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Buddy Guy

PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2014 11:06 pm
by Garth Cartwright
When I Left Home: My Story is Buddy Guy's autobiography (as told by David Ritz). It's very readable and has great tales about seeing Guitar Slim as a teenager, shifting to Chicago and meeting Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters and Wolf and Sonny Boy and others. Good detail on Willie Dixon as fixer and song thief. And of Leonard Chess as producer. Fascinating on Junior Wells and very sad to read of JW's decline into self destructive behaviour that alienated Buddy (who appears to have a very calm disposition). If it has flaws it is in the lack of detail on Buddy's Chess recordings - I love those intense tunes but he does not appear to have the same affection for them (and Ritz is not interested enough to press for more). Also, he mentions Dick Waterman offering to manage him and giving him a real cash guarantee etc but then no other mention - to my knowledge Waterman helped shape Guy's career (as well as Junior's) for the white blues audience that would support them from the late-1960s on. Buddy grew up picking cotton in a house with no electricity - his journey is quite something and he comes across as a likeable, modest man. That his live show is so damn cliched is not mentioned - obviously, he doesn't think so! - but it's a pity he does't even discuss how he came to deliver such a corny show when he once was so exciting. Beyond these qualms I highly recommend this book (to blues fans and anyone interested in African American lives).

Re: Buddy Guy

PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2014 11:28 pm
by Adam Blake
Does he go into much detail about his approach to guitar playing?

Re: Buddy Guy

PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 10:05 am
by Garth Cartwright
No. In typical Ritz style all technical detail is kept to a minimum. That said, he is good on his early days as a fledgling guitarist and how electric blues took hold in Chicago - info on Muddy, Otis Rush etc.

Re: Buddy Guy

PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 12:55 pm
by Alan Balfour
I was extremely outspoken and unkind to his 1993 "autobiography" Damned Right I've Got The Blues to the extent of receiving "hate mail". I kid you not.

Re: Buddy Guy

PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 8:11 pm
by Garth Cartwright
I didn't know there was an earlier Buddy autobio - what was wrong with it, Alan? And who did Buddy write it with? Ritz is slick with all his subjects - I think his Etta James book is his best work because she holds nothing back and tells her life story as she sang, just raw and direct and unapologetic. I felt terrified just reading it.

Re: Buddy Guy

PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 11:19 pm
by Adam Blake
I used to be a big Buddy Guy fan. Saw him live half a dozen times in the 80s and 90s. The old cliche about him was that when he was hot he was just the best - and that when he was not he was dreadful. I think that's about right. He and Junior Wells did one of the best shows I have ever seen at the Town and Country Club in Camden in 1988. By the mid-90s I was walking out of the theatre in despair. It was that bad. I think the point is, Buddy really believes in his performances - good and bad - and no amount of criticism, however well-intentioned, would help. He is getting old now, and fading, but in his day he was a great blues stylist and virtuoso guitar soloist.

My favourite Buddy Guy story of many, and like all such stories, it may or may not be true, concerns his ardent fan, the young Jimi Hendrix. One time in '67, Buddy was working a club gig and was doing all his tricks - playing behind his head, behind his back etc etc - when someone shouted out: "you doing Jimi Hendrix!" "Who he?" called back Buddy, who claims he really had no idea who Hendrix was at the time. Arriving in New York a few days later for another gig, Buddy finds a young chap setting up a reel-to-reel tape recorder onstage. Slightly outraged, he demanded to know what was going on. "I'm Jimi Hendrix, man, I've been following you for years, I wanna tape what you're doing", said the young man. "Well from what I heard I been followin' you !" said Buddy. Jimi looked pained. "Don't pay no mind to those people", he said, "you and me know what's really goin' on."

Re: Buddy Guy

PostPosted: Wed May 14, 2014 3:49 pm
by Garth Cartwright
Nice story, Adam. Buddy tells it but slightly differently - Hendrix did turn up and ask to tape him and Buddy said OK but he does not reproduce the dialogue. And yes he had never heard of Jimi when rock fans began telling him he was doing Jimi moves. He is pretty humble when it comes to his influence on rock guitarists and praises Jimi, Eric, Jimmie & Stevie Vaughan, Robert Cray etc. Thankfully avoids mentioning the Bonamassa's and Gary Moores and such who reduced blues rock to such cliches. I went to see BG once at Shep Bush and also walked out - he did all this hokum "here's some Jimi, here's some Hooker" and then invited Clapton on stage and played 2nd fiddle to him (while the audience screamed approval). Clapton did do some good stuff in his day but he cannot match Buddy for tough blues. I felt a bit ill and went to the pub to drown my sorrows. Wish I had seen BG & JW - I'm a bigger fan of JW than almost all of those 60s Chicago blues cats.