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S35 Ep9

Buddy Guy: The Blues Chase The Blues Away

Premiere: 7/27/2021 | 00:01:58

Dive into the career of the legendary blues guitarist, a pioneer of Chicago’s West Side sound and major influence on rock titans like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. Featuring new performances and interviews with Carlos Santana and more.



About the Episode

American Masters presents the broadcast premiere of Buddy Guy: The Blues Chase the Blues Away, a new documentary on living legend George “Buddy” Guy, a blues master who transcended his early years as a sharecropper in Lettsworth, Louisiana to become one of the most influential guitarists of all time. A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and eight-time GRAMMY winner, Guy is a pioneer of Chicago’s fabled West Side sound and a living link to the city’s halcyon days of electric blues. Buddy Guy: The Blues Chase the Blues Away premieres Tuesday, July 27 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app — just days before Guy’s 85th birthday on July 30.

This new documentary features intimate, original interviews with Guy and archival and never-before-seen performances, including footage of the blues legend on stage with the likes of President Obama and The Rolling Stones. Interweaving archival interviews with Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Willie Dixon with original interviews with musicians Guy influenced, including John Mayer, Carlos Santana, Gary Clark, Jr., Kingfish and more, American Masters traces Guy’s rich career and lasting impact as one of the final surviving connections to an historic era in the country’s musical evolution.

After moving from Louisiana in the 1950s, Guy quickly rose to prominence as the go-to guitarist for Waters and Howlin’ Wolf amidst the iconic Chicago blues scene, directly inspiring The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and many more. Yet solo commercial success consistently eluded Guy until a late-career breakthrough in the 1990s. A tale of decades-long perseverance, Guy’s journey reflects both the Black experience in America in the 20th century and the history of the blues.


Buddy Guy: The Blues Chase the Blues Away is a production of RCA Records and Scheme Engine in association with American Masters Pictures. The film is directed by Devin Amar, Matt Mitchener and Charles Todd. John Beug and Sheira Rees-Davies are the producers. Michael Kantor, Camille Yorrick, Devin Amar and Sheira Rees-Davies are Executive Producers. Sony Music Entertainment is the distributor of the film.

About American Masters
Launched in 1986 on PBS, American Masters has earned 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 14 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards, and many other honors. To further explore the lives and works of masters past and present, American Masters offers streaming video of select films, outtakes, filmmaker interviews, the podcast American Masters: Creative Spark, educational resources, digital original series and more. The series is a production of The WNET Group.

American Masters is available for streaming concurrent with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. PBS station members can view many series, documentaries and specials via PBS Passport. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.

About The WNET Group
The WNET Group creates inspiring media content and meaningful experiences for diverse audiences nationwide. It is the community-supported home of New York’s THIRTEEN – America’s flagship PBS station – WLIW21, THIRTEEN PBSKids, WLIW World and Create; NJ PBS, New Jersey’s statewide public television network; Long Island’s only NPR station WLIW-FM; ALL ARTS, the arts and culture media provider; and newsroom NJ Spotlight News. Through these channels and streaming platforms, The WNET Group brings arts, culture, education, news, documentary, entertainment and DIY programming to more than five million viewers each month. The WNET Group’s award-winning productions include signature PBS series Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend and Amanpour and Company and trusted local news programs MetroFocus and NJ Spotlight News with Briana Vannozzi. Inspiring curiosity and nurturing dreams, The WNET Group’s award-winning Kids’ Media and Education team produces the PBS KIDS series Cyberchase, interactive Mission US history games, and resources for families, teachers and caregivers. A leading nonprofit public media producer for nearly 60 years, The WNET Group presents and distributes content that fosters lifelong learning, including multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty, jobs, economic opportunity, social justice, understanding and the environment. Through Passport, station members can stream new and archival programming anytime, anywhere. The WNET Group represents the best in public media. Join us.


Support for American Masters is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AARP, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Rosalind P. Walter Foundation, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judith & Burton Resnick, Seton Melvin Charitable Trust, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, Vital Projects Fund, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Koo and Patricia Yuen and public television viewers.


♪♪♪ -[ Birds chirping ] [ Blues guitar plays ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -The first music that touched my heart came from the birds.

♪♪♪ They caught my ear while I was in the field and had me wondering about all the creatures made by God.

♪♪♪ Some crawled and some hissed and some poisoned you with their bite.

Others flew and sang.

♪♪♪ When they sang, the world was filled with beautiful sounds.

I'd close my eyes so that everything disappeared... [ Birds chirping ] ...but the sound of a beautiful bird.

♪♪♪ ♪ I've been mighty lucky ♪ ♪ I've traveled everywhere ♪ ♪ Made a ton of money ♪ ♪ Spent it like I don't care ♪ ♪ A few good years ♪ ♪ Is all I need right now ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Please, please, Lord ♪ ♪ Send a few good years ♪ ♪ On down ♪ [ Birds chirping ] The second music that touched my heart came from John Lee Hooker.

From then on, the blues turned my life upside down, from the plantation to the concrete jungle of Chicago, had me going places and doing things that, when I look back, seems crazy.

The blues turned me wild.

♪♪♪ But, first, I want to go back where I started at.

The story begins in Lettsworth, Louisiana, where I was born 84 years ago.

♪♪♪ Growing up in Louisiana was very hard.

At that time, I didn't know it was as hard as it was.

My parents was sharecroppers.

We didn't have any machinery.

All we had was horses, mules, chickens, and pigs.

I mean, you couldn't see a future there.

Soon as you got big enough to chop wood or pick cotton, you started right there and you pick it by the pound.

Can you imagine how much you have to pick before it weigh enough for you to get paid?

I would be praying for rain, that it could get a little heavier with the water on the cotton.

We had a wooden house, with wooden windows and wooden doors.

We had to walk to school for miles.

We had to walk all the way from back way over there and go all the way up to those two -- -You walked all the way to Keller's Lane to go to school? -Past Keller's Lane.

-[Bleep] -That's where -- Most of the white kids in Louisiana had school buses.

They used to pass us on the gravel road and the dust looked like a snowstorm.

When we'd see the bus coming, we used to run and try to get as further away from the dust that we can.

♪♪♪ I didn't know, at the time, but when I got my little flour sack and went out in the field... ♪♪♪ ...I was doing something my people had been doing ever since that Atlantic crossing, sent out on slave ships from Africa to America.

♪♪♪ Maybe that's where the blues began.

♪♪♪ Funny thing about the blues -- you play 'em because you got 'em.

But when you play 'em, you lose 'em.

If you hear 'em, if you let the music get into your soul, you won't lose 'em.

