Buddy Guy

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Buddy Guy
Buddy 9960.jpg
Buddy Guy performing and interacting with the crowd
Background information
Birth name George Guy
Born (1936-07-30) July 30, 1936 (age 87)
Lettsworth, Louisiana, United States[1]
Genres Chicago blues, electric blues, Blues Rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1953–present
Labels RCA, Cobra, Chess, Delmark, Silvertone, MCA, Atlantic, MPS, Charly, Zomba Music Group, Jive, Vanguard, JSP Records, Rhino Records, Purple Pyramid, Flyright, AIM Recording Co., Alligator Records, Blues Ball Records
Associated acts Junior Wells
Website http://www.buddyguy.net/
Notable instruments
Fender Buddy Guy Signature Stratocaster

George "Buddy" Guy (born July 30, 1936[2]) is an American blues guitarist and singer. He is an exponent of Chicago blues and has influenced guitarists including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, John Mayer and Stevie Ray Vaughan. In the 1960s, Guy played with Muddy Waters as a house guitarist at Chess Records and began a musical partnership with harmonica player Junior Wells.

Guy was ranked 30th in Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.[3] His song "Stone Crazy" was ranked 78th in Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.[4] Clapton once described him as "the best guitar player alive".[5]

Guy's autobiography, When I Left Home: My Story, was published in 2012.[6]

Early life

Buddy Guy at Monterey Jazz Festival 1992. Photo: Brian McMillen

Guy was born and raised in Lettsworth, Louisiana, United States.[1] Guy began learning guitar on a two-string diddley bow he made. Later he was given a Harmony acoustic guitar, which, decades later in Guy's lengthy career was donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


In the early 1950s Guy began performing with bands in Baton Rouge. While living in Baton Rouge, Guy worked as a custodian at Louisiana State University.[1]

Soon after moving to Chicago on September 25, 1957,[1] 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.[7]

Guy’s early career was impeded by both conservative business choices made by his record company (Chess Records) and "the scorn, diminishments and petty subterfuge from a few jealous rivals"[citation needed]. 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 Records founder, 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 was released as a single. 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.

In 1965 Guy participated in the European tour American Folk Blues Festival.

He appeared onstage at the March 1969 Supershow at Staines, England, that also included Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Jack Bruce, Stephen Stills, Buddy Miles, Glenn Campbell, Roland Kirk, Jon Hiseman, and The Misunderstood. But by the late 1960s, Guy's star was in decline.

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.

Guy performs an annual residency at his Chicago blues club Buddy Guy's Legends each January.[8]


Buddy Guy in 1993 performing in Toronto, Canada

While Guy's music is often labelled 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 music critic Jon Pareles noted in 2004:

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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.

In an interview taped April 14, 2000, for the Cleveland college station WRUW-FM, Guy said:

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The purpose of me trying to play the kind of rocky stuff is to get airplay...I find myself kind of searching, hoping I'll hit the right notes, say the right things, maybe they'll put me on one of these big stations, what they call 'classic'...if you get Eric Clapton to play a Muddy Waters song, they call it classic, and they will put it on that station, but you'll never hear Muddy Waters.


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

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. Vaughan stated that, "Without Buddy Guy, there would be no Stevie Ray Vaughan." 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 ...[where?]
Buddy Guy at the Liri Blues Festival, Italy, in 1989

In addition, Guy's pathfinding guitar techniques also contributed greatly to rock and roll music. His 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."[citation needed]

Clapton has stated that he got the idea for a blues-rock power trio 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."[where?]

Eric Clapton said "Buddy Guy was to me what Elvis was for others." Clapton said 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." While inducting Buddy into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Eric Clapton said "No matter how great the song, or performance, my ear would always find him out. He stood out in the mix. Simply by virtue of the originality and vitality of his playing." [9]

Buddy Guy performing in 1999

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 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, Junior Wells. The record, released in 1972, is regarded by some critics as among the finest electric blues recordings of the modern era.[citation needed]

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."[citation needed]

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." (In 1993, Guy covered "Red House" on Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.)

Guy performing at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2006

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?!

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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.

— Jeff Beck

Beck recalled the night he and Stevie Ray Vaughan performed with Guy at Buddy Guy's Legends club[10] 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."

According to Jimmy Page, "Buddy Guy is an absolute monster." "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."[citation needed]

Singer-songwriter and guitarist John Mayer, who has performed with Guy on numerous occasions (including with Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival and on PBS's Soundstage) and collaborated with him on Guy's 2005 album Bring 'Em In, cited on several occasions that Buddy Guy was one of his top influences.

