If you have read articles I have posted before, you know I have a guitarist bucket list. You know – a list of guitar players to see whom I haven’t seen before. There are some I’ve seen numerous times but some – never. The late, great B.B. King was one I always wanted to see but I waited too long. B.B. played 200 dates a year almost to the day he died. He would come around about once a year so I figured I still had time; unfortunately, I was wrong. Gary Moore was another, though he seldom played the U.S. When Moore recorded his “Still Got the Blues” album in 1991 he enlisted the help of Albert King and Albert Collins. Sadly, they passed shortly afterward. It would have been a treat to have seen all three of them, whether separately or all together. John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters; the list is practically endless. While some have left us, there are others who are in the twilight of their careers but still carrying on. One of them – Buddy Guy, is one who has been around for what seems like forever. His peers were all the greats from the fifties and sixties – the aforementioned King, Albert King, Muddy Waters and so many more. With those greats having left this earth in the last several years, I wanted to catch Guy before it was too late. I would soon find out however, that at 82 – Buddy Guy is an ageless wonder.
On this occasion, I was able to see Buddy play at a small venue called The Scottish Rite Auditorium in southern New Jersey. Formerly owned and operated by the free masons in the area, it is now leased by the local community. They put on a series of concerts throughout the year. The venue only seats a thousand people so there literally isn’t a bad seat in the house. Being that this was a new venue for me, I was excited to check it, and Buddy out. The show was scheduled to begin at 8PM but I soon learned that Buddy Guy is a free spirit.
At about 8:15 Buddy strolled out onto the stage with his backing band and launched into “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues.”
Not afraid to play covers, he followed with two songs by Willie Dixon and Muddy waters – “(I’m your) Hoochie-Coochie Man” and “She’s Nineteen Years Old” and the song Waters made famous: “Got My Mojo Workin’.” Right away, Guy established a rapport with the audience between songs. Telling stories frequently scattered with f-bombs and whimsical shtick, he immediately had the crowd transfixed. Carrying on, he covered such blues standards as “Feels Like Rain”, “Cheaper to Keep Her” and “Love Her With a Feelin’. A showman as much as being a musician, Guy played guitar with his teeth (a trick Hendrix no doubt borrowed), a drumstick and even a handkerchief. He even ventured out into the crowd; playing guitar while egging on an audience member or two to dance to his playing as he strolled up the stairs, into the back of the crowd and eventually back down onto the stage, stopping frequently to play for them. This, while not unusual for younger players, was pretty amazing for an eighty-two year old. He had all of the fire and energy of someone half his age.
Watch the video below of his humorous interaction with the audience during “Feels Like Rain”:
While he entertained with the above mentioned tricks, anecdotes and escapades, he also showed that he was every bit a guitarist as well. Paying tribute to the British blues artists of the sixties – such as Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones and others, he sneaked in bits of “Sunshine of Your Love” as well as “Hey Joe” in a nod to the aforementioned Hendrix. In fact, he played bits and pieces of songs throughout the show, when he wasn’t playing a blues standard and the audience loved it. If Guy wasn’t working the crowed with his stories, he was doing it with the guitar. He blended soft passages with distorted lines at times, frequently rolling back the volume on his guitar to emphasize a line he was singing. He knew how to get the most out of his guitar as he drew from his six decades as a bluesman. He played one guitar the entire time and not the one you might think. Instead of playing the black with white polka-dots Strat he is known for, he appeared to be playing a 60’s Mary Kay Strat, tan in color. The guitar coupled with his Marshall amp gave him that creamy 60s British blues tone so many players used at that time. As he continued on, he sprinkled in one or two of his own songs such as “Cognac” with more covers such as John Lee Hooker’s “Boom, Boom” and B.B.’s “Sweet Sixteen.”
Suddenly, at the end of “Meet Me in Chicago” the show was over. There was no encore. He had ended up leaving the audience the same way they had been throughout the show – eating out of his hand. He hung around on stage after the show, tossing albums out to the audience before finally waving goodbye and being escorted off. You hear about shows where no one wanted it to be over, whether true or not but believe me; nobody wanted this show to end. If you want to hear some great blues guitar and have a hell of a good time while doing it, go see Buddy Guy – while you still can!
What’s your favorite Buddy Guy song/cover?