♪♪♪ The blues chase the blues away.

♪♪♪ Finally, we got electricity and we picked enough cotton to get a phonograph.

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

-♪ Boogie chillen ♪ -I would hear that 'Boogie Chillen' on John Lee Hooker and I said, 'Man, whatever that is,' I said, 'One day, I sure wish I could learn that.'

♪♪♪ The only time I would see a guitar, it was Christmas.

My dad and them would go get Coot.

His name was Henry Smith, but that's a short name, like they give me the 'Buddy.'

♪♪♪ He would come in and play the Lonnie Johnson.

My dad would be moaning and they would be drinking a gallon of wine and 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.'

And they all would go to sleep, half drunk, and then, the rest of the kids would be out there, 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.

♪♪♪ -♪ Your lips ♪ ♪ Are so tender ♪ -And I would go to sleep with that 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 of Lettsworth, you got to 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 until my finger was almost bleeding because I was afraid to stop.

I figured, if I stopped, I would never find that note again.

But I never did forget it.

♪♪♪ It just stuck to me there.

♪ Well, my mama don't like me ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ To stay out all night long ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Yeah, my mama didn't like me ♪ ♪ To stay out all night long ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ I didn't care what she didn't like ♪ ♪ I wanted to boogie woogie, anyhow ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ One night, I was layin' down ♪ ♪ I heard Mama and Papa talkin' ♪ ♪ Heard Papa tell my Mama ♪ ♪ Let that boy boogie woogie ♪ ♪ 'Cause it's in him ♪ ♪ And it's got to come out ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Well, I felt so good ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ I went on and boogie woogied just the same ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ 'Boogie Chillen.'

There wasn't a high school out there where I was born.

To go to high school, you had to go to Baton Rouge, which was about 70 miles away.

I got a job there, pumping gas at a service station.

My boss said, 'Hook up that guitar.

Maybe we'll get some customers.'

A guy came by, by the name of Big Poppa.

You know, his name was really, he told me... [ Laughs ] And I started playing 'Boogie Chillen,' which I had just learned.

He asked me how much I was making, which was much nothing, and he said, 'I'll pay you that if you come play guitar with me in my band.'

And I would sing for two people or three people.

I wasn't shy of that, but if you brought four, I was shy.

[ Laughs ] I didn't want -- I didn't think I was good enough to make more than four people say, 'That sound pretty good,' so I kept the rest to myself.

And when he took me to the club that night, he told me to sing that song.

There was 15 or 20 people.

I didn't know he was going to want me to do that.

I thought he just wanted me to play the guitar.

I said, 'I'll sing it, if you let me turn the microphone between me and the wall behind me,' and he said, 'You got to turn around,' I said, 'Not tonight.'

♪♪♪ And I got fired.

The only time I ever been fired in my life!

And I went back to pumping gas 'cause I was too shy to sing.

♪♪♪ I was in Baton Rouge for about five months.

♪♪♪ Then my mother had taken a stroke.

♪♪♪ And I had to go back out there to help the family 'cause I am the oldest boy.

♪♪♪ I had to go back out there on the farm and help them farm to get a meal for the next day.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Projector clacks ] ♪♪♪ [ Film reel rattling ] ♪♪♪ [ Projector clacks ] -You know, the blues is something that is hard to get acquainted with, just like death.

♪♪♪ Now, I'll tell you about the blues, now.

The blues dwell with you every day and every way.

See, you can have the blues about that you're broke.

You can have the blues about your girl is gone.

The blues comes so many different ways, until it's kind of hard to explain.

♪♪♪ The blues is something that people can't get rid of.

Yeah, and if you ever have the blues, remember what I tell you.

You'll always hear this in your heart.

♪♪♪ [ Projector clacks ] -And, at that point in time, I heard BB King, Lightnin' Hopkins, and T-Bone.

And then, this thing come out by Guitar Slim.

♪♪♪ -♪ The things that I used to do ♪ -They brought him to Baton Rouge and I went up there.

When they introduced Guitar Slim, I didn't see anybody, but I heard this guitar and I said, 'Wait a minute, you know, am I being fooled?

Who playing it?' And, finally, a guy brought him in like you do your little baby, across his shoulder, and he was playing as this big, heavyset guy brought him in.

He dropped him right on the stage.

And I said, 'I want to sound like BB King, but I want to act like Guitar Slim.'

♪ The things that I used to ♪ ♪ Lord, I won't do ♪ ♪ No more ♪ You could find Big Joe Turner coming to Baton Rouge.

You could find Guitar Slim.

But Chess Records had exploded in Chicago.

Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters, they didn't come to Baton Rouge.

-♪ When I'm doin' right ♪ -♪ When I hear your voice ♪ -I was so in love with Muddy Waters, I just wanted to see him.

And then, a friend of mine came to Baton Rouge and said, 'Man, you can go to Chicago and listen to these guys free.'

But I didn't know anything about Chicago.

And I started thinking, I said, 'Well, you know, I ain't gonna ever be good enough to be a professional musician, but I would love to watch them guys.'

Because, at that point in time, in 1957, we still was riding in the back of the bus.

You know how it was in the South.

And I just said, 'I just want to go see something.

'Cause I didn't make it to the Army.

I want to see something other than Louisiana.'

♪♪♪ I went to sleep that night and fell into crazy dreams.

♪♪♪ Oh, I was picking cotton in the dream... ♪♪♪ ...when, all of a sudden, I saw Lightnin' Slim.

♪♪♪ Right then and there, the sky broke open and a bolt of lightning struck his guitar, the forest caught on fire... -[ Barking ] dog started to bark, and we had to run out of there.

When I got back to the shack where I'd been raised, the shack was burning, too.

I was scared Mama and Daddy and my sisters and brothers was inside, getting burned up.

But when I turned around, they were clapping for me.

[ Whistling ] The fire had gone out.

♪♪♪ The storm had passed.

♪♪♪ 'Keep playing, Buddy,' my Mama told me in that dream.

♪♪♪ 'Keep on playing.'

♪♪♪ I was going to Chicago.

♪♪♪ I came to Chicago... ♪♪♪ -You know, a lot of these cats migrated from the South and it was kind of a more acoustic sound and they got to the city and needed to be heard.

People started becoming electrified.

That, right there, changed the course of music to this day.

-I arrived there about 11:26 that night.

For some reason, I can't never forget that.

You could walk a block and you would pass like five blues clubs with five bands in it.

And they were sounding so good.

♪♪♪ There wasn't no cover charge at no blues club when I came here.

♪♪♪ But you must buy a drink when you went in there and I didn't even drink, [ Laughing ] at the time.

