"The blues are the roots and the other musics are the fruits"
March 5, 2019 1:23 PM   Subscribe

Buddy Guy Is Keeping the Blues Alive

An all too brief soundtrack compiled by The New Yorker:

Guitar Slim, The Things That I Used to Do, 1953
John Lee Hooker, Boogie Chillen, 1948
B. B. King, How Blue Can You Get? live at Cook County Jail, 1973
Muddy Waters, Got My Mojo Workin' live at Newport, 1960
Otis Rush, I Can’t Quit You Baby, 1956
Howlin' Wolf and the Rolling Stones on Shindig! 1965
Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, Hoodoo Man Blues in Montreux, 1974
Buddy Guy, Stone Crazy, 1961
Buddy Guy playing an acoustic version of Muddy Waters's Hoochie Coochie Man, 1969
Robert Johnson, Cross Road Blues aka Crossroads, 1937
Cream featuring Eric Clapton, Crossroads live, 1968
Buddy Guy, Five Long Years in Bern, 2000
Buddy Guy, Damn Right, I've Got the Blues in Newport, 1994
Buddy Guy with the Rolling Stones, Champagne and Reefer, in New York
Buddy Guy, A Few Good Years, 2018
posted by peeedro (11 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man. Thanks for this.

Buddy Guy is eighty-two and a master of the blues. What weighs on him is the idea that he may be the last. Several years ago, after the funeral of B. B. King, he was overcome not only with grief for a friend but also with a suffocating sense of responsibility. Late into his eighties, King went on touring incessantly with his band. It was only at the end that his wandering mind led him to play the same song multiple times in a single set. With King gone, Guy says, he suddenly “felt all alone in this world.”

My first time seeing him in the early aughts was when he was touring with B.B. King and I'm so, so glad I was at that show. It was great.

Flash forward to last year, and I went to see him at this show in Toronto, and he did his usual running-through-the audience-while-soloing thing (like so, although this is from a 2017 show at the same venue).

And he was, in fact, running. At age 81. It was a great show. Long may he run.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:42 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]

He put out an all acoustic album that made me raise an eyebrow and ask "How's that gonna work?" It's great, I really dig both Crawlin' King Snake and Hard Time on the Killing Floor.
posted by peeedro at 2:43 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]

Great profile of a great man. I saw him at the Chicago Blues Festival thirty years ago, great to know that he's still out there playing.
posted by octothorpe at 3:37 PM on March 5

Looks like he's got an upcoming gig at Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa with his protégé Christone "Kingfish" Ingram opening.
posted by larrybob at 3:42 PM on March 5

Am I gonna tell my Buddy Guy story here? Oh hells yes I am, grab a beer, let's go: So I'm 16, just got a driver's license and live in the sticks of Tennessee. In a world where country music predominates, me and a friend are only interested in the blues. Turns out, Buddy Guy is playing a little club south of Broadway in Nashville, (328 Performance Hall, if that means anything to anyone...) what else can we do but plan a road trip? One snag, I'm 16, my friend is 15 and it's an 18 and up club. Well, the blues has absolute sway over our lives, so we just go and try to figure out a plan on the way. We decide to find a random adult and ask them to be our "parents" for the night. We get to the club and nervously approach someone who seems ancient to us, but was in reality only in their late twenties, and they laughingly agree to help us sneak in. So we get up to the door and the bouncer stares us down and we can only meekly call out "Mom?" before the kind stranger disappears into the club. She seamlessly turns around, and says, "Come on boys!" and we scamper into the club before the bouncer can complain.

Anyway, on to Buddy. He comes out, plays a mean set and then he gets to the part of the set where he walks around the audience. I'm sort of lost in the middle of this sweaty crowd jumping and bouncing to a heavy funky beat when the person next to me moves aside and there's Buddy Guy and his trademark polka-dot guitar standing two feet from me. He stops, obviously amused to see a 16 year old kid at his show and looks me in the eye and speaks words that still send shivers down my spine, "Son, you look like you got the blues." Then he chords the guitar and motions me to hit the strings. For what seemed like years he tears up and down the neck of his guitar as I dumbly strum it. Then he looks at me, and winks and says, "That's blues power, boy, feel it!" and walks off into the crowd. The rest of the show is a bit of a blur, I got Resse Wynan to sign my ticket, and bumped into Steve Earle in the parking lot, but I don't remember much else.

Back in the car with ears ringing, in a haze of sweat and secondhand smoke, barely awake and with an hour drive ahead, my friend asked me if I saw Buddy walk into the crowd, I look at him in shock, he'd missed the whole event. I only mumble that I did and we take off for home.

When I tell him the whole story the next day he looks at me seriously and after a moment's pause says, "I'm not sure I can ever talk to you again."

TL:DR: Buddy Guy has so much blues power he can give it to a skinny 16 year old white kid in the middle of Tennessee and still have it stick 20 some years later. If you get the chance, go see this man. Get you some blues power.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 4:55 PM on March 5 [47 favorites]

Used join up with friends who saw him every time he played Toronto in the mid-80s. I have a pretty clear memory of him in bigger rooms like Albert's Hall but also Grossman's Tavern, which was just grimy little restaurant with no real stage and only seated about 70 people....just working out that he must’ve been the age I am now (and I’m ok with that).
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:28 PM on March 5

An acquaintance produced a Buddy Guy appearance in Montreal at the Spectrum, sometime around 1990. I designed the poster, which I never even got a copy of, because she couldn't keep the poster up anywhere – people kept stealing it. I got in to see the show for free, and it was great, even though I was more into electronic stuff at the time.
posted by zadcat at 7:38 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]

I missed him when he came very nearby to me, 2 or years ago, like an idiot, mostly because tickets were almost $100.

In Andy Summers' autobiography, he tells a story about selling a Les Paul to Eric Clapton* (I think it's the one of the ones that he used in Cream, with a psychedelic paint job). He went over to Clapton's flat and he was playing a Buddy Guy record. "Aha," thought Summers. "So that's what he's been stealing from".

* Summers was around the British music scene for a long time before The Police started; he used to be a sort of standard blues-rock guitar player, before he went to California, studied classical guitar and jazz, and developed a unique style.
posted by thelonius at 7:24 AM on March 6

The first time I saw him live was at his club in Chicago, the night of my 21st birthday. He did the "running-through-the audience-while-soloing thing" that mandolin conspiracy mentioned, and being the age now that he was then, it's amazing the energy he had then, and miraculous what he has now.
And the alchemy he practiced that night was gob-smacking; his blues just lit the room up with joy and celebration.
He's such a treasure . . .
posted by pt68 at 3:36 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]

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