George "Buddy" Guy (born July 30, 1936) is a five-time Grammy Award-winning American blues and rock guitarist and singer. Known as an inspiration to Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and other guitarists, Guy is considered an important exponent of Chicago blues. He is the father of female rapper Shawnna and son Michael. He is the older brother of late blues guitarist Phil Guy.
Guy is known for his showmanship: for example, he plays his guitar with drumsticks, or strolls into the audience while jamming and trailing a long guitar cord.
Born in Lettsworth, Louisiana, Guy grew up in Louisiana learning guitar on a two string diddley bow he made. Later he was given a Harmony acoustic guitar, which he later donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the early '50s he began performing with bands in Baton Rouge. Soon after moving to Chicago in 1957, Guy fell under the influence of Muddy Waters. In 1958, a competition with West Side guitarists Magic Sam and Otis Rush gave Guy a record contract. Soon afterwards he recorded for Cobra Records. He recorded sessions with Junior Wells for Delmark Records under the pseudonym Friendly Chap in 1965 and 1966.
Guy’s early career was supposedly held back by both conservative business choices made by his record company (Chess Records) and "the scorn, diminishments and petty subterfuge from a few jealous rivals". Chess, Guy’s record label from 1959 to 1968, refused to record Buddy Guy’s novel style that was similar to his live shows. Leonard Chess (Chess founder and 1987 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee) denounced Guy’s playing as "noise". In the early 1960s, Chess tried recording Guy as a solo artist with R&B ballads, jazz instrumentals, soul and novelty dance tunes, but none were released as singles. Guy’s only Chess album, "Left My Blues in San Francisco", was finally issued in 1967. Most of the songs belong stylistically to the era's soul boom, with orchestrations by Gene Barge and Charlie Stepney. Chess used Guy mainly as a session guitarist to back Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Koko Taylor and others.
Buddy Guy was a leading star at the 1969 Supershow at Staines, England that also included Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Jack Bruce, Stephen Stills, Buddy Miles, Glen Campbell, Roland Kirk, and Jon Hiseman. Image: 1969 Supershow.
By the late 1960s, Guy's career was in decline. The heavy blues-rock scene he had helped inspire was flourishing without him. For the next two decades, Buddy Guy had to endure the neglect many blues and rock artists faced in their careers: As visionaries and pathfinders they are overlooked while their followers received the fame, recognition and fortune.
Guy's career finally took off during the blues revival period of the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was sparked by Clapton's request that Guy be part of the '24 Nights' all-star blues guitar lineup at London's Royal Albert Hall and Guy's subsequent signing with Silvertone Records.
On July 7, 2008, Guy was presented with an award for performing in all four decades of the Montreux Jazz festival.
While Buddy Guy's music is often labeled Chicago blues, his style is unique and separate. His music can vary from the most traditional, deepest blues to a creative, unpredictable and radical gumbo of the blues, avant rock, soul and free jazz that morphs at each night’s performance.
Some blues fans and music critics believe that Guy's 1960–1967 Chess catalog remains his most satisfying body of work. This view discounts the pathfinding music Buddy was creating since his early live performances, some of which is captured in the American Folk Blues Festival albums. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page appreciated this more radical side of Guy's music, in the early 1960s.
Guy’s songs have been covered by Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayall, Jack Bruce, and others. Several of Guy’s early songs and licks were allegedly stolen by the late Willie Dixon and Guy’s early record companies. Regardless, Guy is perhaps better known for his creative interpretation of the work of other songwriters.
Traditional blues fans may appreciate the albums, The Very Best of Buddy Guy, Blues Singer, Junior Wells' Hoodoo Man Blues, A Man & The Blues and I Was Walking Through The Woods. Contemporary blues and rock fans may appreciate Slippin’ In, Sweet Tea, Stone Crazy, Buddy's Baddest: The Best Of Buddy Guy, Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues, and D.J. Play My Blues. Guy's live show is featured in the video Live! The Real Deal and he performs in the DVDs Lightning In a Bottle, Crossroads Guitar Festival, Eric Clapton: 24 Nights, Festival Express, and A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Guy's showmanship has influenced many musicians' stage presentation, notably Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix sometimes cancelled his own concerts to attend Guy’s club shows, which he filmed or audio taped. In Antoine Fuqua's blues concert DVD, Lightning In A Bottle, footage shows an enchanted Hendrix in the audience watching a wild Buddy Guy performance. One technique Hendrix may have learned from Guy was playing the guitar with only the left hand: Hammering on and pulling off the strings to sound them, without plucking the strings with his right hand at all. Guy would often do something entirely different with his right hand, like swigging from a can of beer, while his left hand did all the work.