So, I had to go in and buy a bottle of beer and set it on the bar just to hear them play, and I did that 'til I got broke.

♪♪♪ Chicago had Chess Records -- Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf.

I guess the Chess Brothers just had that thing.

They had all they needed.

They just figured, 'I don't need nothing else, now.

I got the top four blues guys in Chicago, so don't bring me nothing else.'

So, our chances of getting in there were slim to none.

♪♪♪ There was a disc jockey in Baton Rouge by the name of Diggy Doo and he was telling me I was good enough to make a record.

And he made a demo and wrote a note.

He said, 'Go to Chess and tell them sent you.'

And I did.

When I walked into Chess, they saw my guitar, which was a Les Paul, and they had a session with the late Wayne Bennett.

They just took my guitar and put it right in the session.

♪ Louisiana to ♪ I took the demo to Leonard... ♪♪♪ ...but he never did listen to it.

So, I left, bummed around, and got broke.

And, at that point, I wasn't looking to become a musician.

I wanted to go to work during the day and go out at night and listen to the greats.

♪♪♪ I was hoping to send money back down to Louisiana.

I really looked and looked and looked, but I never found a day job and I got stranded.

[ Projector clacks ] [ Film reel rattling ] -The type of blues that I sing, you pay the cost out there.

♪♪♪ You just don't get up and just walk the streets and get whatever you want, whenever you get ready, and can sing the blues like myself or Lightnin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker.

♪♪♪ Plus, you got to go to church to get this particular thing in your soul, you know.

[ Projector clacks ] ♪♪♪ -I've always been proud... ♪♪♪ ...even as a young man.

♪♪♪ Five or six months after I arrived, pride had me straight up starving.

♪♪♪ I was flat broke, walking the streets of the South Side with my guitar, thinking of borrowing a dime to call my dad for a ticket home.

♪♪♪ I was ready to swallow my pride.

I got stranded for three days with no food.

Finally, a stranger met me on the street after I played a Jimmy Reed song and took me to this famous blues club, 708 Club on 47th Street.

Otis Rush was playing.

And this guy knew I could play the little 'Boogie Chillen,' a few licks by BB King, and he said, 'Hey, I got a young MF here can play BB King and Muddy Waters.'

Otis Rush said, 'Bring him up.'

So, when I went up, I hadn't ate, this was my third day without food, man, 'cause I was busted.

And I played Guitar Slim, 'Things I Used to Do,' and I think it was 'Sweet Little Angel' by BB King.

And I was telling people I was hungry and people would say, 'Oh, man, you not hungry, not the way you can play.'

And somebody called Muddy Waters.

He was living on Lake Park, which was about eight blocks away.

So, I picked up my guitar, walked outside the club, and there was this red station wagon and out steps Muddy.

And he said, 'You got to play.

They done got me out of my bed to come hear you play and I heard you were hungry.'

And I said, 'If you Muddy Waters, I'm not hungry.'

And he started laughing and made me a salami sandwich.

And he laughed and made me this great salami sandwich and made me eat it and told me, 'Don't ever think about going back to Louisiana.'

♪♪♪ Well, something like that, there's no way I could forget that.

The way I met Muddy, the sandwich is fine, but, I really was full after I found out who he was because I'm like saying, 'I done made this trip, not knowing anybody, to see you play and, here, you're feeding me,' you know, and that made my whole trip to Chicago worthwhile, from that day to this one.

♪♪♪ In the early days, I was a lost ball in high weeds.

After that night at the 708, I started to find myself.

♪♪♪ It was so busy in the clubs in those days, I lost track of the weekend.

Because Chicago was like seven days a week, all the stockyards, the steel mills was going, everything was like around the clock.

And I walked up to a stranger one day, I said, 'I'd like to go to church.'

He said, 'Son, [ Laughs ] this is Wednesday.'

I said, 'Oh, my God. I got to go back and figure out when it's Saturday and Sunday.'

I didn't think I was good enough.

Still don't think I'm good enough to be a professional musician, but I saw some of the great guitar players who I was learning and what we call stealing licks from.

I couldn't go there and vibrate that hand like BB King.

I said, 'Man, I got to put something else with that.'

I said, 'I got to get some attention.

So, I got to jump up and do something stupid.'

♪♪♪ They always used to sit in chairs -- Muddy, Walter -- they didn't know what standing up was.

And I came in standing up, saying, 'I got this from Guitar Slim,' and they said, 'Man, he is wild!'

Because when I get happy, I'm going to shout.

I was brought up in the Baptist Church.


My grandmother and grandfather and them used to say I had that spirit, man, I had to let it out.

You know, I just come out and did some shouting.

And that's what I was doing with my guitar.

♪♪♪ ♪ Whoa! ♪ ♪ Ohhh! ♪ I can't just stand still.

I got to kick a leg out or do something.

♪♪♪ And I guess let the people know I felt good myself, with that note I hit.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -And Buddy plays with his teeth and plays behind his back and goes out in the audience.

-You know, he could be whipping the guitar with the guitar cable or hitting it with the drumstick or going out in the crowd.

-He took his wires and he went out, all backstage in the crowd.

-He had this big, long cord and he was playing outside you know, on the sidewalk or whatever.

And seeing Buddy Guy standing outside of a club while the band's inside, kicking, everybody's in time, like that does something to some people.

It changes people's lives and it continues to.

-And I've been backstage and, more than once, man, out of any other guitar player I've ever heard, you will stop talking to the person in the dressing room because something is happening 20 yards away, through 8 walls, that will make you stop talking.

You just hear this sonic tsunami come through the halls into the room and you go, 'What is that?!' I mean, it was giant.

It demands that people go, 'Oh, I got to go see this.'

-Like a tornado and a hurricane.

I learned so much from the way he -- just the way he stands.

He stands like he's got a flamethrower, like, 'Whish!'

You know, he's going to torch the town, you know.

The first time I saw him, I mean, see, this is the thing.

When you see it, when you see Buddy Guy and you hear him, straight from God.

From God to Buddy Guy to me, or the listener.

-He's like a gunslinger, you know.

He really is a gunslinger.

He's just kinda really softspoken and he's just chill, 'Oh, yeah, um, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, I'm just going to --' I go, 'How you feel tonight, Buddy?'

'Oh, I'm okay. I'm alright.'

'You getting ready to play?'

'Oh, I'm going to try.

I don't know if it's going to work, but I, you know.'

And then he gets out there and bang bang bang bang bang bang!

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Was there a lot of competition amongst players -[ Laughs ] -in the '50s and '60s and could you comment on that and describe -- -We had battles of guitars and they'd say, 'A battle of guitars.

