Blues heroes | Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy, blues, autobiography

This time last year I was preparing to leave for a trip to New York.

While I was there, I spent a happy couple of hours browsing the Barnes and Noble bookstore on East 17th Street. I love American bookstores. I love American books. They have a different feel in my hand as soon as I pick one up. There are other small differences too, such as the type-face.

The book I bought was a biography of Buddy Guy, by David Ritz.

Life being how it is, it took me almost a year to read it. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down.

Buddy Guy is considered among the best blues guitarists alive today. He was a regular session player at Chess Records. He was a sideman in the bands of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. He and Junior Wells formed a band of their own, and in the 1960s he became a recording star in his own right.

His life story (told in his own words) has so much to tell that I don’t feel one blog post could do it justice. Let’s start right at the beginning.

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Blues heroes | Junior Wells

“As a boy I was listening to Sonny Williamson records and I would close my eyes and visualize myself playing the harp.”

– Junior Wells

jr wells002

Photo by Brett Littlehales

One of the best-loved harp players in Chicago blues was Junior Wells. He took inspiration from the top living harmonica players and brought a passion and fire that was all his own.

Born and raised in West Memphis Arkansas, Wells learned from local blues hero Junior Parker. He was a skillful harmonica player by the time he was seven.

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Blues Musicians | Rufus Herbertson

Rufus

Rufus at Octoblues 2015

If you’ve ever danced blues in Southern Germany, chances are you’ll have been lucky enough to have danced to music played by the incredibly talented Rufus Herbertson, a blues musician from Mannheim.

My first encounter with Rufus was when I travelled to France for Blues in Paris, November 2014. He was playing alongside Annette Kuhnle who was teaching classes on styles of dancing to Piedmont Blues music.

Taking classes with a musician playing live is something quite special and his musicianship was very special too. Rufus also played an intimate acoustic set at the Sunday night party. We loved his music so much he had to perform two encores before we’d let him go.

More recently I was lucky enough to renew our acquaintance when Rufus came to play at Octoblues (Heidelberg, Germany). He played a late Saturday night set for us that was just beautiful. He coaxed a roomful of very tired dancers back onto the floor, and kept us long after we hoped to be asleep in our beds. His instinct for when to liven things up and keep us awake, and when to play quieter, dream-like music was just amazing.

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