One trick Guy has perfected in recent years is pulling someone out of the audience—often an attractive woman—and having her paw the strings on his guitar, as Guy fingers the frets with his left hand. At one concert in the early '90s, playing to a huge hometown audience at Chicago's Ravinia Festival, Guy grabbed a nine-year-old boy by the wrist, pulled him on stage, and had him play the right-hand part of a robust and drawn-out solo. Guy has also left the stage entirely at concerts and into the spectator area. At a concert in Hamilton Place, Ontario, Buddy Guy walked into different sections of the stadium and sat with the audience while he continued to play a guitar solo. He would often say comments to the audience such as "that's really me playing".
Tom Lavin remembers the first time he saw Buddy Guy at a college concert. "Buddy was wearing a leopard skin blazer and when he soloed with one hand while he removed his jacket and then switched to soloing with the other hand while he took off the other sleeve, never missing a note. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. Right there I knew that's what I wanted to do." Guy recalls, "The first guitar player I saw putting on a show was Guitar Slim—I must've been 13 years old—he came out riding that guitar, wearing a bright red suit. I thought; 'I wanna sound like B.B. King, but I wanna play guitar like that.' " "Buddy's act was not premeditated or contrived," Donald Wilcox said in his biography of Guy. "His style was merely a natural by-product of being self-taught, having a compulsion to play, and being insecure enough to feel that if he didn't dazzle and hypnotize his audience with the flamboyant techniques he'd seen work for Guitar Slim, he'd be buried by competition from guitarists who were better technicians."
As Josh Hathaway once observed: “Rock and roll just could not be the same without Buddy Guy.” Buddy Guy helped modernize the blues, “moving the blues forward without losing sight of its roots.”
Buddy Guy has been called the bridge between the blues and rock and roll. He is one of the historic links between Chicago electric blues pioneers Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and popular musicians like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page as well as later revivalists like Stevie Ray Vaughan. This was what Stevie Ray Vaughan meant when he said, "Without Buddy Guy, there would be no Stevie Ray Vaughan." Even Guitarist magazine observed:
In addition, Guy's pathfinding guitar techniques also contributed greatly to rock and roll music. Guy’s guitar playing was loud and aggressive; used pioneering distortion and feedback techniques; employed longer solos; had shifts of volume and texture; and was driven by emotion and impulse. These lessons were eagerly learned and applied by the new wave of 1960s British artists and later became basic attributes of blues-rock music and its offspring, hard rock and heavy metal music. Jeff Beck realized in the early 1960s: “I didn't know a Strat could sound like that — until I heard Buddy's tracks on the Blues From Big Bill's Copa Cabana album” (reissue of 1963 Folk Festival Of The Blues album) and “It was the total manic abandon in Buddy's solos. They broke all boundaries. I just thought, this is more like it! Also, his solos weren't restricted to a three-minute pop format; they were long and really developed.”
Guy could arguably be considered the inspiration, directly or indirectly, for every rock power trio format since Cream (i.e., bands such as Beck Bogert Appice, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Rush, etc.). Clapton admitted that he got his idea for a blues-rock power trio during his teenage years while watching Buddy Guy's trio perform in England in 1965. Clapton later formed the rock band Cream, which was “the first rock supergroup to become superstars” and was also “the first top group to truly exploit the power-trio format, in the process laying the foundation for much blues-rock and hard rock of the 1960s and 1970s.”
Eric Clapton said "Buddy Guy was to me what Elvis was for others." Clapton, who's not prone to hyperbole, insisted in a 1985 Musician magazine article that "Buddy Guy is by far and without a doubt the best guitar player alive...if you see him in person, the way he plays is beyond anyone. Total freedom of spirit, I guess… He really changed the course of rock and roll blues."
Recalls Guy: "Eric Clapton and I are the best of friends and I like the tune 'Strange Brew' and we were sitting and having a drink one day and I said ‘Man, that "Strange Brew"...you just cracked me up with that note.’ And he said ‘You should...cause it's your licks...’ " As soon as Clapton completed his famous Derek & the Dominos sessions (spawning "Layla") in October 1970, he co-produced (with Ahmet Ertegün and Tom Dowd) the Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play The Blues album with Guy's longtime harp and vocal compatriot. That record, released in 1972, is regarded by some critics as among the finest electric blues recordings of the modern era.
