Born July 30, 1936, he was one of the first to play guitar behind his head and to swing it between his legs. Buddy Guy is still goin’ strong, wielding his axe with more power than most men half his age. When you see Buddy live, it’s hard to believe that his career began in the early fifties. Though he’s known as a pioneer of the electric guitar—Hendrix learned a hell of a lot from him—Buddy’s acoustic work is just as good.
“You know, and when I first picked up a guitar…we didn’t have all these electric guitars. The first time I saw an electric guitar, I thought somebody was nuts with a guitar that loud. We all started with the acoustic guitar and guitars are the same. You know, technology and all that stuff just makes it different, but if pick it up and you can play it, you can play the acoustic as well as you can play the other one, you know. But, that acoustic is like the old Ford car, you know, you can take it now and push another car. You can’t even push it with the new one because it’s all synthetic.”
George “Buddy” Guy was born on July 30, 1936 in Lettsworth, Louisiana. He taught himself to play music on a homemade two-string diddley bow, and showed so much talent he was given a Harmony acoustic guitar. After moving to Chicago in 1957, he fell in with Muddy Waters. With assistance from his friend Magic Sam, Guy was signed to Cobra, which soon folded—landing Guy a coveted spot with Chess records. Despite the fact that Chess employed Buddy often as a session guitarist on a number of classic records, fierce politics kept him from releasing the work he wanted to. In 1968, he moved to Vanguard records, where he partnered with harmonica player Junior Wells. Guy and Wells would go on to release some of the greatest blues albums ever—produced by the likes of Eric Clapton and Bill Wyman. Though his career slowed in the eighties, Buddy came back full force in 1990 with a record that would hit Gold. He continues to blow audiences away with his crushing vocals and killer fretwork.
A brilliant songwriter and a blistering vocalist, Buddy Guy is perhaps the most influential living guitarist. A titan of the blues, he straddles the traditional and the modern with ease. His pioneering showmanship—picking the guitar with his teeth and playing it behind his head—would be taken up by Hendrix. Clapton has said he got the idea for Cream from watching Guy perform, and has called him “by far without a doubt the best guitar player alive.” Buddy Guy has won six Grammys, 23 W.C. Handy Awards, and is the recipient of the National Medal of the Arts.