

12:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes he is

2:10 am  

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