Friday, July 30, 2010

Buddy Guy turns 74

The man that Eric Clapton once called the greatest guitar player alive turns 74 today. Happy birthday Buddy Guy.

Born in 1936 on this date, Buddy has had an illustrious career, both as a student of the Blues genre, and also as a teacher. He mastered his craft under the tutelage of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Little Walter, to name a few. He went on to invent his own style that was copied by many... Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Clapton amongst others.

"Buddy Guy was to me what Elvis was for others," Clapton said in a 1985 Musician magazine article. "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."

Quite an honor from somebody not known to throw out a lot of praise.

Stevie Ray himself once stated that "Without Buddy Guy there would be no Stevie Ray Vaughn." His loud and distorted melodies are indeed a force to be reckoned with, and when you throw in his voice... His magical sweet voice, it takes the blues to places that the godfathers never dreamed of.

Stevie also observed, "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?!"

I can attest to this as I personally have had the opportunity to see Mr. Guy three times. The first was in the late '80s at the Davenport Blues Festival. He came onto the stage and it was as if the world stopped spinning. I had seen some damn good guitarists up to that point, including Clapton and SRV, but I had never seen anything like what Buddy Guy was doing that night. He played his electric with such thunderous power that I thought I witnessing God's house band. I saw him again a year later in Des Moines and then once again in '98 in Austin, Texas. Each time I felt that angelic spirit, and each time I was blown away. His style and demeanor was second to none, and I always got the impression that he not only loved what he was doing, but also that he loved his fans. He made every effort to "check in" with us by wandering out into the audience, even going as far as carrying his chordless electric into the men's room at the Adventureland Theater at the Des Moines show to surprise unsuspecting people using the urinals. Imagine their astonishment when they turned around from doing their duty to see Buddy Guy standing there playing his heart out, as well as the huge crowd that followed him in. There was no previous indication that he was there... The sound still came from the speakers and monitors on the stage... The difference was that Buddy had become part of the show instead of being the show. The real pageantry for those brief moments was the unsuspecting men using the bathroom and their legitimate amazement after they turned around.

This world is a beautiful place by itself... But because Mr. Guy is in it, it systematically becomes magical. It's beauty is radiated 10 million times by his mere presence, and those of us in the know are blessed to have been graced with his glory. 74 years old. Man... Doesn't time fly by when you are having fun.

Happy birthday Buddy!

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