NYCB Theater at Westbury
960 Brush Hollow Road
Westbury, NY 11590
8:00 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013
Tickets are $39.50 plus applicable service charges and are available now online at www.ticketmaster.com, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or at the Westbury box office. For more information, visit: www.thetheatreatwestbury.com.
At age 76, Guy is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, a major influence on rock titans like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan; a pioneer of Chicago’s fabled West Side sound; and a living link to that city’s halcyon days of electric blues. He has received six Grammy Awards, 28 Blues Music Awards (the most any artist has received), the Billboard magazine Century Award for distinguished artistic achievement, and the Presidential National Medal of Arts.Rolling Stone ranked him in the top 25 of its "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time."
Also in 2012, he published his long-awaited memoir, When I Left Home, and released Live at Legends, which has been nominated for Best New Recording in the Living Blues Awards. Meanwhile, Guy keeps looking to the future of the blues through his ongoing work with his 14-year-old protégé, Quinn Sullivan.
More than five decades into a life as one of the world’s leading bluesmen, Buddy Guy is used to new surprises, challenges, and accolades. Now the story continues with Rhythm & Blues, the first double-album set of his storied career. “Every time we would finish a session,” says Guy, “if everybody felt good about it, we'd say, ’Let's do another.’ You need about 14, 15 songs for an album, but we had passed 18 songs and I said, ‘Man, when is this going to be over?’ But they kept throwing songs at me, and every damn thing we cut sounded pretty good. I got the word back that the label thought maybe it was a good idea to put two CDs out—one of them the slow stuff, more for listening, and the other, like B.B. King said, if you want to boogie-woogie all night long.”
The result has a title both simple and clever: Rhythm & Blues. Twenty-one tracks which feature contributions from a stellar and wide-ranging set of guests, including Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, and Brad Whitford of Aerosmith and rising guitar wizard Gary Clark, Jr. “If you watch a ballgame, it seems like those guys are angry at one another, but when they finish playing, they go out and have drinks together,” says Guy. “Musicians were doing that before anybody—we don't have rivals as far as who can outplay who, but we have so much fun letting other people think that's what it is. So it’s really a blessing to have all of these guys on here.”
Probably the most unexpected guest on Rhythm & Blues (which was produced by Guy’s frequent collaborator Tom Hambridge, and recorded at Nashville’s Blackbird Studios) is country superstar Keith Urban, who joins Guy on an emotional ballad called “One Day Away.” Guy maintains that he was well aware of Urban’s instrumental prowess before they teamed up. “I listen to everything, regardless of what type of music it’s branded,” he says. “If I hear a guitar that makes me pat my feet, and try to not go to sleep 'cause I’m afraid I might miss something, it's all right with me. Any guy who can think about playing music is a friend of mine, and the door is always open.”
Though Buddy Guy will forever be associated with Chicago, his story actually begins in Louisiana. One of five children, he was born in 1936 to a sharecropper’s family and raised on a plantation near the small town of Lettsworth, located some 140 miles northwest of New Orleans. Buddy was just seven years old when he fashioned his first makeshift “guitar”—a two-string contraption attached to a piece of wood and secured with his mother’s hairpins. On the new album, he recounts these days on such deeply personal songs as “I Came Up Hard” and “My Mama Loved Me.”
In 1957, he took his guitar to Chicago, where he would permanently alter the direction of the instrument, first on numerous sessions for Chess Records playing alongside Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and the rest of the label’s legendary roster, and then on recordings of his own. His incendiary style—still in evidence all over Rhythm & Blues—left its mark on guitarists from Jimmy Page to John Mayer. “He was for me what Elvis was probably like for other people,” said Eric Clapton at Guy’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2005. “My course was set, and he was my pilot.”
These many years later, Buddy Guy is a genuine American treasure, and one of the final surviving connections to an historic era in the country’s musical evolution. And still, as one glorious track on Rhythm & Blues puts it, he claims that “All That Makes Me Happy is the Blues.”
“I worry a lot about the legacy of Muddy, Wolf, and all the guys who created this stuff,” he says. “I want people to remember them. It's like the Ford car—Henry Ford invented the Ford car, and regardless how much technology they got on them now, you still have that little sign that says ‘Ford’ on the front.
“One of the last things Muddy Waters told me—when I found out how ill he was, I gave him a call and said, ‘I'm on my way to your house.’ And he said, ‘Don't come out here, I'm doing all right. Just keep the damn blues alive.’ They all told me that if they left here before I did, then everything was going to be on my shoulders. So as long as I'm here, I'm going to do whatever I can to keep it alive.”