“Heaven is lying at Buddy Guy’s feet while listening to him play guitar.”
Blues revival started 40 years ago; its peak was experienced a couple of generations back in time.
Legendary bluesmen are getting old, both B.lues B.oy King and David “Honeyboy” Edwards aren’t boys anymore and played their farewell European tour recently.
Technology and computers are booming and today’s music discovers different influences with sounds often closer to a mathematical equation for a dancefloor than a vehicle for emotions. It’s not regret, just a remark.
Very few young blues bands are successful enough to attract the younger generation and in addition to good songs they have to use clever marketing strategies: a creative image curator, as the White Stripes, or a cool producer as The Black Keys. Even so, some interesting bands haven’t survived, 22-20s in England or Detroit’s Soledad Brothers are just two recent examples.
Buddy Guy seems to have realized that he has a key role on the future of the blues. Today he has the authority, the knowledge, the technique and the presence to ferry the blues across the two millennia.
So true, during his latest tour instead of just playing his music he is touring blues history from its roots to rock.
“Buddy Guy is the perfect combination of R&B and hardcore rock and roll.”
“Buddy Guy ain’t no trickster. He may appear surprised by his own instant ability but, clearly, he knows what’s up.”
(Billy Gibbons – ZZ Top)
“Buddy Guy is an absolute monster”
More than a monster, today he looks like a peaceful old man. Smiley and funny, intense and patient, emotional and technically unequalled. He has a body language and a stage presence that make his concerts entertaining beyond the music.
He can play guitar with anything found on a stage. From a towel to a drum stick, he was soloing with his tooth when Jimi was a kid and tapping with his left hand sipping a tea with the right when Stanley Jordan wasn’t born.
“Geez, you can’t forget Buddy Guy. He transcended blues and started becoming theatre. It was high art, kind of like drama theatre 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.”
Buddy is the grandfather I would want next to the fireplace to tell me blues stories.
As any respected bluesman, he hasn’t had an easy life.
Born in Louisiana “where nothing is too spicy or too hot” moved to Chicago as many of his “buddies”.
He joined Chess playing as session guitarist for almost everyone in the label from Muddy Waters to Koko Taylor.
His style was considered too loud to Chess standards to have some solo records.
Too much noise, too much feedback, too much.
Blues revival helped him.
Guy left Chess to move to Vanguard, his albums with Junior Wells are the quintessential sound of West Side Chicago. Chess, that haven’t published a single Buddy Guy album since, started to publish his recorded material on the wave of Brit-blues explosion.
“Jesus, that’s the shit you’ve been trying to sell me for the last 12 years, and now it’s sellin’ like hotcakes!”
(Leonard Chess, Head of Chess records talking to Buddy Guy about Brit-Blues bands)
It didn’t last more then a decade before blues was forgotten again, it couldn’t get along with the eighties synth(etic) sound.
The blues albums from the eighties today sound overproduced, I dream listening to a Stevie Ray Vaughan album produced a couple of decades later by someone as Jack White.
It needed, as usual, Eric Clapton commitment to keep his blues alive. He called Guy to play for some Royal Albert Hall concerts along with Robert Cray on his blues band.
“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.”
Since then, Buddy Guy blues life revived to never drop again.
His Silvertone career in the nineties produced several excellent blues albums. From the Grammy winner Damn Right, I’ve got the Blues! to the wonderful rediscover of the Delta roots in Sweet Tea, containing a breathtaking cover of Juniour Kimbrough’s Done get old.
23 W.C. Handy awards, 5 Grammy awards, both Blues and Rock’n’Roll Hall of fame inductee, Buddy Guy is a living blues legend.
“Buddy Guy plays from a place that I’ve never heard anyone play.”
(Stevie Ray Vaughan)
“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”
At 72, Buddy Guy incessantly tours from USA to Japan to European festivals including a recent and acclaimed Glastonbury performance. His shows more than proper concerts are accurate blues lessons.
He spans from Muddy Waters’ Hoochie Coochie man, so intense I had to stop photographing to sit down listening, to Cream’s Strange Brew where the sound of Clapton’s guitar materialize while he mimics his singing. From John Lee Hooker’s classic Boom Boom to Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo child performed with all the tricks including the tooth solo.
“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.”
His guitar is a board where he draws the scheme, he highlights the notes, he can play so quiet you can listen the beer being spilled at the nearby bar and turn so loud to make those glasses burst in pieces.
“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.”
(Stevie Ray Vaughan)
During his classic Damn Right, I’ve got the Blues he leaves the stage to walk among the ecstatic crowd with an interminable solo picking notes that apparently come out of a guitar but in reality origin straight from his heart. From the stalls to the women toilet, upstairs in the balcony then back down trough the mixer never arresting his flows of blue notes.
“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.”
Then there is a microphone. You can play the blues but singing the blues is a different matter. Humming It Feels like Rain he asks the people to sing along, he is not joking, he takes it seriously. Moaning about the heartless result roars “when they turn on the light I can see who is fucking up the song!”. He wants people to feel what he does; seeking for a resonance between his inner chord, his guitar’s chord and the thousands in front of him.
“…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?!”
(Stevie Ray Vaughan)
Blues isn’t emotional for everyone, either you are in or out, there is no grey zone, no way to get into if you don’t feel it. That ain’t no problem or, as Buddy Guy made it clear accepting the Hall of Fame induction:
“If you don’t think you have the blues, just keep living.”
Bad Luck is a recurrent them in blues symbology. It appears and comes back in myriad of lyrics and is against bad luck that voodoos and pagan rites transferred into the most wonderful blues songs.
So, it is not surprising that bad luck hit me with a couple of diabolic intervention during Buddy Guy concert. Some pictures spoilt by the magic influx of some devilish entity.
I haven’t gave up hope, just a bit of creativity and I created a place for them. A “photo tip” to share with all photographers the frustration of that perfect shot that was messed up by some supernatural reason!
Don’t despair folks, it happens, but it’ll come a day when luck is back on your side.
I still resist suggesting burst mode , even if it is a competent solution, I believe risk is to obtain impersonal, uninspired results.
During the three songs slot I often hear state-of-the-art DSLR shutters shooting continuously, pursuing the statistical hope of a good snapshot out of a multitude.
I am old fashion, still waiting for the right moment, right frame, right feel. I still have to count up to 36 before rushing to change the film which isn’t always possible. In the end, I am still photographing, not filming with a SLR.
While I search for a better tip, my suggestion is to keep listening to the blues and take note of the voodoo recipes you meet. If you come up with something useful, you are very welcome to share!