Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

How blues legend Buddy Guy got his hands on his first guitar


Buddy Guy’s first guitar cost his father two dollars and only had two strings on it. He would go to sleep with it in his hand, walked around with it and played until his fingers almost bled. He taught himself his favorite John Lee Hooker song on that guitar.


- My first record was 'Boogie Chillen' by the great John Lee Hooker.

♪ Boogie chillen ♪ (guitar playing) - And I would hear that 'Boogie Chillen' on John Lee Hooker And I said, man, whatever that is, I say, one day I sure wish I could learn that.

(guitar playing) That's the only time I would see a guitar, it was Christmas.

It was my dad and them would go get Coot.

His name was Henry Smith but that's the short name like they gave me the buddy.

He would come in and play the line of John's and my dad would be moaning and they would be drinking a gallon of wine or in this case of beer.

♪Tomorrow night ♪ - The rest of the kids didn't pay it no mind, but something about it made me let them other kids go play.

And I said, I got to watch this.

♪ Tomorrow night ♪ - And they all go to sleep, half drunk.

♪ Will all the thrills be gone ♪ - And then the rest of the kids would be out here playing with the toys and I'd go get his guitar and sit there and just try to figure out what I had saw him do.

And that was my first chance to get my hands on a guitar.

And my dad, he gave that same guy which you call Coot, Henry Smith a couple of bucks for a guitar, with two strings on it.

(guitar playing) ♪ Your lips are so tender ♪ - And I would go to sleep with a guitar in my hand.

♪ Your heart is beating fast ♪ - And I found myself waking up one day sounding like the 'Boogie Chillen'. And I had my fingers clamped in that position.

And I said, if I move it, I never would find that again.

So I just went walking.

Cause if you go out in Lettsworth you gotta walk two or three miles to get to the next neighbor.

So I walked because I wanted someone to hear, I had found it.

And I played it until my finger was almost bleeding because I was afraid to stop.

I figured if I stop I would never find that note again.

But I never did forget it.

(guitar playing) That had just stuck to me then.

♪ Well my mama don't allow me ♪ ♪ To stay out all night long ♪ ♪ Cause my mama didn't allow me ♪ ♪ To stay out all night long ♪ ♪ I didn't care what she didn't allow ♪ ♪ I wanted to boogie woogie anyhow ♪ (guitar playing) ♪ One night I was laying down ♪ ♪ I heard mama and papa talking ♪ ♪ I heard papa tell my mama ♪ ♪ Let that boy boogie woogie ♪ ♪ Cause it's in him ♪ ♪ And its got to come out ♪ ♪ But I felt so good ♪ ♪ I went on and boogie woogied just the same ♪ (guitar playing) ♪ Boogie chillen ♪


PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.