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Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy - Lettsworth, LA

George “Buddy” Guy, one of the most dazzling performers in blues history, was born here in Lettsworth on July 30, 1936. His primary influences included local Louisiana musicians and many more who were born across the river in Mississippi, including B.B. King, Guitar Slim, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Guy’s connections with Mississippi blues remained vibrant throughout a monumental career as a recipient of multiple GRAMMY® and Blues Music Awards and inductee into the Blues and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame. Buddy Guy, like his idol B.B. King, rose to the top of the blues world from humble beginnings as a sharecropper’s son. The Guy family lived in a house that stood about 250 feet south-southeast of this site on the Feduccia family’s Three Rivers Landing plantation. His father Sam Guy bought Buddy his first guitar from another fieldhand, Henry “Coot” Smith, who showed Buddy how to play John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillen,” which was already the favorite record in the Guy household. Further inspired locally by Lightnin’ Slim, Buddy began playing in Baton Rouge with “Big Poppa” Tilley and Raful Neal (whose son Kenny later played in Buddy’s band). The flamboyance of Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones left a lasting impression; Guy said: “I wanted to play like B.B. but act like Guitar Slim.” Guy recorded a demo tape on May 30, 1957, for WXOK DJ “Diggie Doo” Meaders, who sent a copy to Ace Records in Jackson, but those songs were not released until years later.

On September 25, 1957, Guy, who had been working as a utility man at LSU, left home for Chicago in hopes of finding a better job and pursuing his music. He found the Windy City blues scene dominated by transplanted Southerners, more from Mississippi than any other state. Mississippians Otis Rush and Muddy Waters were among the first to befriend and encourage him, and Willie Dixon supervised most of his early recording sessions for the Artistic and Chess labels. Guy’s incendiary act electrified audiences in Chicago and on tour, but he also proved himself a versatile and sympathetic accompanist, recording behind Muddy and other Mississippi-born bluesmen, including Eddie Boyd, Honeyboy Edwards, John Lee Hooker, Walter Horton, Son House, Howlin’ Wolf, Sunnyland Slim, Jesse Fortune and Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2 in the 1960s.

Among Guy’s classic early records were one single, “Stone Crazy,” that briefly hit the Billboard magazine charts in 1962; several Willie Dixon compositions; and “My Time After While,” a prophetic title. Although Guy remained an exciting and frenetic entertainer, major success as a recording star eluded him for decades. He often teamed with West Memphis native Junior Wells in town and on tour, and sometimes appeared with B.B. King or with rock stars he had influenced, including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He further enriched the Chicago scene by launching the Checkerboard Lounge in 1972 and Buddy Guy’s Legends in 1989, providing venues for his fellow blues artists, again including countless Mississippians.

Buddy Guy’s time came in 1991 with the breakthrough of Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues, the first of his many albums to reach the Billboard charts. His CDs Sweet Tea, his first to hit No. 1 on the Billboard blues charts in 2001, and Blues Singer, both laced with Guy’s renditions of Mississippi blues, were recorded in Oxford, Mississippi. The cover of The Blues Is Alive and Well, another No. 1 blues CD in 2018, pictured Guy back in Lettsworth, a testament to a legendary bluesman who never forgot his roots and the people who nurtured his extraordinary talent.

content © Mississippi Blues Commission

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