If Buddy Guy's exit left people scratching their heads, I bet everyone loved the way Billy Boy Arnold made his entrance. Bill Wax and Big Lou were amiable hosts for the evening but as with most award show emcees, a little of the hosts goes a long way. Arnold didn't wait for them to stop talking or to be introduced before kicking into "My Little Love Machine." After finishing it, Arnold told the crowd the songs he was doing tonight were first performed by people he knew. He then gave a fun performance of Tampa Red's "She's Love Crazy." Both songs are from the BMA-nominated Chicago Blues - A Living History album. Billy Boy was a classic and for those of you who don't know, Arnold played harp on some of those early Bo Diddley sides.
The surprise of the night for me came in the form of Guy Davis. I have known his name for awhile now but hadn't bought any of his CDs. That will change when I pay off some of my trip to Memphis. I don't know the names of either song he performed but he opened with a wonderful acoustic blues before breaking out his harmonica and giving a performance that had him singing a Capella and filling in with some great harp breaks. I became a fan.
In addition to the four awards taken home by Tommy Castro, another of the evening's big winners was Louisiana Red. Red is an interesting character. Buddy Guy doesn't look near his 73 years of age and even Billy Boy Arnold looks like he can get around pretty well for a man in his later years. Red looked the part of that aging blues man when he was accepting his awards but all that seemed to melt away when he got his guitar in his hands to play "Back To The Black Bayou," the title track to one of his two nominated albums. I've heard hundreds of slide players but none of them quite like Red, who sounded like he was trying to pierce the sky with those squealing highs.
You won't see my name when you read the companion piece to this article detailing the award winners at the 31st Blues Music Awards last night in Memphis but I feel like the biggest winner of them all. In addition to the magic that happened on Thursday night, I got witness a phenomenal set from Nick Moss & The Flip Tops at the Rum Boogie Cafe before they were joined by a series of legendary talents. At one point, Hall of Famers Charlie Musselwhite and Pinetop Perkins were joined by surefire future Hall of Famer Duke Robillard. Dave Keller, David Maxwell, Patrick Rynn, Eugene Bridges, and Curtis Salgado also joined in the unforgettable night. I stood one foot from Buddy Guy as he personally autographed my BMA poster.