Hendrix’s sister gave me his shoes: Buddy Guy

Emulating Guitar Slim's style made him happy

Legendary blues guitarist-singer Buddy Guy shares anecdotes from yesteryears, talks about relationship with Eric Clapton. Excerpts...

Buddy Guy, the six-time Grammy winner is in Mumbai to headline the Mahindra Blues Festival 2015. He told this correspondent what makes him return to India, his blues club in Chicago which is no less than a museum and more.

What makes you come back to India for a blues concert? How do you relate this country with your genre of music?
I don’t think about the concert, I only think about the beautiful people here. What brings me back here is the smile on their faces whenever I play. It makes me feel on top of the world. But my mother used to tell me ‘don’t go to a place everyday, they might get tired looking at you’. (laughs).

Muddy Waters – who inspired you – started playing at private parties imitating Son House, Robert Johnson. Who was your role model?
I tried to follow Guitar Slim. Emulating his style made me happy. My mother was kind of religious, and I would be the jump and sing type – that’s the way I play blues on my guitar. Slim had a famous record called The Things That I Used To Do and when I saw him play that, I thought I want to act like him. But later thought I would rather play like BB King.

How difficult is it to keep blues alive in the era of hip-hop, electronica and Justin Bieber?
Technology has moved on but the music remains the same. When I record now, it amazes me how one can add as much as he or she can to one single track over a period of time. Fifty years ago, it would have taken me two weeks to come to India. Now, the aeroplane made it easier. It is the same with music. An acoustic guitar plugged into an amplifier, five decades back, was an all-different thing. But the genre is still the same.

How big a role did Eric Clapton play in your career?
Well, it is hard for me to explain him. He, Jeff Beck and others explored the blues more than BB King and all who were before me. I got ideas of improvisation from all of them. The world recognises me because of these guys.

Any particular anecdote about Jimi Hendrix, King, Clapton you would like to share?
Life is like a Christmas tree when you are around King, Clapton and Hendrix. When I saw those guys, I used to feel who the hell am I, they were big names, yet, recognised me as a guitar player.

Being in their company was itself an award. My mother told me if you do not have money, hang out with the ones who have it, they might drop some.

How is the Buddy Guy’s Legends – the club, doing amongst the youth in Chicago? Do youngsters crowd the place?
If you want to listen to music as a teenager, the law doesn’t permit that unless you are a musician. You have to be 21 to enter unless you are a musician. There are teenagers like Quinn Sullivan (a 15-year-old guitar prodigy) who redefined blues among kids. When I first saw him, I took him to Clapton’s Crossroads. After listening to him, Eric stopped, looked at me and said, “Who is he and from where did you get him?” He was stunned.

Are you still in touch with Hendrix’s family?
Yes I am. People still worship Jimi in his neighbourhood. I have been begging them for one of his guitars. Actually, my club is more like a museum, which has guitars from all the greatest guitarists over the world. It was hard to find Jimi’s guitar but his sister finally gave me his shoes and a shirt. I am going to frame that and put it on the wall. I have to be careful that fans don’t steal it. (Laughs).

Tell us about the experience of playing with Howlin’ Wolf?
It was one of my dreams. When I went to Chicago, I just wanted to watch those guys play. I never had the guts to speak to Wolf and then I got introduced to him. When he said he wanted to make a record with me, I was taken aback.

Wolf was in the studio for two days recording a song but could not get the rhytm right and that’s when he asked for me. He told me, “can you play this?” and I replied: “Yeah.” He kind of hummed it to me and I recorded it.

( Source : dc )
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