Blues Guitarist and Singer, Buddy Guy
By Phil Reser
Best in TownApril 2015
By Phil Reser
His live shows are studies in tension and release, loud and soft, sweetness and fury, all mixed with brilliant showmanship.
Buddy Guy’s contribution to the electric guitar hasn’t slowed down, even after 60 years of playing.
Guy is the recipient of six Grammy Awards, he’s been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he still tours the United States several times a year in addition to regularly performing at his own Chicago blues club, Legends.
“I’m very lucky to be where I am today. I’ve never been able to read or write music at all, and people used to tell me I had to learn scales and all this technical stuff, but I never did,” Guy says. “If you have heart and soul and believe in what you’re doing, keep doing it.
“My mission has been to make people smile because if you live in this day and age and go through this life and you ain’t never had a problem, I wish you could tell me how to do that,” he says. “When I play my guitar I want to make you forget about that little problem that you have and that’s my mission.”
Born in 1936 to a sharecropper's family and raised on a plantation near the small town of Lettsworth, 140 miles northwest of New Orleans, George "Buddy" Guy was one of five children born to Sam and Isabel Guy.
“I asked my grandfather about music in our family once, and he said nobody before me had any musical talent. We didn’t have a phonograph, we didn’t even have electricity, but we had a radio and we listened to that. They played blues in between the rain delays of the baseball games back then.”
Buddy was all of 7 years old when he fashioned his first makeshift guitar.
“I built a two-string diddley bow and nailed the strings to the house. I used my mother’s hairpins. She was wondering where they all went. I’d wear it out in about a week or break the strings, so I kept rebuilding it. That was the beginning of what you see on stage today.”
It would be nearly another, decade, however, before Buddy would own an actual guitar, a Harmony acoustic that now proudly sits on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Shortly after moving to Chicago, Guy met Otis Rush, who introduced him to the 708 Club. While playing one of his first gigs there, he met one of his idols, the legendary Muddy Waters. Waters was impressed with his musical talent, and the pair would later work together.
Guy also met and became tight with blues composer and performer, Willie Dixon.
Through Dixon, he was able to land a contract as a guitarist with Chess Records. Subsequently, Guy met and worked with several of his inspirations, including Howlin’ Wolf and
These many years later, Buddy Guy has become one of the final surviving connections to a historic era in America’s musical evolution.
As one track on his recently released double CD, “Rhythm & Blues,” puts it, he claims that “All That Makes Me Happy is the Blues.”
“I worry a lot about the legacy of Muddy, Wolf and all the guys who created this stuff,” he says. “I want people to remember them. It’s like the Ford car. Henry Ford invented the Ford car, and regardless how much technology they got on them now, you still have that little sign that says `Ford’ on the front.
“Jimi Hendrix wasn’t much of a talker,” recalls Guy. “But he told me once that he’d kinda been pickin’ some licks from me. Eric Clapton told me that, too. But I never paid it any mind. I mean, B.B. King and I are good friends. I met T-Bone Walker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and of course, I used to run around with Muddy Waters. All those great guitar players used to tell me, we all get something musical from one another. And they were right. I think we’ve all got a few B.B. King licks in us.”
Cascade Theatre • April 4 • 7:30 pm
www.cascadetheatre.org • (530) 243-8877
Laxson Auditorium • April 7 • 7:30 pm
www.chicoperformances.com • (530) 898-6333