ALONG with BB King, 75-year-old musician Buddy Guy is one of the last great bluesmen still walking the earth.
pioneer of the Chicago blues scene, Guy played with legends including Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters and influenced modern musical heroes such as Jimmy Hendrix and Eric Clapton.
Named in the Top 30 all time best guitarists by Rolling Stone magazine, Guy has travelled the world several times and returns to Australia this month for three shows which culminate in his headlining set at Bluesfest, in Byron Bay, tomorrow.
However, no amount of touring can overcome the singer’s acute fear of flying. The only reason Guy boards planes is to give fans their fix of the blues.
‘‘I just never liked planes. If you could wake up the folk who died a hundred years ago and take them to the airport and show them a plane they’d probably tell ya put me back in the ground,’’ he says.
‘‘I always joke that when God made man he put them on land and when God made a bird he put them in the air but that’s the reality now – flying through the air in a hunk of metal.’’
For years, Buddy Guy was the forgotten man of the blues, overlooked by everyone but his peers due to a sound that proved vastly ahead of its time.
His record label, Chess, considered his music ‘‘noise’’ and limited his output to session work, before finally releasing his debut album, Left My Blues In San Francisco, in 1967.
A protege of Muddy Waters since moving to Chicago from his home in Louisiana 10 years before, Guy focused his frustrations on picking up tips from the greats, or in his words ‘‘stealing their licks’’.
‘‘I never learned nothing from school and I taught everything myself from looking, listening and trying to figure out what other guitarists were doing,’’ he says.
‘‘I look at my life like I was looking for a dime and I found a dollar.’’
Guy has since been described as the bridge between the blues and rock’n’roll, linking the likes of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf to popular musicians like Jimmy Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
A musician’s musician, Guy’s career was boosted by the explosion of rock’n’roll in the late ’60s and his place as a chief influence on bands such as The Rolling Stones.
‘‘When the British came out nobody knew about me but I didn’t let that bother me, because the British guys did more for black musicians than any radio station or record company,’’ he says.
‘‘When they started coming to America selling millions and millions of records they (locals) thought it was something new. But then they said ‘hold it, hang on, this is nothing new, you guys have been doing this the whole time’.’’
Buddy Guy plays the last of his three Australian shows on the Byron Bay Bluesfest Crossroads Stage tomorrow at 7.15pm. Visit www.bluesfest.com.au for the full program and tickets and www.goldcoast.com.au for reports from the festival.
Crosby, Stills and Nash; festival highlights, Page 43
Chicago blues scene pioneer Buddy Guy.