Having reviewed the ‘R&B’ set, our scribe is eager to speak with the guitar legend. Buddy is on a bit of a crusade, as Pete finds out…..
BM: Good morning Mr Guy – we want to put you on the cover of Blues Matters and talk about your new recording if that’s ok with you, sir?
BG: Yes, that’s fine !.
Where are you now? Are you in Chicago?
Yeah I’m at home for a couple of days and then we go back out for about three weeks. I’m finishing on November 23rd.
Ok. Now I’ve been listening closely to the ‘Rhythm and Blues’ album and I’ve reviewed it in the magazine. I ask how many artists of your age are still so lively and so electric? What’s the secret, Mr Guy? What’s the secret to doing this?
(Laughs ) We just went into the studio and …y’know ,throughout my whole career; I’ve been trying to hopefully make something that can get a little more airplay cause’ for some reason America (and around the world, I think), they just don’t play blues records regularly on the radio any more. It’s four’oclock in the morning, one day a week something like that…
Yeah…you have to search it out !
… Man, I want to fly the blues flag ! That’s why with ‘Rhythm and Blues’ I had some slow blues on it, then I tried to pick up the tempo to get a kind of dance beat and hopefully I can get some airplay. Cause’ my main concern right now is keeping the blues alive and there’s only a couple of us left who are still travelling and that’s me and B.B. King. He’s eighty-eight years old and I’m seventy seven. Blues is kind of scary now !
When American guests come over here, such as a friend of mine from New York HItMan we do your hits like ‘When My Left Eye Jumps’, in tribute to you at shows..
Well thank you so much. Me and B.B. King always talk ‘every little bit helps’. I had bad reviews in newspapers and B.B said ‘Even if you get bad news Buddy, you made the paper!’
Mr Guy, you’ve got some notable guests on this set. Did you approach them or did they approach you? How does it work?
Well you know, just about every musician I know.. we’re friends man. It’s all music. I mean Beth (Hart) she was there when I received the Kennedy Award about three or four months ago and I love her voice. She can sing. Kid Rock, I’ve been knowing him for a while and the tune we did with him was for my late friend Junior Wells. That was his biggest record. I said ‘With your name being Kid and the song being called ‘Messin With the Kid’ I thought he was beating me to it. He laughed and said ‘Yeah I’ll come in’ and he did a good job with it
I think so. I saw you two at the Hammersmith Odeon do that song. You and Junior
Oh yeah. He’s missed so very much.
I thought that you were the template for guitar and harp duets. There’s no act using that configuration that doesn’t owe a debt to you
Well thank you so much
Now Tom Hamdridge I know from his own recordings. This man knows how to get the best out of Buddy Guy, does he not?
I’m sure you know about the late Willie Dixon…
In the Muddy Waters days and Howlin Wolf and people like that who create that Chicago sound. Willie Dixon was affiliated with it and Tom has that approach, y’know ? whenever I’d talk to Tom like I’m talking to you now, he’d have a thing, he’d say ‘You don’t realise Buddy when you just talk to anybody you’re writing songs.’ I’d say ‘I didn’t get a high school education, so I used to listen to my parents, uncles and aunties a lot. The older people would say things that were associated with everyday life.’ He’d say ‘Man this is kind of strong.’ Especially when we wrote the one my dad always used to tell me ‘Son, whatever you do don’t be the best in town. Just be the best ‘.
Ok. You see, Tom Hambnridge to me is like a picture framer. He’s getting those songs sounding with the right collection of musicians, the right weight and the right light touch. He’s framing what you’re doing
Well he’s great at that, I agree. He played drums on all that and I didn’t know he was that good on drums when I met him! I used to dig the late Ritchie Hayward who passed away
Yes indeed, saw him with Little Feat…
He said ‘I can play this.’ So I said ‘Show me.’ When he’s stopped playing I said ‘I don’t need to go no further.’ This guy’s got all kinds of talents
If I was pressed to play one cut from RnB to illustrate what’s going on I’d probably go for Devil’s Daughter’. How do you get such a deep performance, because it’s very haunting that track
Well you know, during the Willie Dixon days at Chess Records I didn’t learn to play by the books. I taught myself how to play and I always was a pretty good listener. I would just go in there and play. Some of these British acts were saying they were picking stuff up from me. Like Eric, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck. He said that he listened to me and I said ‘What did you hear?’ I didn’t know I was coming up with a Buddy Guy sound and I still don’t feel like that. I’d go into the studio and Tom he’d close the door and say ‘I want you to do what you do best.’
Right. I really love the track with Beth Hart.
That girl is unbelievable. There’s this little kid I’m trying to get exposed called Quinn…
I heard him on Mick Martin’s radio show on Saturday and he said he was fourteen ?
