Born: August 2, 1944 Primary Instrument: Piano
Mark Naftalin entered the musical scene in 1965 as the keyboardist with the popular and influential Paul Butterfield Blues Band. He is internationally renowned among blues fans for his contributions to the band's sound.
Since leaving the Butterfield Band and settling in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1968 (and then in Connecticut in 2002), Naftalin has continued to work as a musician (soloist, accompanist, bandleader). Described by the San Francisco Chronicle as a brilliant pianist who puts a touch of genius in his blues, he has been a highly sought sideman and recorded over the years with some of the best-known names in his field -- John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush, James Cotton, Michael Bloomfield, Big Joe Turner, Etta James, Charlie Musselwhite, Big Mama Thornton, Brownie McGhee, Buddy Guy & Junior Wells, to name a few.
With the Mark Naftalin Rhythm & Blues Revue, Naftalin has presented an extraordinary cast of stars to concert and radio audiences: Percy Mayfield, Lowell Fulson, Pee Wee Crayton, Jimmy McCracklin, Luther Tucker, Irma Thomas, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Sonny Rhodes, J.J. Malone, Ron Thompson, Mable John, Little Joe Blue, Mississippi Johnny Waters, Billy Davenport, Bugsy Maugh, and many more.
Naftalin has also been active as a concert and broadcast producer in the Bay Area and elsewhere, starting in 1978 with a series of Sunday-night blues extravaganzas at San Francisco's Boarding House. In 1979 he launched Mark Naftalin's Blue Monday Party, a weekly blues show and dance that ran continuously through late 1983 at two North-Bay clubs, with Naftalin as bandleader and host. The Blue Monday Party, which was ultimately the scene of 86 live radio broadcast and three television specials, lives on through CD and VHS (and soon DVD) releases.
Naftalin's other productions include the weekly radio broadcast Mark Naftalin's Blues Power Hour (on San Francisco's KALW since 1984), the Marin County Blues Festival In San Rafael, California (1981-2000), the Westport Blues Festival in Westport, Connecticut (1993-94), and the Labor-Day Blues 'N' Soul Party in Marin City, California (1998 - 2004). The Labor-Day celebration has been presented by the Blue Monday Foundation, a non-profit organization that Naftalin co-founded in 1983 and currently heads.
Naftalin has served as the associate producer of the Monterey Jazz Festival Blues Afternoon (1982-92) and has received several awards, including the Bay Area Music Award (BAMMIE) for the Mark Naftalin Rhythm & Blues Revue (1980); the Billboard Radio Award for the Blue Monday Party live broadcasts (1982); the Tom Donahue Radio Award for the Blues Power Hour (1992); and the International Blues Foundation's Classics Of Blues Recording Award for his organ-playing on the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's first album, which was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1997 as a Classic of Blues Recording.
Naftalin's compositions have been recorded by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (Strawberry Jam), the Electric Flag (Lonely Song), Sonny Rhodes (I Just Can't Stay), Frankie Lee (I'll Do Right By You If You'll Do Right By Me) -- and Naftalin himself (Blues For Special Friends and others).
As a fruition of his work as musician and producer, Naftalin releases CDs and videos on Winner Records, the label he operates with his wife, Ellen Naftalin.
The company's CD catalog includes the Paul Butterfield Blues Band albums Strawberry Jam and East-West Live, which are drawn from nightclub recordings Naftalin collected while with the group. The catalog also includes two albums from Blue Monday Party radio broadcasts -- Percy Mayfield “Live” and Ron Thompson's “Just Like A Devil.”