George Guy was born in 1936 in Lettsworth, Louisiana. His parents were sharecropper and he was one of five children raised on a plantation, 140 miles northwest of New Orleans. Aged seven Buddy learned to play the guitar on a homemade two string diddley bow. He was almost 17 before he owned his first guitar but by this time he had seen Guitar Slim.
Eddie "Guitar Slim" Jones was a New Orleans blues guitar player with a wild stage act. He wore bright-coloured suits and dyed his hair to match. Part of his stage act was to have an assistant follow him around the audience with up to 350 feet of cord between amplifier and guitar. Occasionally for effect he would get up on his assistant's shoulders, or take his guitar outside the club whilst playing and bring traffic to a stop. Young Buddy was determined to master the same showman techniques whilst sounding like BB King. He was all of thirteen years of age.
By the mid 50s Buddy started his professional career playing with bands in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Then in1957 he went to Chicago and quickly got work at the 708 Club. The money was not so good and an almost starving Buddy harboured thoughts of returning to Louisiana. He met Muddy ‘Mud’ Waters and the two musicians became great friends. In 1958 Buddy signed with Cobra Records, and then in 1959 he joined Chess Records. Guy was a first-call session man and worked with many if the blues greats including: Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Koko Taylor and many others. Despite his undoubted talent the musician was constrained as a session man and curtailed from improvisation.
This would frustrate Buddy but not lessen his joy in working with many of his heroes. Chess were reluctant to promote him as a solo artist believing his extrovert style too over the top to be commercially successful. As a live performer he was par excellent and his reputation soon caught the attention of the new wave UK rockers. In 1965 he toured the UK playing with his trio and his on stage antics such as playing the guitar with his feet, teeth, and one handed behind his back had the likes of Keith Richard, Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck in absolute awe.
Back in the USA, Guy continued to be held back whilst Chess continued not to promote him. In the mid-sixties he recorded sessions with Junior Wells for Delmark Records under the pseudonym Friendly Chap.
In 1967 Chess did release the album, "Left My Blues in San Francisco" but most of the songs were soul rather than blues.
The following year Buddy Guy left Chess. In 1969 he was back in the UK, this time on stage playing with many of his admirers. That included Jimmy Page (Led Zepplin), Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton among many others. In 1972 Buddy Guy and Junior Wells (mouthorgan and vocals) released Play the Blues album which was co-produced by Eric Clapton, Ahmet Ertegün and Tom Dowd.
The album is still regarded among the finest electric blues recordings of the modern era. Despite his influence on the emerging hard rock genre including Jimmy Hendrix and Angus Young (ACDC), Guy’s career declined over the next two decades. During these times blues men found it difficult to continue and many sadly left the music business. By the late 80’s Buddy Guy did not have a domestic record deal but then in 1990 Eric Clapton invited him to be part of his ‘24 Nights’ all-star blues guitar line up at the Royal Albert Hall.
Once rediscovered the guitarist signed for Silvertone Records and his first three albums ‘Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues’ (reissued in 2005), ‘Feels Like Rain’ and ‘Slippin’ In’ all sold very well.
Since the mid 90's the veteran bluesman has not looked back and become an international star in his own right. Buddy Guy remains a great showman and will frequently go walkabout into the audience on his cordless guitar. He loves to interact with his audience and entertains them with genius antics only a guitar maestro of his stature could perform. Guy’s guitar playing is still both loud and aggressive as he continues to play an eclectic mix of ‘roots’ blues, Chicago Blues, avant-garde rock, soul and free jazz.
Worth a listen
Wee wee baby (1963)
I Suffer With The Blues (1967)
She Suits Me To A Tee (1967)
Leave My Girl Alone (1967)
A man and the blues (1990)
I cannt quit the blues (1990)
Money (thats what I want) (1990)
Just playing my axe (1990)
Sweet home Chicago
Junior Wells (as Friendly Chap)
Goodmorning little schoolgirl (1965)
Hoodoo man blues (1965)
Buddy Guy and Junior Wells
A man of many words (1972 )
I don't know (1972)
Bad bad whiskey (1972)