The Blues' most electrifying guitarist, Guy has remained a vital and current musician, moving blues forward without losing sight of its roots. He’s renowned for his raw, blistering vocals and high-voltage guitar playing. Guy regards himself as a “caretaker of the blues.” Having learned from the likes of Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Guitar Slim and Magic Sam, he explains, “I just take what they taught me and keep adding to it.”
George “Buddy” Guy was born in 1936 in Lettsworth, Louisiana. His earliest influences included T-Bone Walker, Lightnin’ Slim and Lightnin’ Hopkins - blues musicians who were all uniquely expressive stylists and showmen. Guy’s high-energy showmanship also owed a debt to Guitar Slim, of “The Things That I Used to Do” fame. Along the way, he developed his own style, typified by a fierce, staccato attack and tense, single-note solos.
He spent a year and a half playing with John “Big Poppa” Tilley’s band in Baton Rouge. After sending a tape to Chess Records, Guy headed to Chicago in 1958 to seek his fortune. He drew attention on the club circuit for his fiery fretwork and showmanship. With assistance from his friend and fellow bluesman, Magic Sam, Guy got signed to Cobra Records (releasing a few singles on its Artistic subsidiary). A year later Cobra folded and Guy - along with label mates Willie Dixon and Otis Rush - moved to Chess, where he played recorded from 1960 to 1967.
Guy’s Chess sides never won the recognition that accrued to some of his labelmates, but he scored a hit with “Stone Crazy,” his fourth single for the label. Another highlight of his Chess tenure was “When My Left Eye Jumps,” a menacing slow blues penned by Willie Dixon. While at Chess, Guy also served as an in-house guitarist, playing on sessions for Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Koko Taylor and others. One landmark recording backing Muddy Waters, “Folk Singer,” was cut in 1963 and released in the spring of 1964. Notably, he performed on Koko Taylor’s “Wang Dang Doodle” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor.”
Taking notice of the evolving blues-rock scene in England, Guy left Chess in 1968 and moved to Vanguard Records, where he cut the classic albums “A Man and His Blues,” and “Hold That Plane.” In 1970 “Buddy and the Juniors,” a trio of Guy, harmonica player Junior Wells and pianist Junior Mance, was released on Blue Thumb. Guy’s partnership with Wells yielded the 1972 album “Buddy Guy and Junior Wells Play the Blues.” A spontaneous, tradition-minded blues set, released on Atco Records. There were no fewer than 20 releases under Guy's name during the 1970s and '80s, the best of them collaborations with Junior Wells. But by the time the Eighties became the Nineties, Guy amazingly didn't even have a domestic record deal.