Former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman:

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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."

Guy was a judge for the 6th and 8th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists.[11]

Guy appeared and performed in an episode of the popular children's show, Jack's Big Music Show, as the "King of Swing". Guy has influenced the styles of subsequent artists such as Reggie Sears[12] and Jesse Marchant of JBM.[13]

On February 21, 2012, Guy performed in concert at the White House for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle.[14] During the finale of the concert Guy successfully encouraged the President to sing a few bars of "Sweet Home Chicago".[15]


On September 20, 1996, Guy was inducted in Guitar Center's Hollywood Rockwalk.[16]

Guy has won six[17] Grammy Awards both for his work on his electric and acoustic guitars, and for contemporary and traditional forms of blues music. In 2003, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. This medal is awarded by the President of the United States of America to those who have made extraordinary contributions to the creation, growth and support in the arts in the United States.[18] By 2004, Guy had also earned 23 W.C. Handy Awards, Billboard magazine's The Century Award (Guy was its second recipient) for distinguished artistic achievement, and the title of Greatest Living Electric Blues Guitarist.

Guy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 14, 2005, by Eric Clapton and B.B. King. Clapton recalled seeing Guy perform in London’s Marquee Club in 1965, impressing him with his technique, his looks and his charismatic showmanship. He remembered seeing Guy pick the guitar with his teeth and play it over his head—two tricks that later influenced Jimi Hendrix.[citation needed] Guy’s acceptance speech was concise: "If you don’t think you have the blues, just keep living." Guy previously served on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s nominating committee.

In 2008, Buddy Guy was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, performing at Texas Club in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to commemorate the occasion.

In October 2009, he performed "Let Me Love You Baby" with Jeff Beck at the 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concert.[19]

On November 15, 2010, Guy performed a live set for Guitar Center Sessions on DirecTV. The episode also included an interview with Guy by program host Nic Harcourt.[20]

On December 2, 2012, Guy was awarded the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors.[21] At his induction, Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein made the commendation, "Buddy Guy is a titan of the blues and has been a tremendous influence on virtually everyone who has picked up an electric guitar in the last half century".[22] He was honored that night along with Dustin Hoffman, Led Zeppelin (John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant), David Letterman and Natalia Makarova.[23]

On January 28, 2014, Guy was inducted into Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.[24]

Personal life and family

Several people in Buddy Guy's family are musicians. His brother, Phil Guy, was also a blues musician. Buddy's daughter, Rashawnna Guy, is a rapper whose stage name is Shawnna. Buddy's son, Greg, also performs blues guitar.[25]

From 1991 to 2002, he was married to Jennifer Guy.[26] The marriage ended in divorce.[27]


Solo studio albums

I Left My Blues in San Francisco 1967 Chess [28]
A Man and the Blues 1968 Vanguard [28]
Hold That Plane! 1972 Vanguard [28]
Stone Crazy! 1979 Alligator [28]
Breaking Out 1980 JSP [28]
DJ Play My Blues 1982 JSP [28]
Damn Right, I've Got the Blues 1991 Silvertone/BMG Won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album[28]
Feels Like Rain 1993 Silvertone Won the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album[28]
Slippin' In 1994 Silvertone Won the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album[28]
Heavy Love 1998 Silvertone [28]
Sweet Tea 2001 Jive Nominated for the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album[28]
Blues Singer 2003 Silvertone Won the 2003 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album[28]
Bring 'Em In 2005 Jive
Skin Deep 2008 Jive [28]
Living Proof 2010 Jive Won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album[29]
Rhythm & Blues 2013 RCA Records
Born to Play Guitar 2015 RCA Records

Live albums

Album Year Label Notes
This Is Buddy Guy (Live) 1968 Vanguard [28]
The Dollar Done Fell 1980 JSP re-released in 1988 as Live at the Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago-1979
Drinkin’ TNT ’n’ Smokin’ Dynamite 1982 Blind Pig Rec. 1974 at the Montreux Jazz Festival
Live at Montreaux 1992 Evidence with Junior Wells
Chicago Blues Festival 1964 2003 Stardust
Jammin’ Blues Electric & Acoustic 2003 Sony A compilation of tracks from Live: The Real Deal and Last Time Around - Live at Legends
Live at the Mystery Club 2003 Quicksilver Reissue of Every Day I Have the Blues
Live: The Real Deal 2006 Sony with G.E. Smith & the Saturday Night Live Band (reissue)
Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino 2007 Vanguard with Joss Stone and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, performing "Every Night About This Time".
Live at Legends 2012 RCA/Silvertone