The winner will get a bottle of whiskey,' and I didn't even drink, at the time, and I won that whiskey, just by -- not outplaying 'em, by running' up and down the bar.

There'd be snow on the ground sometime and I'd come in with that long cable and I'd run out the door and somebody would say, 'He won it.'

I don't think I won it by playing.

I won it by just acting a nut.

And Magic Sam came and got me and took me to Cobra Records.

And I went in and he said, 'Sing,' and then he came out with a contract.

That's when I got a chance to cut my first 45, 'I Sit and Cry and Sing the Blues.'

♪ I sit and cry ♪ And sing the blues ♪ [ Projector clacks ] [ Film reel rattling ] ♪♪♪ -Marker. [ Clack ] -The thing about being a guitar player, like a blues guitar player, is the variables are like who you are and what the moment is.

So, you're hearing these people play in moments that have come and gone.

♪♪♪ Because the actual song form is so well-established, you now have a point of reference to hear how different people play.

We just get to hear each different musician's expression on top of that.

It's very much dependent on who the messenger is.

It's not the message, it's the messenger, you know.

But if you detach the form of the song from the idiom, well, then, maybe blues could be anything.

♪♪♪ If the blues is expressing how you feel in a vocal, passionate way, in a way that you love and that communicates to other people the feeling that you have in your chest, then by that estimation, the blues is very much alive and well.

♪♪♪ [ Projector clacks ] -I got a call one day and said, 'Do you want a job?

This is the Howlin' Wolf.'

And I'm like looking at the phone, saying, 'Yeah, okay, crank.'

And I heard this growling voice over the phone.

I said, 'This is the Howlin' Wolf.

If it's not, it's somebody can imitate him as good as he can.'

But there's very few people could sound like the Howlin' Wolf, so I said, 'This got to be the Wolf,' and he was offering me a gig to come play with him.

-♪ You bear it in mind ♪ ♪ You bear it in mind, there's time for everything ♪ -Before I met him, I heard that he would beat the hell out of his side men if you didn't walk a chalk line.

[ Laughs ] And that's why I was afraid of him all the time, but we wound up being good friends.

He never did treat me like that.

He'd always call me if he wanted me to do a session with him.

He would call me his personal self and say, 'I want you to play on a record with me.'

♪♪♪ I remember my session with the Howlin' Wolf.

They had been there all night, but I'm at home, asleep.

And they done been there 'til about 10:00, 11:00 the next day.

And Leonard Chess said, 'Go call and wake Buddy Guy up.'

I think it was two takes and he said, 'See, MF?

You know, that's -- We've been here all night, trying to get that and you call the man and wake him up out the bed and he'll do it in two minutes.'

The Chess brothers used to call you 'MF,' if you know what I'm talking about.

And then sometime, they would say, 'Cut! Cut! Cut!

Hold it! Hold it!

Hey, MF, turn your guitar off,' and I would never look up.

And, finally, they would come out the engineer room and punch me on the shoulder, 'I'm talking to you, MF.'

I'd say, 'I thought my name was Buddy.'

And they would make a joke out of it 'cause everybody, including Leonard Chess, Muddy Waters, everybody was 'that MF.'

And, you know, after three to five months, when they'd say 'MF,' I answered.

♪♪♪ My education with the songwriting came from sitting back and not saying nothing and watching Wolf, Muddy, Walter, Sonny Boy, and all these guys and come to find out -- I'm getting a little inside information -- if you write a song, you get a check, and they wasn't getting anything.

One time, Leonard Chess wanted to record Lightnin' Hopkins.

Leonard Chess told him, 'I'm going to give you a contract to sign up with the Chess Records.'

He said, 'No, you going to give me $1,000.

I'm going to give you an album, 'cause I know I ain't gonna get nothing else with that contract.'

And I'm sitting there.

I think I was about 22 then.

I'm listening at that.

I'm like saying, 'Uh-huh.

Okay, I got that.'

-♪ You know it's a sin to be rich ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ But it's a low-down shame to be poor ♪ -So, I'm like right in the middle, trying to get an education about playing music, listening to music, writing music.

♪♪♪ In the earlier days, nobody knew what was going on if you write a song.

There are royalties and things that come from writing a song and the average guy, they didn't know nothing about that.

They was getting ripped off.

-♪ You know a rich man ain't got a chance ♪ -When I called myself writing a few songs, Leonard Chess would say, 'Let Willie Dixon hear it,' and he would change one word or two words and the song would come out, look at the album, or the 78 or the 45, it'd say 'Willie Dixon.'

I know a lot of songs was taken from people that didn't know what was going on with that.

-I got ripped off.

I feel happy about it because the man ripped me off.

He started struggling. I was struggling, He made me a name and I made him a millionaire, so.

[ Laughs ] -You're happy about that?

I'm astonished. I'd be very angry.

-Well, being mad don't help you none, you know, so you just want to smile, you know.

[ Projector clacks ] [ Film reel rattling ] ♪♪♪ -The blues, you know, is a story, a story of life.

It all depends on the life you live.

And, down South, most of 'em made up their songs as they went along.

If he was catching a mule to work with or something and the mule that he had and been working with, he -- maybe his shoulder was sore from pulling the plow or pulling a heavy load or something like this.

This is how these type of songs was made.

And he would get to thinking about his mule, that shoulder's sore, and all like this, and he'd just make a song.

Maybe the song would go something like this, see?

He would just walk out there and say -- ♪ Woh ♪ ♪ Oh oh oh oh ♪ ♪ I done plowed old Susie ♪ ♪ I done plowed old Belle ♪ ♪ You know, I can't find a mule ♪ ♪ With a shoulder well ♪ [ Projector clacks ] -♪ The first time I met the blues ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ You know I was walking down through the woods ♪ -Things was changing.

Still, my career was going nowhere, fast.

-♪ I met the blues, baby, yeah ♪ -I'm going to relay to you what I learned from Muddy Waters or someone who -- or Willie Dixon, who came up with Chess.

I did not. When I got there, Chess was Chess.

I learned from the letter that they wrote and left on the table, should I say.

My experience with Chess was, 'Sign up with me and I'll get you a record out there,' [ Laughs ] and that didn't happen, so.

♪♪♪ ♪ You should've heard me beggin' ♪ They had released one 45, 'First Time I Met the Blues,' written by Little Brother Montgomery.

♪ Don't murder me ♪ No one loved the older cats more than I did.

♪♪♪ They were my heroes.

♪ You should've heard me that morning ♪ Muddy, BB, and Lightnin' hung the Moon.

♪ Don't murder me ♪ ♪♪♪ I could play in their style.

♪♪♪ I could play on the Moon.

