PROFILE
Name:
Buddy Guy
Birth Date:
July 30, 1936
Birth Place:
Lettsworth, Louisiana, USA
Nationality:
American
BIOGRAPHY
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I’ve Got the Blues

Background:

"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." Rock guitarist and singer/songwriter Eric Clapton

Five-time Grammy-winning blues and rock guitarist and singer Buddy Guy, known for his showmanship that includes playing his guitar with drumsticks, is famous as the inspiration for Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, as well as other blues and rock legendary guitarists.

“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.” Former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman

Considered an important exponent of Chicago blues, Buddy garnered critical acclaim for his album “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues” (1991; reissued in 2005), which was recorded with the assistance of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Mark Knopfler. It entered Billboard’s Top 200 album chart and went gold. He was also praised for his albums “Feels Like Rain” (1993), which included contributions from Bonnie Raitt, Travis Tritt and John Mayall, and “Slippin’ In” (1994). He recently recorded “Bring ‘Em In” (2005) with Carlos Santana and John Mayer and "Can't Quit The Blues: Box Set" (2006).

“If you don’t think you have the blues, just keep living.” Buddy Guy

Most recently, in 2008, Buddy, who has opened for the Rolling Stones on numerous tours since the early 1970s, appeared as himself in "Shine a Light," the Martin Scorsese-directed documentary about The Rolling Stones' two 2006 performances that took place during the rock and roll band's A Bigger Bang tour. He will next be seen alongside Tommy Lee Jones, Mary Steenburgen, John Goodman, and Peter Sarsgaard in an upcoming drama/fantasy film called "In the Electric Mist."

With a career spanning almost half a century, Buddy has influenced a new generation of artists with his energetic blues and blues rock. His songs have been covered by Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayall, Jack Bruce and others. He received a (USA) National Medal of Arts in 2003 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.


Louisiana Native

Childhood and Family:

"I'm from Louisiana, where nothing is ever too spicy or too hot." Buddy Guy

In Lettsworth, Louisiana, George Guy, who would later be famous as Buddy Guy, was born on July 30, 1936, to farmer/woodcutter Sam Guy. The middle child of five, Buddy has two older sisters, Annie Mae and Fanny, and two younger brothers, Sam and Phillip.

As a child, Buggy, who tended to be lazy and ate more than usual, helped his parents pick cotton for approximately two dollars per hundred pounds. He recalled, 'Working with Daddy and Mama, you don't get paid, but on a Saturday morning my parents would always let me pick for a half-day on this other man's field to earn a few dollars. That way, I had my own wages too and it made a better man out of me. I was raised that way, to respect people like I wanted respect.''

He was also good at fishing and hunting and got his first gun at age 10.

While tying to graduate from McKinley Senior High School, Buddy worked at a job pumping gas at a service station. After his mother suffered a stroke, he left school to work full time as a custodian at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, for which he earned $28 per week. He used the money to fund his younger brothers' educations.

“Back then, you could go to the grocery store with just three dollars and you needed help to bring the groceries back!” Buddy Guy

Buddy is the proud father of female rapper Shawnna and son Michael.


Inspiration for the Legends

Career:

"I was 13 or 14 when my dad finally got electric lights run to our house and I watched the guy throw up the electricity and put the one bulb down the center of my parents’ house. It was in a year that their crop made 'em maybe 60 bucks in profit, and dad said, 'Well I'm going to get a radio and an old phonograph!' And that's the first time l heard Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, and the Chess Records stuff, and John Lee Hooker, whose 'Boogie Chillen’ was the first record I bought myself." Buddy Guy

Born in a house with no electricity, Buddy Guy tried to make his own “guitar” at age 7. He would later own an actual guitar, a Harmony acoustic that now proudly sits on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

After working at a gas station and becoming a custodian at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Buddy, who has performed with bands in Baton Rouge, got the idea of moving to Chicago where he played the guitar at night and worked during the daytime.

