Mary Had a Little Lamb
He's Chicago's blues king today, ruling his domain just as his idol and mentor Muddy Waters did before him. Yet there was a time, and not all that long ago either, when Buddy Guy couldn't even negotiate a decent record deal. Times sure have changed for the better -- Guy's first three albums for Silvertone in the '90s all earned Grammys. Eric Clapton unabashedly calls Buddy Guy his favorite blues axeman, and so do a great many adoring fans worldwide.
High-energy guitar histrionics and boundless on-stage energy have always been Guy trademarks, along with a tortured vocal style that's nearly as distinctive as his incendiary rapid-fire fretwork. He's come a long way from his beginnings on the 1950s Baton Rouge blues scene -- at his first gigs with bandleader "Big Poppa" John Tilley, the young guitarist had to chug a stomach-jolting concoction of Dr. Tichenor's antiseptic and wine to ward off an advanced case of stage fright. But by the time he joined harpist Raful Neal's band, Guy had conquered his nervousness.
Guy journeyed to Chicago in 1957, ready to take the town by storm. But times were tough initially, until he turned up the juice as a showman (much as another of his early idols, Guitar Slim, had back home). It didn't take long after that for the new kid in town to establish himself. He hung with the city's blues elite: Freddy King, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, and Magic Sam, who introduced Buddy Guy to Cobra Records boss Eli Toscano. Two searing 1958 singles for Cobra's Artistic subsidiary were the result: "This Is the End" and "Try to Quit You Baby" exhibited more than a trace of B.B. King influence, while "You Sure Can't Do" was an unabashed homage to Guitar Slim. Willie Dixon produced the sides.
When Cobra folded, Guy wisely followed Rush over to Chess. With the issue of his first Chess single in 1960, Guy was no longer aurally indebted to anybody. "First Time I Met the Blues" and its follow-up, "Broken Hearted Blues," were fiery, tortured slow blues brilliantly showcasing Guy's whammy-bar-enriched guitar and shrieking, hellhound-on-his-trail vocals.
Although he's often complained that Leonard Chess wouldn't allow him to turn up his guitar loud enough, the claim doesn't wash: Guy's 1960-1967 Chess catalog remains his most satisfying body of work. A shuffling "Let Me Love You Baby," the impassioned downbeat items "Ten Years Ago," "Stone Crazy," "My Time After Awhile," and "Leave My Girl Alone," and a bouncy "No Lie" rate with the hottest blues waxings of the '60s. While at Chess, Guy worked long and hard as a session guitarist, getting his licks in on sides by Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Koko Taylor (on her hit "Wang Dang Doodle").
Upon leaving Chess in 1967, Guy went to Vanguard. His first LP for the firm, A Man and the Blues, followed in the same immaculate vein as his Chess work and contained the rocking "Mary Had a Little Lamb," but This Is Buddy Guy and Hold That Plane! proved somewhat less consistent. Guy and harpist Junior Wells had long been friends and played around Chicago together (Guy supplied the guitar work on Wells' seminal 1965 Delmark set Hoodoo Man Blues, initially billed as "Friendly Chap" because of his Chess contract); they recorded together for Blue Thumb in 1969 as Buddy and the Juniors (pianist Junior Mance being the other Junior) and Atlantic in 1970 (sessions co-produced by Eric Clapton and Tom Dowd), and 1972 for the solid album Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play the Blues. Buddy and Junior toured together throughout the '70s, their playful repartee immortalized on Drinkin' TNT 'n' Smokin' Dynamite, a live set cut at the 1974 Montreux Jazz Festival.