♪ You know you're with me every morning, blues ♪ But I could also go to Mars.

♪♪♪ But Chess kept telling me, 'Keep your style under control.'

That meant, 'Don't do your wild thing.'

♪♪♪ My wild thing was when I let the guitar rip, when I didn't care whether it was a little out of tune, did not care if the feedback messed up the sound.

The fact is I loved that messed-up sound.

♪♪♪ Leonard Chess didn't want me up on Mars.

Chess kept telling me, 'Keep your style under control.'

♪♪♪ I was begging Leonard Chess and the people, I said, 'Man, just please put a record out on me.'

So, I rehearsed with Willie Dixon, for six months or better, on a record called 'That Same Thing' and he set me up to do the session.

I walked in the studio at 9:00 in the morning.

Leonard Chess walks through there and said, 'That [bleep] record is not for you.

That's for Muddy Waters.

That don't fit him. Call Muddy.'

And they called Muddy right there, in the middle of my session and I had to play the guitar.

I just said, 'Okay, I'll play it.'

♪♪♪ ♪ Must be the same ol' thing ♪ ♪ That made a preacher lay, uh ♪ ♪ His Bible down ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ It's about time you met one of the craziest characters to come running through my life, someone I met back at the 708 Club -- my good friend Junior Wells.

-Little Junior Wells, where you at?

[ Cheering and applause ] Little Junior Wells!

♪♪♪ -I'm grateful to God that we hooked up like we did.

Not that it was all smooth sailing.

Junior came with a boatload of baggage.

♪♪♪ Junior was kinda mean to the side men and he never could keep a good band.

-♪ Lord, I wonder what's has got the matter ♪ ♪ Time, you know, with time ♪ -Well, the first time I met Junior, he asked me did I want to play in his band and I said, 'No, I think I better just leave this alone.'

We became friends.

We would jam together in a little place called Theresa's Lounge.

I would go in and jam behind Junior and they said, 'We need to bring him in here 'cause he can kinda calm Junior down.

-♪ Somebody done hoodooed the hoodoo man ♪ -'Cause I wouldn't let him tell me what to do like he would do the rest of the band.

Do you know, when I was 14 years old, they would bring a wild pony to me, man?

I could get on that pony and he would buck for 45 minutes and he couldn't get me off his back.

Do you know you can go get a wild horse or a bull right now, some of 'em will buck 'cause they think you're harming them.

When they find out you not harming them, he's your best friend, as a dog.

♪♪♪ He came to me one day, said, 'I want you to play on this 'Hoodoo Man' album with me.'

No rehearsal, nothing, I just got up early that morning and we went in and made the record.

-♪ Somebody done hoodooed ♪ ♪ The hoodoo man ♪ -With Junior by my side, we made music that I could never have made alone.

He inspired me.

Me and him was ham and eggs.

But it didn't take too much for his eggs to get scrambled... ♪♪♪ ...burning up my ham and scorching the frying pan.

♪♪♪ But we getting ahead of ourselves.

I want to go back to 'The Same Thing.'

Leonard said, 'Now, we'll go get you a song [ Laughs ] for you to make your record.'

They went and found 'My Time After a While,' and, while recording 'My Time After a While,' the Rolling Stones was standing against the wall in a line, trying to get signed up with the Chess Records and that's the first time I met them.

♪♪♪ ♪ It's your time right now, woman ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ But, oh, I got a feeling ♪ ♪ It's gonna be my time after a while ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ It's your time right now, woman ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ But, oh, I got a feeling ♪ ♪ It's gonna be my time after a while ♪ I had never seen a white man with hair that long and I'm asking, 'What the hell is this?'

And they stood there and watched me while I was right in the middle of my session.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ She stayed out last night ♪ I wasn't thinking about tone or whatever these people had figured that I had.

♪ And do you know she just walked in ♪ I just played.

♪ That bold girl is gettin' ready, Lord have mercy ♪ ♪ And she's going back out ♪ ♪ Again ♪ The sound those guys was getting from me was a regular Stratocaster with a Fender basement amplifier.

-And so it's a Fender Stratocaster turned up real loud and kind of pushing the strings beyond the normal tolerance.

So, a guitar string -- if you go back to T-Bone Walker, he's bending it a bit.

T-Bone Walker bends it a little bit, but he couldn't, because the strings were so thick.

Well, once they made thinner strings, well, people would normally bend about a tone.

[ Scatting ] And then BB kinda went -- [ Scatting ] You know?

And then Buddy was like, 'How much more can I push it?'

And that's where Buddy goes -- [ Scatting ] That's all one string he's holding down.

♪♪♪ -His influence is so vast that people don't even realize it.

And anything -- ♪♪♪ -Whenever someone picks up a Stratocaster and turns it up as loud as they can and closes their eyes and winces and bends the string up to the point where it might break, that's Buddy Guy.

There's a lot of other names, but it begins with Buddy Guy.

-You got to be a badass to come up with something that people are still trying to copy, you know, decades later.

-♪ You know, you know ♪ -But his guitar playing was very much like his singing was, which was -- ♪ Ah ah ah ah ah ah ♪ -♪ Lord ♪ ♪ I'm gonna have to move on down the line ♪ -And he would do it on the guitar, too.

-Some of the licks that he's always did kinda came off as like lightning strike.

♪♪♪ -Where it just kinda pierces you at times, you know, like, 'Oh, Jesus, like I can't --' But the energy in it, it's like you feel that.

You know what I mean?

♪♪♪ -Just the fieriest guitar player around, for decades.

♪♪♪ -Yeah. -Alright.

♪♪♪ -Willie Dixon was telling me I didn't have it, you know.

Chess was saying that I didn't have it.

'You sound too much like Tom, Dick, and Harry, and whoever.'

But, you know, all of my life, I just never give up.

♪♪♪ You was just playing for the love of music because I had to go to work in the daytime.

I was driving a tow truck... ♪♪♪ ...and playing the music at night.

♪♪♪ I kept my guitar in the tow truck, so, whenever the opportunity came, I said I had my guitar, in case somebody wanted me to play.

♪♪♪ -His road was just so filled with lefts and rights and backups and breakdowns and, finally get there, it takes a lot of endurance.

It takes a lot of hard knocks to create this thing.

♪♪♪ Somehow, that sound, it creeped over across the ocean.

Those guys in England, they were listening to the guitar work he was doing behind people.

Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck, those guys were listening.

♪♪♪ And, when he came over on some small tour, they all showed up.

'That's the guy. That's the sound.'

-At that time, I'd just taken a vacation from my day job and went over there, just to make sure I'd go to England and some places like that in my lifetime.

