Buddy Guy Biography

Guitarist, Singer(1936–)
Blues musician Buddy Guy made a guitar at the age of 13 and taught himself to play. He recorded hits for the Chess label in the 1960s.

Synopsis

Buddy Guy was born on July 30, 1936, in Lettsworth, Louisiana. At 7 years old, he made a guitar and taught himself to play. Muddy Waters discovered Guy while playing at clubs in Chicago, and helped him find work at the 708 Club. Guy recorded hits from the 1960s through the '80s. In 2003, he released his first acoustic blues album.

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Early Life

Blues musician Buddy Guy was born George Guy on July 30, 1936, in Lettsworth, Louisiana. Guy was born to Sam and Isabel Guy as one of five children. At 7 years old, he gained a budding interest in music. Also at this age, Guy created a two-string instrument with a piece of wood and a few hairpins that he called a guitar—this makeshift instrument was a far cry from his guitar that would eventually make its way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but it was a start.

By the age of 19, Guy had begun working at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge as a custodian. Also by this time, he had managed to get his first real guitar and begun playing in clubs around Baton Rouge. Though he continued to hone his musical skills, it wasn't until the summer of 1957 that Guy decided to pursue a career in music. During the hot Louisiana summer, a friend of Guy's suggested that Guy try his luck as a musician in the Windy City.

Early Career

Motivated by musicians such as John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Slim and Guitar Slim, Buddy Guy took a train out to Chicago on September 25, 1957—a date so special to Guy that it has since been engraved on all of his guitars—to make a better living for himself. Despite his friend's advice, Guy hadn't leave for Chicago to become a professional musician, but in hopes of making at least twice as much working as a custodian at a University in Chicago.

Shortly after arriving in Chicago, Guy met Otis Rush, who introduced the green musician to a location that Guy would grow to become very familiar with, the 708 Club. While playing at the 708 Club, Guy met one of his idols, the legendary Muddy Waters. Waters was impressed with Guy's musical talent, and the pair would later work together. Guy became a frequent performer at the 708 Club, and was eventually discovered by composer Willie Dixon. Through Dixon, he was able to land a contract as a guitarist with Chess Records. Subsequently, Guy met and worked with several of his inspirations, including Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter.

Blues Legend

Guy stayed with Chess until he left for Vanguard Records in the late 1960s, with a desire to produce credited music with more creative freedom. The final album that he released with Chess Records was also his debut solo album, I Left My Blues in San Francisco (1967). The following year, he released the album A Man and the Blues with Vanguard. Guy collaborated with harmonica expert Junior Wells for some of his most memorable pieces with Vanguard Records, including "Hoodoo Man Blues" and "Messin' With the Kid."

A string of popular albums were released by Guy from the '60s through the '80s. It was also during this time that the blues musician developed a devoted rock 'n' roll following. Several popular rock artists, including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck, cite Guy as a major musical inspiration. Guy's popularity diminished a bit in the late '80s, but his career was revitalized in the '90s with three Grammy Award-winning albums: Damn Right, I've Got the Blues (1991), Feels Like Rain (1993) and Slippin' In (1994).

Recent Work and Legacy

Guy has continued to make music in the 21st century, working with such contemporary artists as Carlos Santana and John Mayer. In 2003, he released Blues Singer, an acoustic album featuring renditions of some of Guy's favorite songs, including Skip James covers and Son House covers. In 2005, Guy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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