The middle of three children, John Mayer grew up in the 1980s
near Bridgeport, Connecticut. As a young boy, Mayer was wowed by
Michael J. Fox’s performance of the Chuck Berry classic, “Johnny
B. Goode” in the movie "Back to the Future". After
seeing the movie, a very young Mayer took up the guitar and began
listening to artists like Jimi Hendrix, Sting, and his personal
idol, Stevie Ray Vaughn.
By the time Mayer was sixteen the precocious performer was honing
his performance chops by playing in local East Coast blues bars.
By the time Mayer was an eighteen-year-old senior year in high school,
he had joined a short-lived high school band. The band quickly split
and Mayer resolved to find work at a local gas station. “This
[job] is important because it’s going to kill off all the
brain cells that are going to tell you not to do the stupid things
coming up.” Mayer self-effacingly explained.
Mayer spent a brief stint at Boston’s Berklee College of
Music, (where he met future band member Clay Cook.) After leaving
Berklee, Mayer found another musical outlet. This time, Mayer joined
a folk duo, which as with his high school band, was short-lived.
After leaving Boston, Mayer relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, where
he became a regular at songwriter nights around the city. Mayer
worked the clubs by night and sent out countless demo discs of original
material by day. Mayer self-released his debut recording, Inside
Wants Out, in 1999. The following March, Mayer appeared at the South
by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. Mayer’s performance
so impressed executives at Columbia Records that he was subsequently
signed to Columbia subsidiary, Aware Records.
Matched with ace producer John Alagia, (Dave Matthews Band, Ben
Folds Five) Mayer completed work on his breakthrough second album,
Room for Squares in 2000. The release of the album, an electrified,
full-band affair, was followed by a cross-country tour. Mayer was
so well received on this, his first national tour, that by the time
the tour ended the following year, Columbia Records had re-released
his sleeper hit album on its own Columbia imprint.
Mayer’s star continued to rise, and in 2003 he was awarded
a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance for his hit song “Your
Body Is A Wonderland.” Later in the same year, Mayer released
his third album, Heavier Things to critical acclaim. Two Grammies
would follow for this album. One repeat award, for Best Pop Vocal
Performance, and another for his hit from Heavier Things, the single
After touring the world, John was invited to perform at Eric Clapton’s
Crossroads Festival in 2004. It was there that Mayer took the same
stage with guitar legends B.B. King, J.J. Cale, Hubert Sumlin, Buddy
Guy, Carlos Santana, and Clapton himself. Mayer not only showed
he had been paying attention to his guitar-playing predecessors,
but that he had plenty new to show as well.
Buddy Guy is Chicago’s King of the Blues. Born in Lettsworth,
Louisiana in 1936, Guy is one of the few musicians whose music successfully
bridges the gap between blues and rock ‘n roll. Self-taught
on a homemade guitar, Guy moved to Chicago as a young man in 1957,
and quickly established himself as an up-and-coming guitar great
when he signed with Chess Records in 1959. Guy immediately became
a session musician for Chess, backing up his idols Muddy Waters,
Howlin’ Wolf and Koko Taylor, among others.
“First Time I Met the Blues” and “Broken Hearted
Blues,” the respective A and B-Sides of Guy’s first
Chess single, were released in 1960. It was apparent that Guy had
much to say with his fiery, individualistic blues style, and he
and was ready to bring his blistering instrumental virtuosity and
fiery vocals to the proverbial table of electric Chicago blues.
Guy spent the next seven years at Chess, where he turned out some
of his most impressive recordings including “Let Me Love You
Baby,” “Stone Crazy” and “No Lie.”
During this period Guy’s idiosyncratic fretwork would influence
Blues fans on both sides of the Atlantic, including Jimi Hendrix,
the Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton. “My course
was set,” said Clapton, “and he [Guy] was my pilot.”
Credited with inspiring Clapton to form his late 60’s supergroup
Cream, Guy continued gigging in clubs and at festivals around the
world, turning fans on with his unique, down-home approach to the
Unfortunately, by 1970 the American Blues revival had played itself
out, and the ’70s and early ’80s proved slow for Guy.
He had missed the kind of fame that his musical offspring, Clapton,
Hendrix and Beck, had found.
Appearing often with close friend, Junior Wells, the duo built
a solid reputation of delivering fantastic live shows from the ’60s
until Wells’ death in 1997. Many of the duo’s rollicking
performances were captured for posterity, but perhaps none is as
interesting as their playful 1974 set from the Montreux Jazz Festival
with Muddy Waters.
With yet another Blues revival in the works, this time spearheaded
by Texan Stevie Ray Vaughn, Guy was in the spotlight again. Vaughn
credited Guy with his musical vision, saying, “Without Buddy
Guy, there would be no Stevie Ray Vaughn.”
After being without a record label for nearly a decade, Guy earned
a Grammy Award for this 1991 Silvertone album Damn Right, I’ve
Got the Blues. Following efforts included Feels Like Rain in 1993,
and the moving Sweet Tea in 2001.
In the early nineties, Guy opened his own Chicago Blues club, Buddy
Guy’s Legends. Always happy to mentor new blues artists, Guy
often appears with up-and-coming artists during his month-long stint
at Legends each year.
Guy received one of music’s top honors in 2005, when he was
inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Demonstrating his
sense of humor, Guy kept his acceptance speech at New York’s
Waldorf Astoria Hotel quick and to the point. “If you don’t
think you have the blues,” Guy quipped, “just keep living.”