He was born George Guy to Lettsworth, Louisiana sharecropping parents who, for most of
Buddy's childhood, could not afford the radio, let alone the mail-order guitar about which he dreamed so often. But finally one successful crop was enough for his father to buy both, and the young Buddy listened to John Lee Hooker over and over until he, too could duplicate the same runs.
He was an understudy and sideman in Baton Rouge, and in the arena there he learned and played with some of the best: Lightnin' Slim, Slim Harpo and Lazy Lester.
Chicago, Blues Mecca
He waited until 1957, when he turned the legal drinking age -- 21 to go to find work in the Chicago clubs. It was there where either someone discovered his "busking" a song by Jimmy Reed and then brought him to Muddy Waters' attention. Or is it as Guy tells it: Waters rescued him from starvation when he heard his rendition of Louisiana Guitar Slim's "The Things I Used To Do" and then invited the prodigy out with Muddy's wife.
A couple of years later, Buddy was the victor over Otis Rush, Junior Wells and Magic Sam at the Blue Flame Club's "Battle of the Blues."
This highlight was slightly dimmed when, in spite of this achievement, he was initially snubbed by the coveted Chess Record label, but he joined Sam and Rush on the West Side's Cobra and Artistic companies. In 1960, however, with Willie Dixon's help, he made it to Chess and recorded a hit, "First Time I Met the Blues," and made another hit in one of his emotive portrayals on wax in 1962: "Stone Crazy."
It was not until 1967 that Buddy's finances were stable enough to leave his garage-man position during the day when Dick Waterman put Guy with harpsman Junior Wells during his two-week- turned permanent vacation. This partnership lasted a decade or so. Buddy had a reputation of not-so-hot gigs due to showing up extremely inebriated, according to Nick Gravenites, a Chicago bluesman and journeyman, but later got it together.
The Licks keep on Ticking
Another contribution that Buddy Guy has made is his preserving one of the 50 clubs, many of which were closing down, that used to be available to auditioning newcomers through "Battle of the Bands" -- when he bought one, now called Buddy Guy's Legends.
Buddy Guy has continued to record (Damn Right I've Got the Blues", 1991) tour, (Albert Hall's annual blues nights -- with Eric Clapton ), and to amaze audiences with his mock-ups of other famed bluesmen on stage, and he makes use of the dramatic rise and fall in volume while playing serpentine riffs that gives new definition to the term dynamics.