In an art form that’s practically been defined by the rediscovery of long neglected artists, Buddy Guy stands alone in recent decades as a giant reclaimed from obscurity. An ace session player for Chess Records throughout the 1960s who backed Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and Koko Taylor, Guy was largely sidelined during the years that should have been his prime. The Muddy Waters protégé eventually came to define second-generation Chicago blues with his wildly exuberant performances and incendiary guitar playing. His influence was profound across the Atlantic, where British blues lovers like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page absorbed his style. Guy's definitive 1991 album, Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues, officially launched his ascendance, and he’s been making the most out of his late-blooming fame ever since. His newest RCA Records release, Born To Play Guitar, is a tour de force produced by longtime collaborator and GRAMMY-winner Tom Hambridge. A testament to his lasting influence, Guy received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2015 GRAMMY awards and was a 2005 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Buddy Guy remains an iconic force on guitar whose incandescent solos reveal the searing, uninhibited soul of the blues.
Rock stars turn into dinosaurs if they keep on touring past their due date; but the same law of diminishing returns doesn’t affect blues stars. Now in his ’70s, Buddy Guy remains a formidable performer, equally and easily at home with rip-it-up express-train jams and slow, agonizing hymns to women found and lost. Born in Louisiana, Guy made the inevitable trek to Chicago in the late ’50s, where he received valuable tutelage from Muddy Waters himself.
Guy’s innovative style and hyperbolic stage shows proved a bit too much for Chess Records; in 1968, he released A Man and the Blues on Vanguard, complete with psychedelic cover, in time to link him to the rock-blues movement of the era. That album contains Guy’s definitive version of “Sweet Little Angel,” a deeply felt number with keening vocals and piercing guitar. Eric Clapton once lavished praise on Guy. A 2004 appearance at a blues festival in Texas showed that Guy was even capable of reinvigorating the often comatose later Clapton (check it out on YouTube under “Sweet Home Chicago”). However, it must be said that, as great as he is, even Buddy Guy couldn’t make John Mayer look or sound hip.