Roy Buchanan was born in 1940, in the small town of Pixley, CA, born to a farmer and Pentecostal preacher. He grew up attending religious revivals that celebrated their religion with music, most often Gospel music performed by African-Americans. That, along with radio shows featuring R&B, got him interested in playing music, especially blues.

He was sent to the local steel guitar teacher, Mrs. Pressure, because the music in the area was overwhelmingly country. One thing he always remembered about her was that she "would cry every time I made a mistake".

At age 13, he bought his first guitar, a Fender Telecaster. He ran away from home at 15, due to the allure of the R&B scene that had been growing in Los Angeles. He managed to end up under the wing of Johnny Otis, famed writer, arranger, bandleader, impresario, and producer. With Johnny's help, Roy started studying the work of other blues masters, such as Pete Lewis and Jimmy Nolen.

Within no time, he was ready to start his own band, a rock n' roll band, The Heartbeats. They started playing around the country, and in Oklahoma City he met up with Dale Hawkins, a rockabilly legend, and they ended up playing on the road together for the next two years. He even played the solo on Hawkins' My Babe.

A few years later, he headed up north to Canada, where he started playing guitar in a band with Ronnie Hawkins (which later became known as The Band). The group's bass player, Robbie Robertson, studied under Roy, and took over lead guitar when Roy left a few years later.

Roy played as a sideman for various bands through the early 60's. In 1962, he worked with drummer Bobby Gregg for the song Potato Peeler, where the harmonics he was to become known for first appeared. By the middle of the 60's, Roy had become tired of all the traveling, completely exhausted, and formed his own group in the Washington, D.C. area, Buch and The Snake Stretchers, after reportedly being asked by Eric Clapton to join Derek and the Dominoes. The group recorded one album, self-titled.

1971 saw the creation of a documentary about him on public television, The Best Unknown Guitarist in the World. As a result of the show, and previously doing a recording with Charlie Daniels under them, Polydor decided to sign him for a contract. He ended up making five records with that label before moving over to Atlantic for another three. He was never happy with the albums he made for those labels. As he described it, "They kept trying to make me into some sort of pop star." He quit recording in 1981.

Eventually, Alligator Records convinced him to go back to the studio, suppoesdly giving him total artistic freedom. When a Guitar Plays the Blues was the first album under Alligator, to be followed up by Dancing On The Edge in 1986 and Hot Wires in 1987.

On August 15, 1988, Roy died in a cell in the Fairfax, VA police station. The circumstances around his death have confused some people. He was drunk, him and another male friend were picked up and tossed into the cell to sleep it off - they weren't even arrested. A later check supposedly found him hanging dead, by his shirt, from a low window grate. A friend of his, Marc Fisher, claimed to have seen the body afterwards and stated there were bruises all over his head. Some suspect the cops killed him when trying to deal with him and staged a suicide.


Sweet Dreams of Roy Buchanan -
Alligator Artist Bio -

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