Guy's reputation among rock guitar gods such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan was unsurpassed, but prior to his Grammy-winning 1991 Silvertone disc Damn Right, I've Got the Blues, he amazingly hadn't issued a domestic album in a decade. That's when the Buddy Guy bandwagon really picked up steam -- he began selling out auditoriums and turning up on network television (David Letterman, Jay Leno, etc.). Feels Like Rain, his 1993 encore, was a huge letdown artistically, unless one enjoys the twisted concept of having one of the world's top bluesmen duet with country hat act Travis Tritt and hopelessly overwrought rock singer Paul Rodgers. By comparison, 1994's Slippin' In, produced by Eddie Kramer, was a major step back in the right direction, with no hideous duets and a preponderance of genuine blues excursions. Last Time Around: Live at Legends, an acoustic outing with longtime partner Junior Wells followed in 1998. In 2001, Guy switched gears and went to Mississippi for a recording of the type of modal juke-joint blues favored by Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, and the Fat Possum crew. The result was Sweet Tea: arguably one of his finest albums and yet a complete anomaly in his catalog. Oddly enough, he chose to follow that up with Blues Singer in 2003, another completely acoustic effort that won a Grammy. For 2005's Bring 'Em In, it was back to the same template as his first albums for Silvertone, with polished production and a handful of guest stars. Skin Deep appeared in 2008 and featured guest spots by Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Eric Clapton, and Robert Randolph.
A Buddy Guy concert can sometimes be a frustrating experience. He'll be in the middle of something downright hair-raising, only to break it off abruptly in midsong, or he'll ignore his own massive songbook in order to offer imitations of Clapton, Vaughan, and Hendrix. But Guy, whose club remains the most successful blues joint in Chicago (you'll likely find him sitting at the bar whenever he's in town), is without a doubt the Windy City's reigning blues artist -- and he rules benevolently.
- All Music Guide
Sources: Bill Dahl
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Denny Laine, a former guitarist for the Moody Blues, and drummer Denny Seiwell filled out the lineup and Wings released their first album, Wild Life, in December 1971. Wild Life was greeted with poor reviews and was a relative flop. McCartney and Wings, which now featured former Grease Band guitarist Henry McCullough, spent 1972 as a working band, releasing three singles -- the protest tune "Give Ireland Back to the Irish," the reggae-fied "Mary Had a Little Lamb," and the hard-rocking "Hi Hi Hi" -- in England. Red Rose Speedway followed in the spring of 1973, and while it received weak reviews, it became his second American number one album.
Later in 1973, Wings embarked on their first British tour, at the conclusion of which McCullough and Seiwell left the band. Prior to their departure, McCartney's theme to the James Bond movie Live and Let Die became a Top Ten hit in the U.S. and U.K. That summer, the remaining Wings proceeded to record a new album in Nigeria. Released late in 1973, Band on the Run was McCartney's best-reviewed album to date and his most successful, spending four weeks at the top of the U.S. charts and eventually going triple platinum.
Following the success of Band on the Run, McCartney formed a new version of Wings with guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Geoff Britton. The new lineup was showcased on the 1974 British single "Junior's Farm" and the 1975 hit album Venus and Mars. Wings at the Speed of Sound followed in 1976, and it was the first Wings record to feature songwriting contributions by the other bandmembers. The album became a monster success on the basis of two McCartney songs, "Silly Love Songs" and "Let 'Em In." Wings supported the album with their first international tour, which broke many attendance records and was captured on the live triple album Wings Over America (1976).
After the tour was completed, Wings rested a bit during 1977, as McCartney released an instrumental version of Ram under the name Thrillington and produced Laine's solo album, Holly Days. Later that year, Wings released "Mull of Kintyre," which became the biggest-selling British single of all time (at the time of its release), selling over two million copies. In 1978 Wings followed "Mull of Kintyre" with London Town, which became another platinum record. After its release, McCulloch left the band to join the re-formed Small Faces, and Wings released Back to the Egg in 1979. Though the record went platinum, it failed to produce any big hits. Early in 1980, McCartney was arrested for marijuana possession at the beginning of a Japanese tour; he was imprisoned for ten days and then released, without any charges being pressed.
Wings embarked on a British tour in the spring of 1980 before McCartney recorded McCartney II, which was a one-man-band effort like his solo debut. The following year, Laine left Wings because McCartney didn't want to tour in the wake of John Lennon's assassination; in doing so, he effectively broke up Wings, which quietly disbanded as McCartney entered the studio later that year with Beatles producer George Martin to make his 1982 album Tug of War.
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