We don’t see Buddy Guy every time he comes to town. But he is literally the last of a certain generation (he just turned 81) of bluesmen and women and so, we see him when we can. (I’ll save his history for when I inevitably do a series about him.)
We were supposed to see him at an outside venue which we prefer because then you can just chill and enjoy the show and the waning summer night air. But rain threatened so it moved to a nearby auditorium. This turned out to be fortuitous for reasons I’ll get to.
Buddy had four pieces behind him – keyboard, drums, bass, and guitar. If you’ve never seen him, he comes out screaming. First tune is as much his signature tune as anything else and it’s called “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues.”
I wish I could tell you that Buddy keeps that pace up throughout the show. But he’s always been a showman and he likes to tell stories. I found the other night that maybe there was a little too much storytelling and a little less music than I’d like. (My guess is that at 81 he’s giving himself a little onstage rest. Who am I to argue?)
He also kept teasing with things like John Lee Hooker or BB King tunes. He’d play a bit then abandon the song. The crowd in attendance were definitely Buddy Guy fans. But that guy who goes to a show to loudly prove his blues knowledge was also there.
Every time Buddy would try to sing a line of an old blues song, this guy would shout out the response. I guess for Buddy it was like a comedian trying to tell a joke with some dude stepping on his punch line. Because he eventually got annoyed and told the guy to shut the fuck up. (Show biz equivalent of “get off my lawn” which he’s also earned.)
And while Buddy didn’t get preachy about it, he did talk about all the hate that’s going around and wondered why we need it. (I was at the Boston anti-KKK rally today asking that same damn question.) He brought out his producer to sing a song they co-wrote called “Skin Deep.” I think it speaks for itself. Here he is with Derek Trucks:
And so here comes the best part. Later in the show, Buddy did a song called “Someone Else is Steppin’ In (Slippin’ Out, Slippin’ In).” Instead of doing it from the stage, he walked into the audience and went up the aisle on the other side of the auditorium away from us.
And then, playing all the while, he made his way to the other side and came down our aisle which, by some miracle, I was seated on. As Buddy approached I snapped a bunch of pictures. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to get a video. Fortunately, my wife had the presence of mind to record it.
Buddy shows up at about :43 (white cap.) At about 1:22, he is standing right the fuck next to me. (Turns out Buddy’s a little shorter than me, I’m about 5’10”.) That’s my blue shirt and hands you see just afterward.
What was I doing? Well, resisting the temptation to reach out and touch his guitar. Really I was just fucking grinning and taking it all in, man. This is something you don’t see every day like Halley’s comet or – wait for it- a total solar eclipse.
If you want to hear the whole song, here it is:
I came home this morning
Oh what a shock
When I found out my key
No longer fit my lock
You just go right back out there where you’ve been
‘Cause while you were slippin’ out
Oh someone else was slippin’ in
One last thing. We’ve seen Buddy several times and were present maybe 6 or 7 years ago when he introduced his protege Quinn Sullivan. Quinn is now 18 or so and always joins Buddy, especially in his home state of Massachusetts.
Quinn looks like a kid and does not have Buddy’s stage presence nor do you really feel like he’s lived the blues. But he’s a hell of a player. He did “Little Wing,” clearly more influenced by Eric and Duane’s version than Jimi’s. A kid to watch.
If you love the blues, do yourself a favor and see Buddy when he comes to town. He is the only member of the ’50’s Chicago generation still playing (to my knowledge) and he learned from Muddy Waters and all those guys. This is not nothing. This is the blues.