“I didn’t leave Louisiana to be a professional musician. That didn’t even cross my mind. I just wanted to go to work and come in a club at night and watch Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Little Walter and them play the blues like it’s supposed to be done. I thought maybe I could learn something and then go home and play it. I didn’t plan this. I still don’t think I’m good enough to do it.” Buddy Guy

Within months of his arrival in Chicago in 1957, Buddy, whose earliest influences included T-Bone Walker, Lightnin’ Slim and Lightnin’ Hopkins, landed a gig in the city's fabled 708 Club and drew attention on the club circuit for his fiery fretwork and showmanship. He also got a chance to meet his idol, Muddy Waters.

Buddy recalled the meeting, “He [Muddy] threw down that loaf of bread and that salami that was the lunch we used to have in the cotton fields. I never will forget that, man. People were sayin’, ‘That’s the Mud!’ Nobody called him Muddy Waters. When he asked me if I was hungry and he said who he was, I said, ‘Well, if you’re Muddy Waters, I’m not hungry no more.’ Just meeting him filled me up.”

Buddy was then introduced to Cobra Records owner Eli Toscano, who signed him to Cobra's Artistic subsidiary in 1958. He recorded two singles, "Sit And Cry/Try To Quit You Baby" (1958) and "This Is The End/You Sure Can't Do" (1959), the latter supported by Ike Turner and his band. Unfortunately, Cobra folded and after a competition with West Side guitarists Magic Sam and Otis Rush, Buddy became a first-call session man at the Chicago-based record label Chess Records.

Buddy recorded his debut single for Chess, “Sit and Cry (The Blues),” which was written by Willie Dixon and was eventually released on the Artistic label. He recalled, “I was always coached. I didn’t know any damn thing. When Willie Dixon and other people came in, if they thought I was something new that they could cash in on, I didn’t have no say-so. I was almost told how to play the guitar with the session going on. I didn’t have the freedom. I never was free on those recordings.”

In March 1960, Buddy's first session at Chess Records as a solo artist yielded the classic “First Time I Met the Blues” and his single “Stone Crazy” (1962), entered Billboard’s R&B chart, peaking at #12. He also recorded the menacing slow blues “When My Left Eye Jumps” (1962), written by Willie Dixon. His only album for Chess, "Left My Blues in San Francisco," was eventually released in 1967. Chess also underestimated Buddy's talent by using him mainly as an in-house guitarist to back Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf (''BuiIt For Comfort," "Killing Floor"), Little Walter ("Dead Presidents"), Sonny Boy Williamson ("One Way Out''), Koko Taylor ("Wang Dang Doodle," "Love You Like A Woman''), and others.

“I wanted to play like B.B. King but act like Guitar Slim.” Buddy Guy

Meanwhile, in December 1960, Buddy recorded “Ten Years Ago,” the first of many collaborations with harmonica player Junior Wells. In 1965 and 1966, he recorded sessions with Junior Wells for Delmark Records under the pseudonym Friendly Chap. His reputation quickly spread to Great Britain following his first trip to the country in February 1965 where he shared stages with the Yardbirds and Rod Stewart.

After cutting the 1967’s album “I Left My Blues in San Francisco,” his last effort for Chess, Buddy ended his contract with the label in 1968. He recounted, "When I got ready to go to Vanguard, that's when Chess came to me and found out that Eric and his Cream and the Stones and Beck was hollering. Leonard came and told us, 'Jesus, that's the s*** you've been trying to sell me for the last 12 years and now it’s sellin' like hotcakes!' He bent over and said, 'Kick me!'"

Buddy then moved to Vanguard Records where he cut the classic albums “A Man and His Blues” and “Hold That Plane.” The following year, he became a star at the 1969 Supershow at Staines, in England, that also included Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Jack Bruce, Stephen Stills, Buddy Miles, Glen Campbell, Roland Kirk, and Jon Hiseman. He also won attention from rock audiences through appearances at the Fillmore auditorium and his support of the Rolling Stones' 1970 tour.