He’s amazing. Do you know when I first met him he was seven years old ? He can play like Eric Clapton, me, B.B King. Beck and all these people, On Beth, chills come over when you hear her sing. ‘I said ‘If I could get her to do something on this record.’ She was at the award show and I heard her sing. I said ‘If I could get her to sing on the record then maybe I can sell a few more albums.’
It’s a beautiful pairing, man. It sounds like you’re living that song out
Yeah she did a tremendous job
Now I’ve got two (three I suppose) real favourite Buddy Guy albums. I really like ‘Feels Like Rain’ and on that album you do Marvin Gaye’s ‘Trouble Man.’ Did you ever meet Marvin Gaye?
Not in person but he was such a great guy. Actually, I was doing that album and that song it wasn’t scheduled to be on the album and the producer heard me fooling around with it in the studio and said ‘Man you can do that and we can put it on the album’ I loved Marvin, he was doing his thing in those Motown days..said ‘If you don’t have any money, hang around with somebody who’s got money!’
(Laughs) The other song of yours I really love is called ‘Man of Many Words’ and that’s on ‘Buddy and Junior Play the Blues’ on Atlantic That is such a blazing song. How did you sound so intense on that?
When I come play in person, I forget about myself. My parents told me: ‘When you give a hundred per cent and someone don’t like you they can still say ‘I didn’t like him, but I can tell he gave me everything he had.’ I don’t like to cheat nobody out of nothing. If I give you the best that I’ve got that’s all I can offer. I hope everybody would do that. That cut, I kinda took off there !!
Right. That delivery thing goes if you’re an actor or a painter, Buddy?
Oh yeah.Whatever you’re creatin’
Will you play any dates in Europe to support RnB?
I haven’t been there in a few years. But if I’m invited back I’d never refuse to come to Europe because I came to London in February 1965 and Rod Stewart and The Yardbirds toured England with me. Neither of those guys was a superstar like they are today. Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck they’d be at that concert and they didn’t know blues could be played on a Stratocaster. I said ‘What do you mean?-
At the time, we had seen Buddy Holly with a Stratocaster and we didn’t know you could make it sing like a horn
Well that’s EXACTLY what they told me. I was just trying to make people happy, which I still do. When I go to the stage I just go to make someone happy because if you go and play my main concern is just let me make you happy. We’ve got so many people in the world unhappy. Everybody’s got a problem. Music speaks in all languages. I just try to make people smile and if people pay to see me I just wanna give you the best that I’ve got..lift you
John Lee Hooker said ‘Blues is the healer.’
Yeah! Pete – the first time I met John Lee Hooker I was not in America. I met him in Europe because they would bring us together over there. Over here we were just blues players and we’d play blues clubs. Now we come to Europe and people would say ‘Bring on the music!’
I tell you what it was cause I was a young guy growing up hearing your stuff. I saw Jimi, Stevie Ray but the Chess Records you made, are so intense that they will live forever. It is captured on a record. Captured for us to enjoy many years later
Thank you so much. I love the people over there. They’ve been supportive of me ever since I’ve been coming over there. I just hope I can be a little explosive because there’s only a few of us left. We lost all the greats we learnt everything from. John Lee, Big Mama Thornton, Muddy, Wolf, Walter I could go on till tomorrow naming those great blues players who have helped create the blues that we’re still trying to keep alive.When I do a show, I simply come out and try to let people know where I got it from. I’m not an original. I learnt to play by listening to Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins and all those people like that.
Yes sir. Hey, you play bass on the ‘Super Super Blues Band’ album with Bo, Muddy and Wolf!
Oh yeah. Like I said, my education came from those people. I didn’t learn it from a book, I don’t read music. If it wasn’t for them I don’t know if you’d be talking to me this morning so I owe them all the credit in the world for what I learned. I learned by listening to those ‘78s, ‘45s and I still listen to them. But the youngsters, well…
I’ll tell you what happens. I play a lot of live shows and young kids will come up to me after we’ve done, say ‘Let Me Love You’…’ Did you write that last one?’ I go ‘Hell no! That’s from Willie Dixon or Buddy Guy or McKinley Morganfield.’ They write it down and off they go. Kim Simmonds told me about Albert Collins when I was a kid !
That’s the history of the music. Even Hip-Hop, my youngest daughter is into Hip-Hop and she said ‘Daddy it’s your music, we’re just doing it a different way.’ Muddy Waters came into Chicago and they amplified the harmonica with Little Walter and the people were like ‘What IS this?’ Anyhow thank you very much Pete and I need all the support I can get. Whatever you can do, you can always contact me through Annie and I’d be more than happy cause’ whatever can help the blues. My ears and eyes are open for anything you wanna ask
I’m in your corner. You be well
Special Thanks to Annie, Jordan, Betsie, Al and Glenn
Buddy Guy’s ‘ Rhythm & Blues’ album is out now on RCA.