Buddy Guy, Bridging Blues and Rock

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Musician Buddy Guy performs onstage at B.B. King's 80th birthday celebration in September 2005. i

Musician Buddy Guy performs onstage at B.B. King's 80th birthday celebration in September 2005. Amanda Edwards/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Amanda Edwards/Getty Images
Musician Buddy Guy performs onstage at B.B. King's 80th birthday celebration in September 2005.

Musician Buddy Guy performs onstage at B.B. King's 80th birthday celebration in September 2005.

Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Blues guitarist Buddy Guy has released a three-CD retrospective. As an artist, Guy, now 70, may have been the missing link between traditional blues and rock 'n' roll.

DAVID WAS: Blues guitar legend Buddy Guy turned a very young 70 this year and has just issued a three-CD retrospective on Silvertone.


It's DAY TO DAY's resident musician David Was.

WAS: It's called Can't Quit The Blues and follows his career from the late ‘50s to the present, where he's joined by a who's who of contemporary pickers who were either inspired by or outright stole licks from the Louisiana native. It's hard to find someone in rock and roll who didn't.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: Buddy wasn't but 7 years old when he fashioned his first make-shift instrument out of a lighter-fluid can, some window-screen wire and tacks. It took him another 10 years to acquire his first harmony acoustic guitar, but only a few more to cut his first demo, The Way You've Been Treating Me, a raggedy record included here that nevertheless shows inklings of his soon-to-be fluid and daring ways.

(Soundbite of song, “The Way You've Been Treating Me”)

WAS: This is the kind of stuff that would catch the ears of Clapton and Hendrix and Jeff Beck in another decade.

(Soundbite of song, “The Way You've Been Treating Me”)

Mr. BUDDY GUY (Musician): (Singing) Oh, the way my beloved is treating me, is all I just can't understand.

WAS: By 1957, the time Guy first reached Chicago and the burgeoning electric-blues scene there, he was fast taken under the wing of guys like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, whom he accompanied as part of Chess Records' stable of first-rate sidemen. But Leonard Chess toned down the wild ways of the loud-playing, extended-soloing Buddy Guy and tried to keep him from blasting that thing, as Guy said at the time.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. GUY: (Singing) I was standing at the station…

WAS: Guy takes great joy to this day recalling how Leonard Chess later invited him to kick him in the butt for missing the boat that Eric Clapton and Jimmy Hendrix sailed to commercial glory. All of a sudden, the experimental, loud and mind-bendingly long guitar solos those players indulged in were the prevailing style, and Buddy Guy was credited by his disciples for starting it all.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: Soon message would reach overseas, where Guy shared a bill with the Yardbirds in 1965, and a young Rod Stewart served as his valet. The U.K. musicians picked up on the teeth-picking showmanship Guy had learned from Guitar Slim, whose raucous stage antics and distorted sound were embraced by Buddy Guy and later incorporated whole cloth by Jimmy Hendrix.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Just take me back out there, won't you, baby.

Mr. GUY: (Singing) While you were slipping out (unintelligible).

WAS: Coming full circle, blues aficionado and teen heartthrob John Mayer appears on this collection alongside venerable names like Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards and B.B. King. Many lay claim to the title, but Buddy Guy is the missing link between blues and rock and roll, and worthy of the much-overused honorific guitar god. Before him, there were only mortals.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: You heard David Was. The Buddy Guy retrospective is called Can't Quit The Blues.

(Soundbite of song, “Mustang Sally”)

Mr. GUY: (Singing) Mustang Sally, guess you better slow your Mustang down. Mustang Sally, baby, I guess you better slow your Mustang down.

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.


And I'm Madeleine Brand.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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