In recognition of Guy's influence on Hendrix's career, the Hendrix family invited Buddy Guy to headline all-star casts at several Jimi Hendrix tribute concerts they organized in recent years, "calling on a legend to celebrate a legend." Jimi Hendrix himself once said that “Heaven is lying at Buddy Guy’s feet while listening to him play guitar.” Songs such as "Red House", "Voodoo Chile" and "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" partly came from the sonic world that Buddy Guy helped to create. According to the Fender Players’ Club: “Almost ten years before Jimi Hendrix would electrify the rock world with his high-voltage voodoo blues, Buddy Guy was shocking juke joint patrons in Baton Rouge with his own brand of high-octane blues. Ironically, when Buddy’s playing technique and flamboyant showmanship were later revealed to crossover audiences in the late Sixties, it was erroneously assumed that he was imitating Hendrix." Stevie Ray Vaughan once declared that Buddy Guy "plays from a place that I've never heard anyone play." Vaughan continued:
Jeff Beck affirmed:
According to Jimmy Page: “Buddy Guy is an absolute monster” and “There were a number of albums that everybody got tuned into in the early days. There was one in particular called, I think, American Folk Festival Of The Blues, which featured Buddy Guy—he just astounded everybody.” Former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman: “Guitar Legends do not come any better than Buddy Guy. He is feted by his peers and loved by his fans for his ability to make the guitar both talk and cry the blues… Such is Buddy’s mastery of the guitar that there is virtually no guitarist that he cannot imitate.” Guy has opened for the Rolling Stones on numerous tours since the early 1970s. Slash: "Buddy Guy is the perfect combination of R&B and hardcore rock and roll." ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons: "He (Buddy Guy) ain't no trickster. He may appear surprised by his own instant ability but, clearly, he knows what's up." Lonnie Brooks: “Buddy Guy is a master. He’s the bravest guitar player I’ve ever seen on a bandstand. He’ll pull you into his trap and kill you. He owns that bandstand and everyone knows it when Buddy’s up there." Image:Guy performing with the Rolling Stones at the Orpheum Theatre, Boston Image:Buddy Guy.
|Hoodoo Man Blues||1965||Delmark||w/ Junior Wells band|
|Chicago/The Blues/Today! vol. 1||1966||Vanguard||w/ Junior Wells band|
|It’s my Life, Baby!||1966||Vanguard||w/ Junior Wells band|
|I Left My Blues in San Francisco||1967||Chess|
|A Man and the Blues||1968||Vanguard|
|Coming At You||1968||Vanguard|
|This Is Buddy Guy (live)||1968||Vanguard|
|Hot And Cool||1969||Vanguard|
|First Time I Met the Blues-Python||1969|
|Buddy and the Juniors||1970||MCA||w/ Junior Mance & Junior Wells|
|South Side Blues Jam||1970||Delmark||w/ Junior Wells and Otis Spann|
|In The Beginning||1971||Red Lightnin’|
|Play The Blues||1972||Rhino||w/ Junior Wells|
|Hold That Plane!||1972||Vanguard|
|I Was Walking Through the Woods||1974||Chess||rec. 1960–64|
|Got to Use Your House||1979||Blues Ball|
|Alone & Acoustic||1981||Alligator|
|Drinkin' TNT 'n' Smokin' Dynamite (live)||1982||Blind Pig||rec. 1974 Montreux Jazz Festival|
|DJ Play My Blues||1982||JSP Records|
|Dollar Done Fell||1982||JSP Records|
|The Original Blues Brothers (live)||1983||Blue Moon|
|Ten Blue Fingers||1985||JSP Records|
|Atlantic Blues: Chicago||1986||Atlantic|
|Live at the Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago-1979||1988||JSP Records|
|Breakin Out||1988||JSP Records|
|I Ain’t Got No Money||1989||Flyright|
|Alone & Acoustic||1991||Alligator||rec. 1981 w/ Junior Wells|
|Damn Right, I've Got the Blues||1991||Silvertone/BMG|
|Buddy's Baddest: The Best of Buddy Guy||1991||Silvertone|
|My Time After Awhile||1992||Vanguard|
|The Very Best of Buddy Guy||1992||Rhino/WEA|
|The Complete Chess Studio Recordings||1992||Chess||2 CD, 1960–67|
|Live at Montreaux||1992||Evidence||w/ Junior Wells|
|Feels Like Rain||1993||Silvertone|
|Live: The Real Deal||1996||Silvertone|
|Buddy's Blues||1997||Chess "Chess Masters"|
|Buddy’s Blues 1978-1982: The Best of the JSP Recordings||1998||JSP Records|
|As Good As It Gets||1998||Vanguard|
|Last Time Around - Live at Legends||1998||Jive||w/Junior Wells|
|This Is Buddy Guy||1998||VMD|
|Buddy’s Baddest: The Best of Buddy Guy||1999||Silvertone|
|The Complete Vanguard Recordings||2000||Vanguard|
|Every Day I Have the Blues||2000||Purple Pyramid||w/ Junior Wells|
|20th Century Masters: The Millennium: The Best of Buddy Guy||2001||MCA|
|Double Dynamite||2001||AIM Recording Co.||Import|
|Chicago Blues Festival 1964 (live)||2003||Stardust|
|Jammin’ Blues Electric & Acoustic||2003||Sony|
|Live At the Mystery Club||2003||Quicksilver|
|A Night of the Blues||2005||w/ Junior Wells - Master Classics|
|Bring 'Em In||2005||Jive|
|Can't Quit The Blues:Box Set||2006||Silvertone/Legacy Recordings|
|Live: The Real Deal||2006||Sony||w/ G.E. Smith & Saturday Night Live Band|
|Baby Please Don’t Go||Chess||Import|
|The Super Duper Blues Band||Chess||Import|