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 | Howlin’ Wolf

Howlin Wolf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A lot of peoples holler about ‘I don’t like no blues,’ but when you ain’t got no money, and can’t pay your house rent and can’t buy you no food, you damn sure got the blues. If you ain’t got no money you got the blues, because you’re thinking evil. That’s right. Any time you’re thinking evil, you’re thinking about the blues.” – Howlin’ Wolf

Chester Arthur Burnett (June 10, 1910 – January 10, 1976) was named after the 21st president. His eventual size – he was purportedly 6’3” and 300 lbs (191 cm and 136 kg) – would result in nicknames like Big Foot Chester & Bull Cow but they had already started calling him “Wolf” by the age of 3.

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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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