BUDDY GUY
HEAVY BLUES....

by Paul Guy (no relation...)

Interview for FUZZ magazine

© Paul Guy 1998

Buddy Guy's Legends website

I've been listening to your new CD, Heavy Love - it's a really strong album.

- Well, thankyou, sir!

I think your albums get stronger with time.

- Well thankyou very much, it makes me feel real good to hear that coming from some one else, because you never know how good a record is until somebody else lets you know. It took me so long to get a pretty good record out there, so I wait for the response from people like you and from some of the fans, so I certainly hope you're right.

I hear you playing acoustic guitar on there, don't I?

- Yeah, I'm playing acoustic guitar, that's one of Tony Joe White's songs. That guy had a voice - I was just whirling. I tried it, you know, and I don't know if I was doing it all right, but I did this album in Nashville, and the next morning after I had made that cut, I walked in there to do some more work, and the guy said, "Buddy, this is Tony Joe White", and he said, "Man, me and my wife love that song, don't you touch it!" And I said, "Man, the way you sing, well if you tell me that, then I must be OK."

I don't think I've heard you play acoustic on record before.

- I played some stuff with Muddy Waters on acoustic, and I did a few things with me and Junior Wells on acoustic - actually they had a record convention in Austin, Texas two or three months ago, and I played by myself, and I understand the record company has been talking with my manager. I did a Muddy Waters thing alone by myself, and they sent me a tape of it, and it's pretty clean, so I don't know, you might hear a little more, cause actually my next session I want to do maybe two or three.

What kind of acoustic guitar do you play?

- It was a Gibson - but it was played through a Trace Elliott amplifier, which still give you the acoustic tone. I think I first heard that amplifier when I was in Germany, in a record store, and they plugged me up and I just fell in love with it.

But otherwise you're still playing your Fender Strats?

- Oh yeah - I play both of them, and I don't know whether I'm going to have it on this tour, because I normally wait for a while on a record to see what cuts the people really like from the record, but if it calls for that I'll have an acoustic guitar there to play that song. I love that song.

It's a great song.

- Thankyou.

That's Jonny Lang singing with you on "Midnight Train", isn't it?

- Yes it is, and what a tremendous young talented man.

Hell of a voice...

- Oh yeah. I knew him, he opened a show for me a couple of years ago, maybe a little longer, for 18 shows, and I told him "Jonny, I thought you was about 35 years old, the way you sing and play", and he just laughed at me, man. But you know, I'm so proud of him, every once in a while a young guy come along like that and try to help keep this music we love so well alive, and I'm very proud of him.

I hear him playing guitar on that track too...

- Oh yeah, that guy can play, too.

I actually make and repair guitars for a living, I always wanted you to try one of my guitars - I thought Buddy Guy with a Guy guitar would be something else, you know?

- I'd be more than happy - if I'm near you when I come through there, bring one over, and I'd love to try it.

You know Kenny Wayne Shepherd, too, don't you? I know he has a lot of respect for you... He plays one of my guitars, actually...

- Does he? Well let me try one, you never know, if I like it - if I don't like it, I'm going to say I don't like it, but if I like it I'm not going to give it back to you!

That's fair enough! I know Kenny Wayne is a big fan of yours, too - he loves you a lot, man.

- Oh yes, he a nice young man too. You know, I got my hopes up high for both those young men, they help me carry on with this blues, because you know if you'd have interviewed me 13, 14 months ago I would have said there's only a handful of us left - and in the last 12 or 13 months we lost quite a few, man - Johnny Copland, Luther Allison, Benton Robinson, Junior Wells, Jimmy Rogers, man, and there's not many of us left. So I need all the help I can...

I think you're doing pretty good all on your own!

- Yeah, but you know, sometimes I get the flashbacks, man, when I used to walk out my door and I didn't know whether to go hear Howlin' Wolf or Muddy Waters or Little Walter or Sonny Boy Williamson or Jimmy Reed and all those people and they no longer here, man, and you look around now and you say I gotta look at these young people, and hopefully they can help me carry on.

Yeah. But the blues will never die.

- Well I certainly hope you're right.

You're playing a few more slow blues than you normally do on this record.

- Well actually I wanted a record that had different stuff on it, because a lot of big radio stations do not play the slow blues. You know, I've been doing it all my life - Muddy Waters been doing it, B.B. King, and the way those guys could sing, I don't even want to be in the same room with them. So if they don't play that music - this mountain is high for me to try to climb, so I'm trying to put something on a CD where maybe they might accidentally play it, and if you go out and buy the CD you get to hear some blues on there, because I'll always put a blues cut on my album.

Well you're doing "I Just Want To Make Love To You" on there in kind of a funky version, but it's still the blues to me.

- Oh yeah - well like I'll tell you, you might be able to get me out of the country, but you'll never get the country out of me.

You're doing a ZZ Top tune on this album, too - "I Need You Tonight".

- Yeah, I love ZZ, man. Those guys are super at just what they are. And every time I hear some songs like that from those guys, and then the guy give me a chance to mess with it, then I'll try it, because I just love that music so well. I just tried to do the best I could with it, you know, and hopefully somebody will listen to it.

That's a really nice lyric on tha song.

- Oh yeah. Those guys are just tremendous at that stuff.

I interviewed Billy Gibbons a couple of years ago, and I know he's also a great fan of yours.

- Oh yeah, I know Billy well. We have never played together a lot, but man, to be around people like that. I always pick up something, learn something from everybody, from the Jonny Lang, the Kenny Wayne, Billy, and of course B.B., Eric - and every time they play they always say, "I want you to come up and play", and I say, "Man, let me sit out here and listen so I can learn something", and they take it for a joke!

Well I can understand that! We all learned it from you, man!

