Half troubadour, half comedian and all bluesman, singer and guitarist Elvin Bishop — the opening act at Sunday’s Blues at the Green celebration at Green Music Center — has been around for a long time.
It’s logical that Bishop should open the center’s second annual blues fest, starring New Orleans music legend Dr. John this year.
Born in California, reared in Oklahoma and now living in Marin County, Bishop played a significant role in the melding of blues and rock, joining the breakthrough ensemble The Paul Butterfield Blues Band in Chicago in 1963.
Although casual followers may remember Bishop primarily for his own band’s 1976 hit crossover pop single, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” he has never strayed far from playing and singing the blues.
“It beats the hell of day work,” Bishop said with a laugh, during a recent phone call from a tour stop in Campagne, Ill. “And to my way of thinkin’, as long as you’re doing something, you’re supposed to be improving.”
Earlier this year, Bishop released his 20th studio album, “Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio,” featuring Bob Welsh on guitar piano and Willie Jordan on vocals and cajon — a box-shaped hand percussion instrument that has its origins in 18th-century Peru. Welsh and Jordan will perform Sunday with Bishop at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall and Lawn.
The album also includes Bishop’s talkin’ blues duet with veteran blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite, a Sonoma County resident and Bishop’s occasional onstage co-star. (Musselwhite’s not on the program with Bishop this weekend.)
The song is titled “100 Years of Blues,” alluding to the half-century each of them has spent singing and playing their chosen music.
As he often does on his records, Bishop mocks his own age — he turns 75 in the fall — and lengthy experience. At one point he quips, “We’ve been around since the Dead Sea was sick.”
But Bishop believes he’s getting better as he grows older.
“That isn’t the norm in music somehow, you know. Most guys become oldies versions of themselves. They stop developing in their 30s somehow. It’s all just rehash, and a weak one at that,” he said.
“If your care enough about the music to put time into it, and rehearse and practice and think about it, you improve,” Bishop said. “If you’re out there playing golf and gettin’ drunk at the bar every night, you’re not gonna make much progress.”
The musician does admit to slowing down a little, but he doesn’t see that as a problem.
“It’s just a matter of what’s important to you,” he said. Bishop takes his cue from the late blues star John Lee Hooker, who performed well into his 80s.
“The day of a gig, he wouldn’t do anything,” Bishop remembered, “I’d be on the road with him and he would just rest and maybe watch a ball game on TV.”
Once onstage, Bishop aims only to please the crowd.
“I try to concentrate on the place where the music I like to play and what the people seem to like kinda intersects,” he said. “If there’s something I really want to do that the people don’t want to hear, I can sit on my porch and play it.”