Personalities | Buddy Guy | Legend of Live Licks | Guitar Heroes

One of the young gunslingers who invigorated the blues in the 1960s, Buddy Guy (b. 1936) wowed audiences with high-octane guitar histrionics and energy that were matched by a tortured vocal manner.

Guy is a master of dynamics, allowing a song to drift towards oblivion before suddenly bringing it back to a crescendo of intensity. Notable fans have included Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. Guy is essentially a live performer who has found it hard to channel his unpredictable virtuosity into the confines of a recording studio.

George Guy was born into a sharecropping family in Lettsworth, Louisiana, and started playing in and around Baton Rouge in his teens. It wasn’t until 1957 that he moved north to Chicago, where he was encouraged by his idol, Muddy Waters, and developed his own style, a mixture of the showmanship of Guitar Slim and the rapid-fire phrasing of B.B. King.

He signed with Chess, Chicago’s premier label, in 1960, and his first session produced the harrowing ‘First Time I Met The Blues’. He scored a rhythm and blues hit with ‘Stone Crazy’ in 1962, but most of his own recordings remained unreleased (possibly due to internecine politics), although he appeared on countless records by Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Koko Taylor. His first British visit in 1965 with the American Folk Blues Festival launched his prestigious fan club. He also started a long-lasting and fruitful relationship with harmonica player and singer Junior Wells. The duo played together on Hoodoo Man Blues (1965), It’s My Life Baby! (1966), Play The Blues (1972) and Drinkin’ TNT ‘N’ Smokin’ Dynamite (1982), recorded at the 1974 Montreux Jazz Festival.

The 1970s and 1980s were a lean period for Buddy Guy recordings, and it wasn’t until Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues (1991), which featured Clapton, Beck and Mark Knopfler, followed by Grammy-winning Feels Like Rain (1993) and Slippin’ In (1995), that he started achieving commercial success. In 2003, Guy was awarded the National Medal of Arts. He was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2005 and continues to tour. In February 2012, he performed at the White House for US President Barack Obama.

Guy has had a long relationship with Fender, preferring to play a Stratocaster through a Fender Tweed Bassman (4 x 10).

Essential Recordings

with Junior Wells: Play The Blues

Solo: Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues

Solo: Feels Like Rain

Solo: Slippin’ In

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