Buddy Guy was born 74 years ago today in Lettsworth, Louisiana. He is a member of the Blues Hall of Fame, Rock & Roll Fall of Fame, has won Grammy Awards and this year received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Blues Foundation. He was a pioneer of a blues style popularized on Chicago’s West Side, a style that heavily influenced Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and generations of American and British guitarists who in turn helped define lead guitar in rock and roll music. He didn’t do it alone nor is he solely responsible, but his contributions are immeasurable both for the quality of the music he created and the influence it has had for more than 50 years.
I could rattle off a 74-song Buddy Guy birthday playlist but we’d be here all day and I’d still have left something really good out. I’m not going to attempt comprehensive.
Instead, I’m going to share with you a few of my favorite Buddy Guy songs from different periods of his career, reflecting on the legacy and achievements of one of the great musicians to walk the earth and one of my absolute favorites.
Happy Birthday, Buddy, and thank you.
- “My Time After Awhile:” Oh where was this song when I was getting dumped or passed by? This is one of the great kiss off songs ever. “It’s your time now baby, oh, but it’s gonna be my time after awhile.” Buddy didn’t write this, but he delivers that unmistakable torrent of passion characteristic of so many of his great performances.
- “Stone Crazy:” Another classic from his time with Chess Records. Recording technology had expanded by the time he recorded this in 1961, but seven minute songs were still a rarity. You get plenty of great Buddy Guy guitar on this one.
- “A Man And The Blues:” Buddy left Chess Records in part because of creative differences he had with Phil and Leonard Chess. Freer to make the music he wanted to make, he cut A Man & The Blues for Vanguard backed by Otis Spann on piano and Jack Meyers on bass. This title track is six glorious minutes of pure Chicago blues, including some great interplay between Guy and Spann.
- “My Home’s In The Delta:” Buddy played second guitar on this song when Muddy Waters recorded it for his classic Folk Singer record. Guy took lead on it when he and longtime friend and partner Junior Wells recorded it for Alone & Acoustic. Wells handles vocals on this and Buddy picks that acoustic guitar. Guy isn’t as well known for his acoustic work but unplugging never posed a problem for him.
- “Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues:” After his glorious run at Chess and highly successful work at Vanguard, Guy dropped off the map for awhile. Someway, somehow he found an opportunity to have that great second act and it started with this title track from his 1991 album for Silvertone. The production is a little slick and the album is a bit heavy on guest guitarists (as if Buddy needs any help in the guitar department) but this album allowed him to remind America what a force he was and could still be. He hasn’t slowed down since.
- “Look What All You Got:” Sweet Tea is my favorite of Buddy’s latter-day work. Where Damn Right was a little too slick, the production on Tea tends towards a very thick, swampy sound and sometimes feels like an excessively mannered over-correction, but this sound serves Guy’s blues better than slick does and there are moments when everything just clicks, like on this track.
That is a small slice of the great music Guy has made over the years. There are so many songs I’ve left out and that’s where you come in. What are your favorite Buddy Guy moments?