Innocent Words Blues Series: Celebrating Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy at Ellnora Guitar Fest 2013, photo by Brian Paris

Photos by Brian Paris

“Buddy’s birthday…”78, and still feelin’ great.”

That is the tag line for the celebration that will be held at Buddy Guy’s Legends on the corner of Wabash Avenue and Balbo Drive in Chicago, the club he has owned for 25 years.

The true living legend has come far from the sharecropper’s cabin in Lettsworth, Louisiana where he was born.

At age 78, Guy still maintains a full time tour schedule and in 2013 he released the double album ‘Rhythm & Blues,’ the 72 album he has appeared on since his debut in 1965 on ‘Hoodoo Man Blues’ with the Junior Wells Band.

Buddy Guy is a Rock & 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. During the performance at the White House, he even persuaded President Obama to join him on a chorus of “Sweet Home Chicago.”

In the mid 1950’s, Buddy worked in LSU’s Facility Services Department before leaving for Chicago to pursue his music career. Honoring the guitar legend, on May 18, 2014 Guy received an honorary doctorate degree along with a purple and gold tiger striped Fender Stratocaster from Louisiana State University. In 2012, he published his long-awaited memoir, When I Left Home and received the Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime contribution to American culture.

When asked what his motivation is after all these years Guy responded by saying; “Every time my agent calls me and says ‘they want you to come to Australia, Brazil and all over the world,’ I just light up like a Christmas tree, that means I must have done something right for them to call me back. Cause a lot of guitar players who are much better than me don’t even be called. And once in my life I wasn’t being called, but I didn’t care cause all those greats was still living, when people like Muddy and T Bone was living I didn’t care, all I wanted to do was watch them.”

The world has now come to Buddy Guy’s doorstep to enjoy southern Cajun soul food, behold a major archive of blues memorabilia and hear live blues music seven nights a week at his club Legends. If you are lucky you can catch one of Guy’s shows during his annual month long home stand in January. Legend has it that when Buddy is in town off from tour he can be found at the far end of the bar watching the show and if you buy him a drink, his favorite is top shelf Cognac, he will gladly pose with you for a photo. Buddy Guy is a genuine American treasure.

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