Buddy Guy and the Inequity of Musical Fame

Guy heads into his living room and points out some of his favorite memorabilia collected over his 60 years in the business: a photo of him grinning onstage with Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall in 1990; a thank-you note from Mick Jagger for appearing in Shine a Light. There’s a photo of Guy with his family and the president and first lady from the first of four times Guy was invited to the Obama White House. “He’s from Chicago, so he knows,” Guy says of Obama. “As soon as he put his arm around me, I said, ‘Mr. President, it’s a long way from picking cotton to picking the guitar in the White House.’ And we laughed.”

Guy points out a painting of Hendrix, and tells the story of the day Hendrix brought a reel-to-reel recorder to tape Guy’s guitar workshop at Newport. “Everyone was saying, ‘Hendrix is here,'” Guy says. “I’m like, ‘Who?’ We went back to the hotel and played until the sun rose. He was so damn good, so creative.”

Next to that is a painting of Stevie Ray Vaughan, playing his guitar behind his back — a trick he learned from Guy. “That one’s priceless,” he says. Vaughan had been a fan ever since he heard Guy singing and playing alongside Wolf and Waters on the 1963 American Folk Festival of the Blues LP as a kid. Whenever Guy played Antone’s nightclub in Austin, he invited Vaughan and his older brother Jimmie onstage. “He became like a big brother to us,” says Jimmie. “It was such a trip.” Guy played with Stevie Ray at Wisconsin’s Alpine Valley in 1990 — Guy took a different helicopter back to Chicago; Vaughan’s helicopter crashed, killing him and four others.

Patrick Doyle, writing in Rolling Stone about the life of trailblazing bluesman Buddy Guy, a brilliant guitarist and longtime Chicago club manager whose influence is as sweeping as Howlin’ Wolf’s, B.B. King’s and Sonny Boy Williamson’s, but whose name isn’t as recognizable.

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