I never dreamed I would be traveling the world over with my music.

But I went to England in 1965, February 1965, and I played with a group called The Yardbirds.

Which, Eric Clapton told me, that's the first time he saw play a Strat.

And, when I met Eric Clapton, he said he slept in a van -- him and Beck and Jimmy Page -- to see me play.

And I think I threw the guitar up in London and caught it and they told me I caught it in the same key and I don't even remember that. [ Chuckle ] -I first saw Buddy when I was about 18 years old.

I heard he was on at the Marquee Club in London and I went to see him when he was there.

And he was young and he was in this silk suit, sharp as anything, and it was -- phew!

It was an unbelievable experience for me.

I'll never forget it.

And he played that Strat, which was unusual in itself.

-Some of my friends in England didn't know the Strat could play the blues, until they saw me in England in 1965.

-And, when I saw him play the Strat, that was it.

I was playing a Les Paul and I put it in its case and I went out and started looking for some Strats [ Laughs ] like Buddy's.

♪♪♪ -Chess Records didn't want me to turn up that volume, but the British turned it up with those big Marshall amplifiers.

In England, they said, 'Bring it on.'

So, the British was ready for whatever we had if it sounded good.

America wasn't ready for it.

♪♪♪ [ Projector clacks ] [ Film reel rattling ] -I was amazed when I got to America that, really, nobody knew who these people were.

Well, you know, this is... this is the strongest thing that you, culturally, you've got, in my opinion.

The -- It stood head and shoulders above everything else 'cause it... uh, all of that music that came from Detroit and, uh, and Muscle Shoals and New York and, oh, you know, the modern, uh, R&B stuff was great, but it was still kind of chart-conscious.

It was still about being popular music.

And, uh, the blues was really different.

It had another... another purpose, I think.

It was just a form of expression with incredible refined technique.

And, uh, when we would go over there and talk about, well, what, um -- 'Where did you get your sound?'

and I would say, 'Well, Freddie King, Buddy Guy,' they were -- they were mystified.

And I thought, 'This is crazy! This is crazy!'

These people are right here under your nose and you don't know who they are.

[ Projector clacks ] -If it was not for those guys, I don't think you'd be interviewing me now, man.

Those guys -- Clapton, Beck, and the Rolling Stones, and all those people like that kept mentioning my name, and that brought me up better than any record I ever made.

-I think the Stones were really, really, um, in the -- in the vanguard and they let everybody know what -- where they got their... They did 'Little Red Rooster' and they made sure that everyone knew it was a Howlin' Wolf song.

-There was a television show called the, uh, 'Shindig!'

And it came in and wanted to do the Rolling Stones, and they raised all kinda hell about, 'If you bring me Howlin' Wolf, then I'll do the 'Shindig!' show.'

-So, I think it's about time you shut up and we had Howlin' Wolf onstage. -Yeah. I see, okay.

[ Crowd cheering ] Let's get him out. Howlin' Wolf!

Bring him up.

-♪ How many more years ♪ ♪ Do I have to let you dog me around ♪ -And -- And white America was saying, 'Who's Howlin' Wolf?' and, 'Who's Muddy Water?'

and they got offended about it.

We laugh about that now every time I'm with the Stones.

They say, 'You mean to tell me you don't know who Muddy Waters is and we named ourself after one of his famous records, 'Rolling Stone.'

-♪ Every time I get high ♪ ♪ Yeah, I lay my head down on my baby's breast ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Every time I get high, I wanna lay down ♪ ♪ On my baby's breast ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Well, you know, she hug and kiss me, baby ♪ ♪ She say, 'Buddy Guy, you are the best' ♪ -♪ I wanna get high this mornin' ♪ ♪ People, just as sure it's my name ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ I wanna get high this mornin', Mick ♪ ♪ Just as sure it's my name ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ You can bet my bottom dollar ♪ ♪ Keith ain't gon' use no cocaine ♪ -Alright, play it. Play the song, play the song.

Yeah, come here!

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ And w-w-when I get lonely ♪ ♪ Lay down by my baby's side ♪ ♪♪♪ [ Cheers and applause ] Thank you, Buddy mother... Guy.

-It's yours.

[ Cheers and applause continue ] -But when the British and the Claptons and the Creams and things start making records, Leonard Chess sent for me.

Willie Dixon came to my house early in the morning and told me, 'Put on a suit.'

I said, 'Oh, my God.

I'm through with Chess now.

I know this is my, uh, pink slip.'

And I had never been in the office, and he said, 'Come on up to the office.'

I said, 'Well, this is it.'

He just put on an album. It was Cream.

Leonard Chess said, 'Oh, the British is talking about you.

We had you, but we were too dumb to know what you was offering.'

He just said, 'I want you to kick me in my behind.'

And he bent over and pulled his -- his sport coat up, and I said, 'Maybe I should.'

And he said, 'I want you to come in and turn your amp up and play.'

And I said, 'You kidding me,' because I was like, 'What's the use?

I need to cut you loose.'

And -- And that's the way life is, and I was brought up to say, 'What's for you in life is for you, and what's not for you, you're not gonna get it.'

So, that was the end of my time with Chess Records.

-It's interesting because Buddy's tone doesn't really take shape until after Chess Records.

It's like Buddy finally gets to make whatever record he wants and he's burning the whole time.

If you listen to 'I Smell a Rat,' it's wild, man.

It's... He's unleashed the whole time.

And you don't hear a studio recording of a blues musician doing these live kind of showmanship things.

So, he goes, 'Di-yi-yi-y-yi-yi,' in the studio.

These are things you do for somebody when they're screaming and shrieking at you, and he was putting it on a record.

And so, I remember my friend played me 'I Smell a Rat,' and said, 'Check this out, check this out.'

And I'll never forget hearing it for the first time and going, 'How do you go up and down a neck like that and still hit what you're trying to hit?'

-Yeah, now!

-And this is where I think Buddy really makes a name for himself.

-He put turbo on the blues, where Jimmy and Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and myself -- so many of us -- we learned to -- 'Oh!'

He opened another frequency, another door.

'Cause just -- just his tenacity, his tenacity of tone, man.


[ Projector clacks ] [ Film reel rattling ] When someone goes diving, deep diving, they need a -- a lifeline to breathe, you know, 'cause... That's what -- That's what the blues is to me.

It's a lifeline.

It's a lifeline to passion, emotions... the best part of God.

If God wouldn't have emotions or passion, I'd probably be an atheist.

But because God is extremely and supremely emotional, the blues and God is the same thing to me.

[ Projector clacks ] ♪♪♪ -My dad visited me once before he died.