- Yeah, well we all learned it from someone too, I learned mine from someone, so I don't want to sit here and tell you I don't have to listen to nobody no more, because I would be going out the world backwards then. I still like to listen to everybody .

You're singing better than ever on this record.

- Well thankyou very much, I'm just trying to do as best as I can, and hopefully I can stay out there and put a record out every once in a while - as I said earlier, to help this stuff stay alive that we all, and I love, and Muddy and all of them died, and dedicated their lives to it, and I'm on the same road, so I'm just going to do the best I can to carry that load they left me with, and which is very hard, cause if you was interviewing Muddy Waters right now you'd probably be tapping your feet, cause he would sound like he was singing when he was talking, he was so good at it.

Muddy Waters was the guy who really gave you your break, wasn't he?

- Yeah. You know, in Chicago, kind of, he made someone recognise me faster than anybody else.

I read that story about how he got you into the car and gave you a sandwich, cause you looked so hungry - is that a true story?

- Oh yes. Yes it is. You know, if you're black, and a blues player, it's been a struggle, but if you love it like I do and like they did, there's nothing gonna turn us around.

Blues is like the pulse of life, man.

- Oh yeah. It's a part of life whether some people want to admit it or not, but I will. I'll admit it right quick.

How much do you tour nowadays?

- Well, in the last year I kind of stayed away, because my mother taught me as a little boy, don't wear your welcome out, because if someone see you every day they get tired of looking at you. So I'm figuring when I come through there - next week I leave - I'm looking to stay out maybe for year and a half or so, whenever they call me, because now that I lost all these great people in the last 14 months it's like I gotta go a little more than I would want to go, but whatever it takes to keep it going I'll be there.

Do you play at Legends a lot?

- No, I play at Legends once a year, the whole month of January.

I love the live album.

- Oh, thankyou very much - we did half of that at Legends, and the other half in New York City.

It's a great album, and a great band, man.

- Oh yes, the Saturday Night Live Band, they were - oh, man, they're good.

I loved that bit where you said, "We didn't even rehearse this, and listen to these guys!"

- Oh no, we didn't get too much chance, I wish we had, I'd probably have made it a little better...

I don't know, I think the spontaneity is part of the character of it.

- Could be, but as I say, it took me a long time, the record companies had ignored me between 12 and 15 years, so every time I go in the studio now I'm like saying, you better get it out here now, Buddy, because they might cut you loose again, and another 15 years, I really would be too old for them to look for me.

Well I hope you'll still be playing in 15 years...

- Oh, I'll be playing, if I'm in good health, but I don't know about record companies - they might say, "Well, man, you done ran out of steam now, you know?"

Sounds more like you're building up steam to me, man!

- Well, I'm trying, you know, I'm doing the best I can, so far as I'm concerned I'll record until my last day, but you know, as I said before, record companies thinking about business, and you can't blame them, you gotta put some product out that they can survive off, otherwise they won't be in business, so I understand all of that.

You know, the last time I saw you play live was in London at the Albert Hall concert with Eric Clapton.

- Right. Oh, I enjoyed that, man. I saw Eric several times since then, he's my best friend, man. He did a lot for me at that concert, I think that's why I got flying with this label, one of the British guys signed me.

I talked to John Lee Hooker about 18 months ago, and he said he really loved England.

- Oh yes, yes he did.

I guess you guys got kind of a different reception in London than what you were used to in the States.

- Ah - yes, actually the first time I ever came over, I came in February 65, and that's when Eric saw me play blues on the thing, and he said he didn't know it could sound like that, and him and Beck, every time I talk to them, they remind me of that. Cause I came over and played with the Yardbirds, and Rod Stewart, and I haven't seen Rod since - I mean I've seen him on television, but I haven't had a chance to talk with him. That was one of the greatest experiences of my life to come there, man, and I'd never met T-Bone Walker, and that's where I met him at.

T-Bone was a great guitar player, man.

- Oh, man - a lot of fun, wasn't he? Good guy.

You still play the Strat mostly?

- Yeah. I've got a Buddy Guy signature polka-dot Strat.

Do you still use the Guild at all?

- No, I haven't used that for a while now, I've been sticking with the Strat. That's my favourite guitar.

Do you still use a Fender Bassman amp?

- Yeah, off and on. I'm using a Fender Bassman mixed with a couple more. I'm trying to find a tone that go way back, which is almost impossible to go back to those real amps, you know what I'm talking about, from the 40's and 50's.

Do you use fat strings?

- Well, you know, the very thin ones break too much on me, so I have raised them up a bit now. I was using like a 9 or 10 and so on, but I'm up to about a 12 on the first string now. Keeps your fingers in shape for one thing.

You don't tune down, either, do you, you always tune in E?

- No, when I go beyond that I'll tune down a little bit. Actually I did "Damn Right I Got The Blues" tuned down, cause I used the Stevie Ray - I was using like a 56 on the sixth string.

Hell of a sound.

- Oh yeah, that's the best.

Wicked on the fingers, but a hell of a sound.

- (Laughs) Oh yeah. you can say that again.

Do you use any effects at all?

- No, not at all, I tried to use a little reverb on a couple of tunes on this album, but it wasn't working too well, but whatever is called for, I'll try, but blues I think is a wrist and a finger thing, you know, you have to be B.B. King, you have to make that wrist do the tremolo itself. I love it from the wrist.

Well I'm still playing the blues after about 35 years -

- Don't change! You can play the other stuff too, but always stick me a blues in there, you know. Like the late Muddy Waters say, "The blues had a baby, and they named it rock'n'roll."

Well it's been great to talk to you, I really hope to see you in Sweden some time.

- Well please come and see me, and I'm going to hold you for that with that guitar!

You damn right, man!

- Damn right I got the blues!

© Paul Guy 1998