Born: July 30, 1936 Primary Instrument: Guitar, electric
The Blues' most electrifying guitarist, Guy has remained a vital and current musician, moving blues forward without losing sight of its roots. He’s renowned for his raw, blistering vocals and high-voltage guitar playing. Guy regards himself as a “caretaker of the blues.” Having learned from the likes of Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Guitar Slim and Magic Sam, he explains, “I just take what they taught me and keep adding to it.”
George “Buddy” Guy was born in 1936 in Lettsworth, Louisiana. His earliest influences included T-Bone Walker, Lightnin’ Slim and Lightnin’ Hopkins - blues musicians who were all uniquely expressive stylists and showmen. Guy’s high-energy showmanship also owed a debt to Guitar Slim, of “The Things That I Used to Do” fame. Along the way, he developed his own style, typified by a fierce, staccato attack and tense, single-note solos.
He spent a year and a half playing with John “Big Poppa” Tilley’s band in Baton Rouge. After sending a tape to Chess Records, Guy headed to Chicago in 1958 to seek his fortune. He drew attention on the club circuit for his fiery fretwork and showmanship. With assistance from his friend and fellow bluesman, Magic Sam, Guy got signed to Cobra Records (releasing a few singles on its Artistic subsidiary). A year later Cobra folded and Guy - along with label mates Willie Dixon and Otis Rush - moved to Chess, where he played recorded from 1960 to 1967.
Guy’s Chess sides never won the recognition that accrued to some of his labelmates, but he scored a hit with “Stone Crazy,” his fourth single for the label. Another highlight of his Chess tenure was “When My Left Eye Jumps,” a menacing slow blues penned by Willie Dixon. While at Chess, Guy also served as an in-house guitarist, playing on sessions for Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Koko Taylor and others. One landmark recording backing Muddy Waters, “Folk Singer,” was cut in 1963 and released in the spring of 1964. Notably, he performed on Koko Taylor’s “Wang Dang Doodle” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor.”
Taking notice of the evolving blues-rock scene in England, Guy left Chess in 1968 and moved to Vanguard Records, where he cut the classic albums “A Man and His Blues,” and “Hold That Plane.” In 1970 “Buddy and the Juniors,” a trio of Guy, harmonica player Junior Wells and pianist Junior Mance, was released on Blue Thumb. Guy’s partnership with Wells yielded the 1972 album “Buddy Guy and Junior Wells Play the Blues.” A spontaneous, tradition-minded blues set, released on Atco Records. There were no fewer than 20 releases under Guy's name during the 1970s and '80s, the best of them collaborations with Junior Wells. But by the time the Eighties became the Nineties, Guy amazingly didn't even have a domestic record deal.
Buddy signed with Silvertone records in 1990, and the labels goal was to bring him the stature he deserved as a recording artist.His first three albums for Silvertone the 1991 comeback smash “Damn Right, I've Got the Blues,” 1993's “Feels Like Rain,” and 1994's “Slippin' In,” all earned Grammy Awards.
Guy's legend has only grown throughout the Nineties and the early 21st century. Subsequent releases like the eminently satisfying “Live: The Real Deal,” (1996), the daring “Heavy Love,” (1998) and 2001's “Sweet Tea,” have demonstrated that Guy, while firmly ensconced in his blues roots, has always tried to keep his music looking forward, even at the risk of alienating lovers of traditional blues sounds. The story continues with “Blues Singer,” a 2004 acoustic set in which Guy covers favorites by such peers as Skip James, Son House and John Lee Hooker. “Bring ‘Em In.” was released in 2005.
In recognition of Buddy’s seventieth birthday, in 2006 he released a box set “Can’t Quit the Blues,” on Legacy. This is a compilation of his career, and includes a DVD with him narrating his life story. This set is superbly reviewed by Jim Santella here at ‘all about jazz.’
Any discussion of Buddy Guy invariably involves a recitation of his colossal musical resume and hard-earned accolades. He's a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, a pioneer of Chicago's fabled West Side sound, and a living link to that city's halcyon days of electric blues.
Buddy has received five Grammy Awards, 23 W.C. Handy Blues Awards (the most any artist has received), the Billboard Magazine Century Award for distinguished artistic achievement, and the Presidential National Medal of Arts.
Yet despite this long list of achievements, Buddy Guy and his music remain as vital as ever. In 2008 Buddy appeared on the big screen nationwide with a show-stopping performance in Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones concert film, Shine A Light. At the age of 72, he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone for the first time, as part of the magazine's 100 Greatest Guitar Songs package (his cataclysmic 1961 recording of Stone Crazy made the list).
Guy in 2008 released “Skin Deep,” an album of all original material, with guest appearances from fellow guitar wizards Eric Clapton, Robert Randolph, Susan Tedeschi, and Derek Trucks, adding yet another dimension to this master's legendary career.
2010 saw the release of Living Proof, which further solidifies his status as a living legend of the Blues !
Source: James Nadal