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The Rock & Roll HoF’s forgotten Man

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I nearly had whiplash when I first heard Buddy Guy had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of its Class of 2005. My initial reaction: “Damn right! Buddy Guy is going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!” But as this began to sink in I started to have a much different reaction: “What the hell took so damn long? How did we get all the way to 2005 without Buddy Guy in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?”

I know what you are thinking and you are wrong. This is not just the petulant indignation of an unreasonable and devoted fan. OK … so it is not just the petulant indignation of an unreasonable and devoted Buddy Guy fan. My incredulity at the lateness of this honor comes not from being a Buddy Guy fan but from being a rock and roll fan with at least some sense of musical history. Rock and roll just could not be the same without Buddy Guy.

It has long been accepted that rock and roll traces its roots back to the blues (check out Muddy Waters’ “The Blues Had a Baby and They Called it Rock and Roll”). There have been a lot of great blues artists and they collectively created the breeding ground for Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and Elvis to spring forth what we now call rock and roll.

That a connection exists between the work of Robert Johnson and artists like the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton may be accepted but it might not be immediately obvious to all listeners. There has to be a bridge between Johnson’s haunting, acoustic work and today’s titans of the electric guitar. Where is the place where Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues” and Cream’s “Crossroads” meet?

Buddy Guy is that intersection. He is the blues and he is rock and roll.

Some rock players try and think the blues and some blues players have tried their hands at rock and roll. Buddy Guy does either or both – sometimes in the same song and it never sounds anything but authentic and inspired. He never had to learn the blues to fuse them with his playing the way so many of today’s guitar gods have. On his terrific album Slippin’ In he sings a song, “Don’t Tell Me About the Blues.” While some British and southern white kids were trying to figure out how to combine Robert Johnson and Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy was doing it. And he is still doing it and doing it better than most.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can take solace in the fact they are not the only ones who were a little too slow on the draw when it comes to recognizing Guy’s special ability to merge rock and the blues. He tells a great story about this in the liner notes to his package released by Rhino Records (“The Very Best of Buddy Guy”):

“When I got ready to go to Vanguard, that’s when Chess came to me and found out that Eric and his Cream and the Stones and Beck was hollering,” says Guy. “Leonard came and told us, ‘Jesus, that’s the shit you’ve been trying to sell me for the last 12 years, and now it’s sellin’ like hotcakes!’

“He bent over and said, ‘Kick me!’ “

Buddy Guy: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Well deserved and long overdue.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks DJR, very nice and well-deserved tribute! He rocked at the Induction ceremony despite some audio issues, ore than held his own with BB and Clapton

  • I really enjoyed writing the piece. I spent most of the day listening to Buddy Guy while writing about Buddy Guy. Not a bad way to kill some time. I was passionate about the subject when I started writing this. I felt all the more passionate after listening to his music for several hours.

  • Eric Olsen

    that’s a good sign! and that’s what came through

  • DJR,

    I launched this on the world – or at least the part of the world that scours Advance.net for the (family-friendly) cream of the BC Web log.

    Here’s the link. Sorry here.

    – Thanks. Temple

  • Awesome, I was thinking about writing just the same thoughts and couldn’t have put my thoughts into words as well.

    I’m taking my grandmother to see Buddy on wednesday and I can’t wait.

  • Tony

    Very well written, DJRadiohead. As you said, “Rock and roll just could not be the same without Buddy Guy.” Your insightful observations come “from being a rock and roll fan with at least some sense of musical history.” Unfortunately, most rock fans don’t know about Guy or his place in classic rock music history. TV/radio stations neglect seminal artists like Guy and articles such as Ree Hines and Helen A.S. Popkin’s “Hall of Famers or just a bunch of Pretenders” (MSNBC) add to the ignorance.

    Further info on Buddy Guy’s impact on rock music can be found in this link:


    Listen to Buddy Guy and find out for yourself. Check out Guy’s albums listed by DJRadiohead or in my link. Or get official bootlegs of his live shows from http://www.piratebootlegs.com for Voodoo Child (Jan 17), I’m Going Down To Louisiana (Jan 29), Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues (Jan 9). Or surf for an unofficial bootleg titled It’s Still Called The Blues (aka Champagne and Reefer), which features a crazy 1989 jam with Stevie Ray Vaughan, whom Guy took to school…just as he did to Slash last year.


    What if Buddy Guy never existed? What would have been its impact on rock music? Guy stimulated the development of blues-rock and hard rock in the 1960s – he inspired the development of the wave of blues-oriented, guitar-led bands employing highly amplified, often spectacular guitar performances. This included bands/artists such as from Rolling Stones, Cream, Jeff Beck Group, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Derek and the Dominos, Black Sabbath, ZZ Top to Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Black Crowes, The White Stripes, etc.

    – First, Buddy Guy had been playing his live version of high-voltage blues and blues rock since the late 1950s, predating blues rockers. Guy’s live performances recorded in American Folk Festival of the Blues albums and on his 1965 England tour exposed his radical music to a new wave of 1960s British musicians (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, etc.) eager to soak it up, repackage it, and turn around and sell it to Americans as the hip new thing. Guy remained unknown because his record label refused to record music similar to his live sets, and instead used him mainly as a session guitarist.

    – Second, Guy was the contemporary bridge between American blues music (Chicago electric blues pioneers Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, etc.) and 1960s rock and roll (Clapton, Hendrix, etc.).

    – Third, the electric guitar’s role in 1960s rock and roll music was advanced by Buddy Guy’s pathfinding guitar techniques and style – highly amplified and aggressive, distortion and feedback, longer and exciting guitar solos, texture and variety, energy and emotion. These became key attributes of 1960s blues-rock music and its offspring, hard rock and heavy metal.

    – Fourth, Guy inspired longer, more exciting guitar solos in rock music. His scorching multi-solos easily rank with the greatest rock solos (e.g., Stairway to Heaven, Comfortably Numb, Eruption or Freebird). Check out Love Her With A Feeling (Slippin’ In), Rememberin’ Stevie (Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues or Buddy’s Baddest), Let Me Love You Baby (Live! Real Deal), I Smell A Rat (Stone Crazy) or Tramp (Sweet Tea).

    – Fifth, Buddy Guy inspired or influenced many guitar legends, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pete Townsend, Dave Gilmour, Peter Green, Carlos Santana, Steve Miller, Robert Cray, Eddie Van Halen, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Mark Knopfler, Johnny Winter, John Fogerty, George Thorogood, John Mayer and Bonnie Raitt.

    – Sixth, Guy was the direct/indirect inspiration for every rock power trio format since Cream.

    – Seventh, Guy is a consummate showman who influenced 1960s rockers how to entertain on stage, e.g., many of Jimi Hendrix’s onstage antics were inspired by Guy.

    – Eight, Buddy Guy is a master artist – he can still outplay most of the top rock guitarists at their own game, even at age 68, if he wants to.

    If Buddy Guy never existed, classic rock and other rock forms since the 1960s would have evolved differently in some way.

  • Vote for your favorite deserving but overlooked artists into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
    The top 20 vote-getters are:
    1. Blondie
    2. Van Halen
    3. Rush
    4. Joan Jett
    5. Black Sabbath
    6. Doobie Brothers
    7. Lynyrd Skynyrd
    8. Dire Straits
    9. Chicago
    10. Def Leppard
    11. Yes
    12. Pat Benatar
    13. Peter Gabriel (solo)
    14. Genesis
    15. Heart
    16. Alice Cooper
    17. John Mellencamp
    18. Deep Purple
    19. Journey
    20. Pete Townshend (solo)