I think he was kinda sick then, but then my family never did admit how sick they was.

They always used to tell us, 'I don't want you to know this, because it gon' worry you.'

But I took him to a Cubs game and... We went several places, and he saw me play before he died.

Uh, he died in '67.

♪♪♪ I left Louisiana September the 25th, 1957.

My mother had a stroke and I was the oldest boy, the oldest child, leaving.

So, I promised my mother I was gonna go to Chicago and make a lot of money working at a university.

And I was going to buy a polka dot Cadillac.

And I knew I was lying.

But I was trying to make her feel good.

And after she passed away in 1968, I said to myself, 'I'm going to work on something and see can I get a polka dot guitar just in her memory.'

And that's how the polka dot guitar came about.

And I'll keep that until I leave here.

♪♪♪ I was working at a Ford place and I was laying out on a hot summer day under my tow truck, changing oil.

And Junior Wells' manager, Dick Waterman, came up to me and asked, 'You Buddy?'

I said, 'Yeah.'

'How much do you make?'

I was making $2.11 an hour.

So, he said, 'I can write you a postdated check for what you make in a year if you would just go on the road and play your guitar.'

♪ Your love give me such a thrill ♪ ♪ But your lovin' don't pay my bills ♪ ♪ I want your money, hon ♪ ♪ I gotta have it ♪ ♪ And alright, now ♪ ♪ Oh, it's alright ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ Don't get everything, it's true ♪ ♪ What it don't get, I can't use ♪ ♪ I got to have it ♪ ♪ Hey, hey ♪ ♪ And alright, alright, alright ♪ ♪ Gonna be alright ♪ And they had that train leaving Montreal going straight across Canada, stopping at the major cities.

And I was supposed to get on it, which I did.

And the train had the amplifiers on it where we -- we were playing while the train was rolling.

One of the greatest moments of my life on that.

It was Janis Joplin, uh, the Grateful Dead.

Oh, it was a great time, man, you know.

♪ I gotta go ♪ ♪ I had to go, yeah ♪ When I went onstage, I could hear voices saying, 'Now that's the real Buddy Guy,' and I'm like, 'Who's the fake?'

Junior had a guitar player he was taking on the road, calling him 'Buddy Guy' because I had made a couple of albums with Junior.

So, when they went on the road without me, they would say, 'Junior Wells and Buddy Guy,' and that really wasn't me.

-Buddy Guy and Junior Wells.


-Junior Wells and myself - first of all, we had the same manager at the time, and the Rolling Stones wanted us to do, uh, the European tour with them in 1970.

And I looked at the manager, I said, 'Well, Junior is having a problem with the band and I don't have a problem with the band,' which I had made a few albums with Junior.

And I said, 'Um, why don't we just try this together?

Means we going with the Rolling Stones, we come back, let's hold on together and see will this work.'

We started playing together in 1970, and we tried it for, what, 15, 18 years.

And we -- we still was in the small blues clubs that hold 60 people, maybe 100.

♪♪♪ But all the clubs was disappearin'. And Chicago used to have so many blues clubs, some of 'em, I didn't get a chance to see 'em, and they was, like, disappearing.

And I saw that and I said, 'Well, I got, you know, $300 or $400, $500.' I said, 'I think I'm gonna just try to keep the blues alive and open a blues club.'

And this is alright, I didn't make no money off it, but I kept it open.

-♪ Baby, please don't go ♪ ♪ Baby, please don't go ♪ ♪ Baby, please don't go down to New Orleans ♪ ♪ You know I love you so ♪ ♪ Before I be your dog ♪ -That's when the people like the Rolling Stones and, uh, BB King and them had started coming.

The club didn't hold but 60 people.

Still, gonna bring Mick Jagger up.

Mick Jagger! [ Cheers and applause ] -But after they started coming in, they start -- the word got around and my little club was a name for itself.

♪♪♪ -How are ya?

♪♪♪ Why don't ya sing a couple verses?

-[ Vocalizing ] ♪ Baby, please don't go down to New Orleans ♪ ♪ Because I love you so ♪ -Oh, yeah, yeah.

-♪ Before I be your dog ♪ ♪ Before I be your dog ♪ ♪ Be your, be your dog ♪ ♪ I want you way down here by the Rolling Stones ♪ -What about Keith? -Yeah, what about Keith?

-What about Keith?

[ Cheers and applause ] ♪♪♪ -We was at my club, Checkerboard there on 43rd Street.

And me and Junior was there, and the call came in that Muddy was sick.

♪♪♪ And he was just like everybody else -- he didn't want you to know he was that sick.

So, of course, we had his number, so I jumps up and call on the phone, and I say, 'Hey, man, I heard you was sick,' and that's when he started cursing me out.

And he told me, 'MF, I ain't sick, just make damn sure you keep the blues alive.'

-♪ Oh, baby, please don't go ♪ -♪ Baby, please don't go ♪ -♪ Oh, baby, please don't go ♪ -♪ Baby, please don't go ♪ -♪ Baby, please don't go ♪ -♪ Baby, please don't go ♪ -♪ Baby, please don't go ♪ -♪ Baby, please don't go down to New Orleans ♪ ♪ Because I love you so ♪ -And I think it was like three days later, that's when International Press called and say... 'What do ya think about Muddy passing?'

And I said, 'Muddy passing?

He just told me he was doing fine day before yesterday,' and he had -- he had died.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Junior, he was, uh, kinda -- he would get kinda drunk sometime, and I would hold him up and then they would blame me, too -- say, 'They don't play much no more.'

And even the Rolling Stones come to me once and say, 'He won't let you play,' 'cause he used to reach over and grab the neck of my guitar if I'd be into a solo while he wasn't playing.

And he'd reach over and grab the neck of the guitar and cut me off.

And I didn't -- I didn't -- I wouldn't get angry with him about it, you know.

I'd just look at him and laugh.

♪♪♪ That was our, you know, ending to Buddy Guy and Junior Wells.

♪♪♪ But we stayed friends until he -- until he -- until he got real sick.

I was at the hospital with him darn near every day.

And they would tell me just hold his hands in the hospital, and I did that until -- until he passed away.

I wasn't there at the hospital when he passed, but when they called and told me he had passed away, I had been there that day.

♪♪♪ [ Projector clacks ] [ Film reel rattling ] -As much as we try to make it that way, you're not always going to have happy and -- and and -- and great moments where you feel good.

Um, there's gonna be some dark days, gonna be some rain. It sound cliché, but it's gonna be some blues.

It is, knowing all that, um, comes from the blues.

Uh, and it's -- and it's -- you know, it's not just with music.