Unfortunately, Buddy's career began to decline. He released “Blue Thumb” (1970), an informal acoustic session involving Buddy Guy, Junior Mance and Junior Wells, and the duo album “Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play the Blues” (1972), which was produced two years earlier by Eric Clapton, Ahmet Ertegun and Tom Dowd and was released on Atco. He also performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 1974 with a band that included Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, pianist Pinetop Perkins and harmonica player Junior Wells, which would be released years later as “Drinkin’ TNT ‘n’ Smokin’ Dynamite.”

In 1982 in the U.K., Buddy issued “DJ Play My Blues,” which will be his last recording for nine years. Later, in 1989, he opened Legends, a blues club that became a favorite hangout for blues musicians in Chicago.

"See, l pray a lot these days and one thing I pray for is to know naturally what to play whenever the time comes. It's like when I did Albert Hall with Eric Clapton. He told me not to rehearse, not to plan or take suggestions. I agreed, saying, 'The people will let me know what to play.' He nodded, adding, 'And the band will follow wherever you lead.'” Buddy Guy

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw Buddy's career revive again thanks to Clapton who requested he be part of the 24 Nights all-star blues guitar lineup at London's Royal Albert Hall in February 1990. He subsequently signed with Silvertone Records and released three commercially successful albums, “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues” (1991; reissued in 2005), which was recorded with the assistance of Clapton, Jeff Beck and Mark Knopfler and entered Billboard’s Top 200 album chart and went gold, “Feels Like Rain” (1993), which included contributions from Bonnie Raitt, Travis Tritt and John Mayall, and “Slippin’ In” (1994), all three of which earned Grammy Awards. Buddy also received Billboard’s prestigious Century Award in 1993.

“I had got it in the back of my mind that I’d just keep playing because I felt that I hadn’t had a chance to really express myself with my singing and my guitar. Nobody would listen to me, but I wasn’t gonna stop playin’. So they gave me a chance to do 'Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues,' and when it came out, they told me it was on Billboard and with a bullet. I didn’t even know what the hell that was, man! But I guess somebody must have been listening to me.” Buddy Guy

However, Buddy's next releases, “Live: The Real Deal” (1996), a live album recorded in New York and Chicago with pianist Johnnie Johnson, guitarist G.E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band, “Heavy Love” (1998), and “Sweet Tea” (2001), which was recorded at a rural studio in north Mississippi, performed modestly on the charts. He also received a (USA) National Medal of Arts in 2003 and recorded “Blues Singer,” a 2004 acoustic set in which Guy covers favorites by such peers as Skip James, Son House and John Lee Hooker. He recently recorded “Bring ‘Em In” (2005) with Carlos Santana and John Mayer and released his first ever box set, “Can’t Quit the Blues” (2006).

An impassioned and influential guitarist as well as a current-day music icon, Buddy Guy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 14, 2005.

“This all reminds me of something my mother used to tell me. She said, ‘If you got the flowers for me, son, give ‘em to me now so I can smell ‘em‘ cause I’m not gonna smell ‘em when you put ‘em on the casket.’” Buddy Guy

Most recently, in 2008, Buggy, who has opened for the Rolling Stones on numerous tours since the early 1970s, appeared as himself in "Shine a Light," the Martin Scorsese-directed documentary about The Rolling Stones' two 2006 performances that took place during the rock and roll band's A Bigger Bang tour.

Buggy is set to appear in an upcoming drama/fantasy film called "In the Electric Mist," director Bertrand Tavernier's big screen adaptation of the novel "In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead" by James Lee Burke. He will share the screen with Tommy Lee Jones, Mary Steenburgen, John Goodman, and Peter Sarsgaard.


Awards:

  • Won five Grammy Awards

  • 23 W.C. Handy Awards

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2005

  • (USA) National Medal of Arts, 2003

  • Billboard magazine: The Century Award; for distinguished artistic achievement

  • Billboard magazine: Greatest Living Electric Blues Guitarist

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© Sony Pictures Classics
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© Sony Pictures Classics

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