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Buddy Guy

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.

Biography

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.

Music

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.

As New York Times pop music critic Jon Pareles noted in 2004:

Mr. Guy, 68, mingles anarchy, virtuosity, deep blues and hammy shtick in ways that keep all eyes on him... [Guy] loves extremes: sudden drops from loud to soft, or a sweet, sustained guitar solo followed by a jolt of speed, or a high, imploring vocal cut off with a rasp...Whether he's singing with gentle menace or bending new curves into a blue note, he is a master of tension and release, and his every wayward impulse was riveting.

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.

Entertainer

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."

Influence

For almost 50 years, Guy performed flamboyant live concerts of energetic blues and blues rock, predating the 1960s blues rockers. As a musician’s musician, he had a fundamental impact on the blues and on rock and roll, influencing a new generation of artists.

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:

Without Buddy Guy, the blues, not to mention rock as we know it, might be a heckuva lot less interesting today. Take the blues out of contemporary rock music—or pop, jazz and funk for that matter—and what you have left is a wholly spineless affair. A tasteless stew. Makes you shudder to think about it...

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:

Buddy can go from one end of the spectrum to another. He can play quieter than anybody I've ever heard, or wilder and louder than anybody I've ever heard. I play pretty loud a lot of times, but Buddy's tones are incredible…he pulls such emotion out of so little volume. Buddy just has this cool feel to everything he does. And when he sings, it's just compounded. Girls fall over and sweat and die! Every once in a while I get the chance to play with Buddy, and he gets me every time, because we could try to go to Mars on guitars but then he'll start singing, sing a couple of lines, and then stick the mike in front of me! What are you gonna do? What is a person gonna do?!

Jeff Beck affirmed:

Geez, you can’t forget Buddy Guy. He transcended blues and started becoming theater. It was high art, kind of like drama theater when he played, you know. He was playing behind his head long before Hendrix. I once saw him throw the guitar up in the air and catch it in the same chord.
Beck recalled the night he and Stevie Ray Vaughan jammed with Guy at Buddy Guy’s Legends club in Chicago: “That was just the most incredible stuff I ever heard in my life. The three of us all jammed and it was so thrilling. That is as close you can come to the heart of the blues.” Image: Jeff Beck with Guy.

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.

Awards

Guy previously served on the Hall of Fame’s nominating committee. Guy has won five Grammy Awards both for his work on his electric and acoustic guitars, and for contemporary and traditional forms of blues music. By 2004, Buddy Guy had also earned 23 W.C. Handy Awards (more than any other artist has received), Billboard magazine's The Century Award (Guy was its second recipient) for “distinguished artistic achievement,” the title of Greatest Living Electric Blues Guitarist, and the National Medal of Arts (awarded by the President to those who have made extraordinary contributions to the creation, growth and support in the arts in the United States).

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Guy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 14, 2005 by Eric Clapton and B.B. King. Clapton recalled in 1965, seeing Guy perform in London’s The Marquee Club and was impressed by Guy’s playing, his looks, his star power. He remembered seeing Guy pick the guitar with his teeth and play it over his head—two tricks that later influenced Jimi Hendrix. Guy’s acceptance speech was concise: “If you don’t think you have the blues, just keep living.”

The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame

In 2008, Budy Guy was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame while performing at Texas Club, Baton Rouge, LA.

Discography

Album Year Label Notes
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
Blues Today 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
Stone Crazy 1981 Alligator
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
Buddy Guy 1983 Chess
The Original Blues Brothers (live) 1983 Blue Moon
Ten Blue Fingers 1985 JSP Records
Atlantic Blues: Chicago 1986 Atlantic
Chess Masters 1987 Charly)
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
Slippin' In 1994 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
Heavy Love 1998 Silvertone
Last Time Around - Live at Legends 1998 Jive w/Junior Wells
This Is Buddy Guy 1998 VMD
Blues Master 1998 Vanguard
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
Sweet Tea 2001 Silvertone
Double Dynamite 2001 AIM Recording Co. Import
Blues Singer 2003 Silvertone
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
Skin Deep 2008 Zomba
->
Album Year Label
Folk Singer Chess
Baby Please Don’t Go Chess Import
The Super Duper Blues Band Chess Import
Muddy Waters Chess

References

  • “Damn Right I've Got the Blues: Buddy Guy and the Blues Roots of Rock-And-Roll (1993) by Donald Wilcox and Buddy Guy, Duane Press 1999 paperback: ISBN 0-942627-13-X

See also

External links

Magazine articles

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