The Blues Project

Blues ProjectFrom: Greenwich Village, NY, USA

The Blues Project is a band from the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City that was formed in 1965 and originally split up in 1967. While their songs drew from a wide array of musical styles, they are most remembered as one of the earliest practitioners of psychedelic rock, as well as one of the world’s first jam bands, along with the Grateful Dead.

In 1964, Elektra Records produced a compilation album of various artists entitled, The Blues Project, which featured several white musicians from the Greenwich Village area who played acoustic blues music in the style of black musicians. One of the featured artists on the album was a young guitarist named Danny Kalb, who was paid $75 for his two songs. Not long after the album’s release, however, Kalb gave up his acoustic guitar for an electric one. The Beatles’ arrival in the United States earlier in the year signified the end of the folk and acoustic blues movement that had swept the US in the early 1960s.

Kalb’s first rock and roll band was formed in the spring of 1965, playing under various names at first, until finally settling on the Blues Project moniker as an allusion to Kalb’s first foray on record. After a brief hiatus in the summer of 1965 during which Kalb was visiting Europe, the band reformed in September 1965 and were almost immediately a top draw in Greenwich Village. By this time, the band included Danny Kalb on guitar, Steve Katz (having recently departed the Even Dozen Jug Band) also on guitar, Andy Kulberg on bass and flute, Roy Blumenfeld on drums and Tommy Flanders on vocals.

The band’s first big break came only a few weeks later when they auditioned for Columbia Records, and failed. The audition was a success, nevertheless, as it garnered them an organist in session musician Al Kooper. Kooper had begun his career as a session guitarist, but that summer, he began playing organ when he played on the “Like a Rolling Stone” recording session for Bob Dylan’s album, Highway 61 Revisited. In order to improve his musicianship on the new instrument, Kooper joined the Blues Project and began gigging with them almost immediately. Soon thereafter, the Blues Project gained a recording contract from Verve Records, and began recording their first album live at the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village over the course of a week in November 1965.

Entitled Live at The Cafe Au Go Go the album was finished with another week of recordings in January 1966. By that time, Flanders had left the band and, as a result, he appeared on only a few of the songs on this album.

The album was a moderate success and the band toured the US to promote it. While in San Francisco, California in April 1966, the Blues Project played at the Fillmore Auditorium to rave reviews. Seemingly New York’s answer to the Grateful Dead, even members of the Grateful Dead who saw them play were impressed with their improvisational abilities.(Source: Rock Family Trees – television program)

Returning to New York, the band recorded their second album in the fall of 1966, and it was released in November. Projections contained an eclectic set of songs that ran the gamut from blues, R&B, jazz, psychedelia, and folk-rock. The centerpiece of the album was an 11-and-a-half minute version of “Two Trains Running,” which, along with other songs on the album, showed off their improvisational tendencies. One such song was the instrumental “Flute Thing”, written by Kooper and featuring Kulberg on flute.

Soon after the album was completed, though, the band began to fall apart. Kooper quit the band in the spring of 1967, and the band without him completed a third album, Live At Town Hall. Despite the name, only one song was recorded live at Town Hall, while the rest was made up of live recordings from other venues, or of studio outtakes with overdubbed applause to feign a live sound. One song in the latter category, Kooper’s “No Time Like the Right Time,” would be the band’s only charting single.

The Blues Project’s last hurrah was at the Monterey International Pop Festival held in Monterey, California, in June 1967. By this time, however, half the original line-up was gone. Kooper had formed his own band and played at the festival as well. Katz left soon thereafter, followed by Kalb. A fourth album, 1968’s Planned Obsolescence, featured only Blumenfeld and Kulberg from the original lineup, but was released under the Blues Project name at Verve’s insistence. Future recordings by this lineup would be released under a new band name, Seatrain.

In 1968, Kooper and Katz joined forces to fulfill a desire of Kooper’s to form a rock band with a horn section. The result was Blood, Sweat & Tears. While Kooper led the band on its first album, Child Is Father to the Man, he did not take part in any subsequent releases. Katz, on the other hand, remained with the band into the 1970s.

The Blues Project, with a modified line-up, reformed briefly in the early 1970s, releasing three further albums: 1971’s Lazarus, 1972’s The Blues Project, and 1973’s The Original Blues Project Reunion In Central Park (which featured Kooper but not Flanders). These albums did little to excite the public and since then, the group’s activity has been confined to a few sporadic reunion concerts such as when the Blues Project played a fundraising concert at Valley Stream Central High School in New York promoted by Bruce Blakeman with the proceeds going to the Youth Council and the US Olympic Committee. In the period between 2001 and 2007, Roy Blumenfeld has been drumming in the Barry Melton Band (Melton of Country Joe & the Fish fame). The band plays in the Northern California area.

Albums discography

Live at The Cafe Au Go Go (1966)
Projections (1966)
Live at Town Hall (1967)
Planned Obsolescence (1968)
Lazarus (1971)
The Blues Project (1972)
Reunion in Central Park (1973)
Best of The Blues Project (1989)
Chronicles (1996)


Blues Project

Best-known lineup

Tommy Flanders – vocals (born circa 1944)
(1965-1966, 1972-1973, -present)
Danny Kalb – guitar (born September 19, 1942, Brooklyn, New York)
(1965-1967, 1969-present)
Steve Katz – guitar, harmonica, vocals (born May 9, 1945, New York City)
(1965-1967, 1973-present)
Al Kooper – keyboards, vocals (born February 5, 1944, Brooklyn, New York)
(1965-1967, 1973-present)
Andy Kulberg – bass guitar, flute (Apr 30, 1944, Buffalo, NY – Jan 28, 2002, California)
(1965-1967, 1973-2002)
Roy Blumenfeld – drums (born May 11, 1944, Bronx, New York)
(1965-1967, 1969-?)

Later members

John Gregory – guitar (1968-?)
Don Kretmar – bass, saxophone (1969-1973)
David Cohen – keyboards (born August 4, 1942, Brooklyn, New York) (1972)
Bill Lussenden – guitar (1972-1973)
Eric Pearson – keyboards (1972)

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Tracks played on Psychedelicized…


Verve Folkways KF 5004 – 1966

  • Back Door Man
  • Violets Of Dawn

Verve Folkways KF 5032 – 1966

  • I Can’t Keep From Crying
  • The Way My Baby Walks

Verve Folkways KF 5040 – 1967

  • No Time Like The Right Time
  • Steve’s Song

Verve Forecast KF 5063 – 1967

  • Lost In The Shuffle

Original LPs/EPs…

Live At The Cafe Au Go Go – 1966

  • Catch The Wind [Live]
  • Spoonful [Live]

Projections – 1967

  • Caress Me Baby
  • Cheryl’s Going Home
  • Flute Thing
  • Fly Away
  • I Can’t Keep From Crying
  • Steve’s Song
  • Two Trains Running
  • Wake Me, Shake Me
  • You Can’t Catch Me

Live At Town Hall

  • Mean Old Southern [Live]


Blues Project Anthology – 1997
The Blues Project

  • I Can’t Keep From Crying [Alternate Version]
  • Parchman Farm (Live) [Previously Unreleased]