When he first came to Chicago almost 55 years ago, legendary bluesmen like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Walter were part of the city’s music scene.
“I arrived here in from Louisiana and the greatest blues players in the world were all alive and playing here,” says Buddy Guy, considered one of the greatest blues guitarists of all time. “You go to sleep, wake up and 55 years have passed. After me and B.B. King, everyone else is gone. Every time I get interviewed, I say, ‘They’re no longer here. I’m looking up at that band in heaven and think there’s the best blues band.’ It seems like yesterday that I was called a little young punk, when we were all living. I went to sleep, woke up and now I’m the senior citizen.”
Not wanting to lose the information and the street sense he learned from those years, Guy recently co-authored, with David Ritz, his autobiography, When I Left Home: My Story (DeCapo Press 2012; $26). Ritz previously co-authored autobiographies about Ray Charles and Etta James. Gaye
“I guess I’m the only one left that can tell you about it,” says Guy who arrived here on September 25, 1957 and still calls Chicago his home. “That’s what made David say, ‘let me get it while you’re still in your right mind and can remember a lot of that stuff’.”
Guy was driven to play music from a very young age. Growing up poor in an isolated area of Louisiana, he first made a guitar out of window screen wires strung over tin cans and rubber bands stretched out and tacked to the wall before his father bought him a $4.35 guitar, a gift that changed his life. At 21, he moved to Chicago with hopes of playing with the greats but after six months and no luck and no job, he was about to ask his father for bus fare back home.
|Jammin’ with Eric Clapton|
That same night, he was asked by a stranger to come to the 708 Club and there Guy was invited to play blues alongside Otis Rush. His magnificent performance had club goers demanding more and by the end of the evening Guy was sitting in Muddy Waters’ red Chevy. His life was about to change forever.
“I followed the blues ever since I was a young child,” writes Guy in the preface to his book. “Followed the blues from a plantation way out in the middle of nowhere to the knife-and-gun concrete jungle of Chicago. The blues took my life and turned it upside down. Had me going places and doing things that, when I look back, seem crazy. The blues turned me wild. They brought out something in me I didn’t even know was there. So here I am—a seventy-five-year-old man sitting on a bar stool in a blues club, trying to figure out exactly how I got here. Any way you look at it, it’s a helluva story.”
What: Legendary blues musician Buddy Guy discusses his autobiography
When: Tue. August 28, 6pm
Where: Harold Washington Library Center, Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, 400 S. State Street, Chicago
FYI: 312-747-4850; please note that Mr. Guy will not be signing any memorabilia besides copies of his book