Album Year Label Notes
First Time I Met the Blues 1969 Python
In the Beginning 1971 Red Lightnin’
I Was Walking Through the Woods 1974 Chess rec. 1960–64
Hot & Cool 1978 Vanguard [28]
Got to Use Your Head 1979 Blues Ball [28]
Buddy Guy 1983 Chess
Ten Blue Fingers 1985 JSP A compilation of tracks from Breaking Out and DJ Play My Blues
Chess Masters 1987 Charly
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
Southern Blues 1957-63 1994 Paula PCD-26
Buddy’s Blues 1997 Chess "Chess Masters" series
Buddy’s Blues 1978-1982: The Best of the JSP Recordings 1998 JSP
As Good as It Gets 1998 Vanguard
Blues Master 1998 Vanguard
Buddy’s Baddest: The Best of Buddy Guy 1999 Silvertone
The Complete Vanguard Recordings 2000 Vanguard
20th Century Masters: The Millennium: The Best of Buddy Guy 2001 MCA
Can't Quit the Blues: Box Set 2006 Silvertone/Legacy
The Definitive Buddy Guy 2009 Shout! Factory His first single-disc career - spanning CD
Icon 2011 Geffen/Chess Same track listing as 20th Century Masters: The Millennium: The Best of Buddy Guy

Collaborative albums

Album Year Label Notes
Hoodoo Man Blues 1965 Delmark with Junior Wells Band
Chicago / The Blues / Today!, Vol. 1 1966 Vanguard with Junior Wells Band
It’s My Life, Baby! 1966 Vanguard with Junior Wells Band
Berlin Festival - Guitar Workshop 1967 MPS with various artists, Long Play released in Argentina by Microphone Argentina S.A. (1974)
Coming at You 1968 Vanguard with Junior Wells Band[28]
Buddy and the Juniors 1970 MCA with Junior Mance & Junior Wells[28]
Buddy & Junior Mance & Junior Wells 1971 Harvest (UK) UK release of Buddy and the Juniors[28]
South Side Blues Jam 1970 Delmark with Junior Wells and Otis Spann
Play the Blues 1972 Rhino with Junior Wells
Buddy & Phil Guy 1981 JSP (1024) with Philip Guy, also P-Vine CD 23886 (2007)
Going Back 1981 Isabel with Junior Wells, LP released only in France
The Original Blues Brothers 1983 Blue Moon with Junior Wells
Atlantic Blues: Chicago 1986 Atlantic with various artists
I Ain’t Got No Money 1989 Flyright with various artists[28]
Alone & Acoustic 1991 Alligator CD reissue of 1981's Going Back plus 5 more songs from the sessions
Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix 1993 Reprise with various artists, performed "Red House"
Live: The Real Deal 1996 Silvertone with G.E. Smith & the Saturday Night Live Band
Last Time Around - Live at Legends 1998 Jive with Junior Wells
Every Day I Have the Blues 2000 Purple Pyramid with Junior Wells
Double Dynamite 2001 AIM with Junior Wells
A Night of the Blues 2005 with Junior Wells - Master Classics - reissue of Every Day I Have the Blues

See also


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  4. "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time" at the Wayback Machine (archived May 31, 2008). Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2011-01-25. "Cut in 1961 for Chess, the full seven minutes of this blinding blues went unreleased for nearly a decade. Guy solos with a steel-needle tone, answering his own barking vocal with dizzying pinpoint stabs. 'I don't know how to bend the string', he told RS. 'Let me break it.’"
  5. Buddy Guy. Rolling Stone archive. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  6. Guy, Buddy with Ritz, David. (2012) When I Left Home: My Story, Cambridge: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81957-5
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  16. Guitar Center's Hollywood Rockwalk Retrieved October 7, 2013.
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  20. Guitar Center Sessions with host Nic Harcourt Retrieved July 1, 2013.
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  23. Gans, Andrew. "Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, Natalia Makarova, Buddy Guy, Led Zeppelin Are Kennedy Center Honorees" playbill.com, September 12, 2012
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  28. 28.00 28.01 28.02 28.03 28.04 28.05 28.06 28.07 28.08 28.09 28.10 28.11 28.12 28.13 28.14 28.15 28.16 28.17 28.18 28.19 Buddy Guy > Discography > Main Albums from Allmusic
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Further reading

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External links