|October 10th, 2005 04:18 AM
|Ten Thousand Motels
||The years aren’t slowing blues guitarist Buddy Guy
By Amy Jones
published: October 7, 2005 6:00 am
Talking to blues legend Buddy Guy about playing music must be like chatting with the Dali Llama about seeking Nirvana. If you want to know the real story, these are the guys to ask. At 69, guitarist Guy is one of the few premier players left in an ever-shrinking group of original blues men. And what’s more outrageous than his lifetime of killer gigs and all-star jam sessions is that to this day he sounds like someone half his age and plays with the fire of a musician fresh off the bus.
“You know I’ve always had older friends and when I was 60 they said I was still wet behind the ears,” said Guy from his home in Chicago. “So finally I asked, ‘when do I get dry?’”
With the industry’s most prestigious awards still pouring in after decades in the business, Guy’s legacy is likely to flourish long after his pick is finally put to rest. Of course when that will happen is anyone’s guess. Guy, who has played with everyone from Muddy Waters to Junior Wells, continues to tour and release new music including his latest “Bring ‘Em On In” and has a top-notch blues club called Legends in the Windy City that’s helping to keep blues alive and kicking.
“About 25 years ago, I thought we didn’t hear blues music on the radio because of the lyrics,” said Guy. “But then I started paying attention to rap and hip-hop and now I know that’s not true. It just doesn’t make sense.”
“This is the music that some of us have dedicated our lives to and I just don’t think it gets the exposure it deserves,” said Guy. With a fading interest from younger generations, not even Guy gets to be a hero in his own home.
“I think today kids think about what makes the money. Even my own children didn’t really know what I did until they were in their 20s. They just knew I left and came back and made a living. They didn’t see my face or B.B. King or anybody else on the T.V. or in magazines like you do a lot of other people.”
Ironically, some of music’s biggest stars, the guys who have graced the magazine covers and TV screens over the years were intensely inspired by Guy in their own music, including greats like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and even younger prodigies like John Mayer.
“I’ve gotten a lot of awards over the years,” said Guy, a recent Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee. “But I really think those things belong to the people who taught me in the first place, Fred McDowell and Muddy Waters and the guys that they learned from like Son House. That’s who deserves the credit.”
For the deeply religious Guy, not only do the founders of the blues get the most props, so does God, a resource that Guy has leaned on many times over the years. “I really think this was a gift from God,” said Guy about his talent. “I would try to get sounds out of anything I could get my hands on like hairpins and rubber bands and my Dad’s friends always use to say I had long fingers, good hands for playing something if I was given a chance. Maybe if I had grown up in a musical family I would say something different but I just think God had a plan for me. I think he put each of us here for a reason not a season.”
Guy’s life as a farmer’s son in the Louisiana south of yesteryear seems like a world away from his rise as a Chicago blues giant of today. But talk to Guy even for a minute and he manages to insert some of the rural smarts his parents instilled in him from those early days.
“My folks always said you don’t have to be the best in town, but be the best until the best comes around,” said Guy. “That means I’ve got to give you my best every time, and the day I can’t is the day I’ll stop getting out there.”