By definition, there are only four spaces allowed on the Mount Rushmore of blues guitar players, and the same goes for blues singers. It's a rare club and an enviable position. Buddy Guy's face, though, with its large brown eyes and bright, clean smile, would likely land on both chiseled monuments — an even rarer distinction.
Even at 79 years old, the man delivers booming, avalanche-like vocals that immediately fill a room, his guitar licks brightening that raging force like myriad lightning strikes.
In fact, at a 2013 show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside Denver, Colorado, Guy shook the massive crowd of thousands, strumming effortlessly with his thumb (no pick needed!) as if he were just as hungry and determined to make a name for himself as when he was fresh out of school.
"I love you! Y'all gonna have to stop me tonight!" he yelled into the microphone that night.
Born in 1936 in Lettsworth, Louisiana, Guy is noted as an influence of Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton, who once described Guy as the "best guitar player alive." The man, as evidenced by the 2013 Colorado show, is a better guitar player one-handed than most people are with two. He can even make sweet tones by rubbing the strings against the buttons of his shirt.
It's said Guy learned the instrument by picking a "diddley bow," or a single-stringed guitar made from a block of wood, two nails, and a metal string. He then graduated to an acoustic. Later, he began playing with bands in Baton Rouge while working a day job as a custodian at Louisiana State University.
His early career was marred by bad management decisions, and his unique, loud party sound was rejected by his label, Chess Records, forcing Guy to play backup for other bands. He became world-renowned only later in life, during the blues resurgence of the '80s and '90s, in large part because of Clapton, who included him in an all-star blues lineup at London's Royal Albert Hall.
A six-time Grammy Award winner and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Buddy Guy is now recognized as one of the world's best guitar players, with Rolling Stone recently ranking him 30th of all time. He's also known as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, penning works such as "Mustang Sally," "Someone Else Is Steppin' In," and "Damn Right, I've Got the Blues."
Thursday, October 15, at Hard Rock Live, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood. Tickets cost $50 to $65 plus fees. Call 866-502-7529, or visit ticketmaster.com.
Buddy Guy influenced Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton.