Friday, October 12, 2012

Buddy Guy's When i Left Home Tells His Story

In the mid-1970s I was pleased to have Buddy Guy for an interview for my blues show on WBFO in Buffalo. Buddy was then, and of course remains, one of the greatest blues performers around with his dazzling guitar pyrotechnics and his fervent vocals. In 1999 Damn Right I've Got The Blues co-authored with Donald Wilcox appeared but it is now superseded in part by a new autobiography When I Left Home: My Story, that Buddy did with David Ritz (Da Capo Press). Ritz has emerged as one of the finest collaborators with blues, soul and rock musicians having worked with Ray Charles, Etta James, Jerry Wexler, Leiber and Stoller, B.B. King , Scott Wieland, and Bettye Lavette as well as writing a biography of Marvin Gaye Divided Soul. He helps Buddy Guy bring his story to life in this wonderful book.

When Buddy recorded Mercy Dee’s One Room Country Shack, for Vanguard 45 years ago, this reader had no idea it was something Buddy could so readily identify growing up in rural Louisiana. And from such humble origins he tells how he first started playing music and how he had to overcome his shyness. He tells us about seeing Lightning Slim perform and later listening to records after his family finally got electricity.

Seeing Eddie ‘Guitar Slim’ Jones was a watershed for the young Guy and the flamboyancy of Slim’s performances (such as coming out from the audience with a 200 foot guitar cord) stayed with guy as was the wild, electrifying guitar sound Jones had. It was a sound that Guy emulated, especially when he came to Chicago where he was befriended by the likes of Magic Sam, Otis Rush and the man who became like a second father to him, Muddy Waters. Willie Dixon was the one who brought him to record and later he recounted how he became a session player for Chess Records who also started recording him, but resisted Buddy’s efforts to have him record Buddy as he sounded in the clubs with a bit of wildness that reflected the influence of Guitar Slim. Still Buddy produced quite a body of recordings for Chess and other labels after leaving Chess, and eventually was able to get recorded in the manner in which he recorded.

There are so many anecdotes that are provided including being one of three guitarists (Matt Murphy and Wayne Bennett being the others) trying out for Bobby Bland’s road band. Buddy actually advised he wasn’t the one since he didn’t read music and Bennett was selected. One of his favorite guitarists was Earl Hooker and there are a couple of stories about him as well. And there is Buddy’s recollections of Stevie Ray Vaughan who was a close friend as well as meeting another musical hero John Lee Hooker for the first time and his musical collaboration with Junior Wells. 

This was simply a terrific read and anyone interested in contemporary blues, not simply Buddy Guy will enjoy it. This would make a terrific holiday gift by the way.

I purchased this book.

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