You know, with stuff that we got going on, you know, with killings, and the police, and political stuff.

All -- All that plays -- All that plays into the fact of what the blues is, and that's life, a reflection on life, because -- Well, reflection and understanding because it's both showing you, hey, this is -- this is what I go through, and this is how I get -- this is how I get through it, for sure.

[ Projector clacks ] -What I love is these Buddy stories where he'll just sort of... almost the verbal equivalent of showing a home movie of his life on the road with one artist or another.

And ask him to tell you the John Lee Hooker story.

It's great.

-The first time I went to Germany was in Baden-Baden, Germany, with Big Mama Thornton, John Lee Hooker, and many more.

I wanted to meet John Lee Hooker, but I didn't know he stutters, 'cause he never did stutter when he sang.

And they was downstairs eating a big breakfast and they was drinkin' whiskey like it was milk in the mornings.

I heard somebody over there stuttering, 'Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba,' I said, 'Well, I definitely don't want to meet him, 'cause I ain't gonna never understand what he's saying.'

So, I just picked up an acoustic guitar and started playing 'Boogie Chillen.'

And here come this guy, 'Ba-ba ba ba-ba-ba-ba, what you doing?'

And I almost got pissed off. I said, 'Nothing, man.'

I said, 'I just want to meet John Lee.'

He just started laughing so tears come out his eye, and said, 'Da-da-da-da da-da, I'm Johnny.'

I said, 'I don't want to meet no damn Johnny.

I want to meet John Lee Hooker.'

And oh, boy, he just fell down on his knees and laughed.

And finally, Big Mama came up, she started to laugh.

She said, 'Buddy, that's John Lee Hooker.'

I said, 'That's who?! John Lee Hooker stuttering like that?'

I say, 'He don't sound like that when he's singing.'

'Cause I didn't never dream of, you know, how John Lee Hooker -- I was in Lettsworth, Louisiana, still picking the cotton when he came up with that 'Boogie Chillen,' and then when I'm saying, 'Wonder what he look like.'

I didn't have a picture of him or nothing, 'Wonder what Muddy Waters look like.'

And all of a sudden, man, I went to dreaming and woke up and I had done met 'em all.

And I'm, like, saying, 'I don't care if I ever get a chance to make a record or nothing.

I done met the people who I admired the most as a musician.'

-You got to understand, like... People who listen to guitar players, who play guitar, do it alone in a room for thousands of hours.

So, to have 'spent my time,' quote-unquote, with Buddy Guy for 10 years before I ever met him, in a room with his pictures on the wall -- 'Cause I bought all these guitar magazines, and you'd occasionally get a picture of Buddy Guy.

You could cut the pictures out, put 'em on the wall.

Bought another book because some of the pictures were on the other side of the page that I used to put on the wall, so I bought two of 'em, because that was my shrine.

And you go to school and you get beat up and you go, 'That's alright.

I'm going home, I'mma play with Buddy Guy after this.'

And that -- And in that way, it saves your life, you know.

-It's been my life, you know, it's been a blessing for me to be able to pay homage and to turn people on to where our music came from.

It didn't just, uh, fall out the trees, you know.

-The unwritten rule as set forth by our sort of musical ancestors is you owe it to the people who inspired you to make a direct line between them and the audience, who goes, 'I don't know what this is, but I love it when you do it.'

I found Buddy's music through Stevie Ray Vaughan.

-Stevie Ray Vaughan, um, did to music what, um, Michael Jordan did for basketball.

Stevie, uh, brought blues alive at a crucial moment, so far as I'm concerned.

[ 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' playing ] ♪♪♪ -Stevie, when he popped up, you know, he helped me a lot, too, 'cause he recorded a couple of songs I had wrote, like, uh, 'Little Nursery Rhyme' and 'Mary Had a Little Lamb.'

-♪ Mary had a little lamb ♪ -♪ Its fleece was black as coal, yeah ♪ -And -- And one of the... one of the things that made goose pimples come on me, every time someone would ask him about it, it was almost like when the Rolling Stones came in.

They say it's new music -- they said, 'No, this is Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters' music,' when they was putting them on television.

And he would go back and tell you, 'This is Stevie Ray Vaughan, but I'm playing a Buddy Guy song.'

White America was asking, 'Who's that?'

♪♪♪ -I remember Stevie talking about 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' being a Buddy Guy song.

Okay, remember the name Buddy Guy.

You know, put that in the 'we got to find more about this guy' list.

'Cause if Stevie liked him and Stevie was playing 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' and that was cool, then we got to find the guy who did all that.

Because if we can find Buddy Guy, we can find more of this music.

-But he let the public know, 'This is not Stevie's music.

This -- I'm playing what I learned from,' and that's what we all do.

♪♪♪ -You know, it was very sad because, uh, the last time I saw him was the night he perished.

And, uh, we played together in... outside of Chicago.

-Eric Clapton came and told me they wanted me to come up and see the show and sit in with him.

And I flew with Eric and I think a couple of his members on that chopper.

Stevie had drove up there with his brother.

When we got ready to come back, all the fog had come in.

And I'm like, 'Well, it's a chopper -- it's going straight up.'

But they tell me they can't go straight up, say they -- they fly it like this.

So, I'm sitting there with my fists tight when we -- when we finished and finally it broke out of the fog and I could see the highway with all this traffic, you know, and I said, 'Thank God we got outta there.'

And they had asked me to fix a gumbo at my house like this in the morning -- Stevie, Eric, and all of 'em was coming to my house wanting me to cook.

Might have been Eric Clapton on the phone -- I said, 'What he want?

He must be wanting me to buy something, get something extra. And he come and said, 'You know Stevie's dead?'

'What do you mean, Stevie's dead?'

'One of the choppers went down.'

'Cause he wasn't even supposed to be on there.

A guy decided to not come back, and they ran back in and told Stevie there was a empty seat on the chopper going to Chicago, and they're gonna go to Buddy Guy's club before it close.

And then they were gonna come out here the next morning when I fix the gumbo for 'em.

-But that night, you know, was the -- obviously, the last time I heard him, when it was the best I ever heard him play.

-'Cause he was a happy kid that night, man.

Every time a note would hit, he would come up to me and say, 'That's some of your stuff.'

He was so... He brought so much to this music that it would take me, uh, longer than I got time to explain to you what he did.

[ Projector clacks ] [ Film reel rattling ] -What does blues mean to me?


[ Chuckles ] [ Sighs ] Why would you do that?

Yeah, I guess it's an expression, a form of art that's -- that's -- the roots are deep in this country and resonate throughout the whole world.

But the blues is changing.

And I think that the blues might not be in the form of a man standing up onstage with his guitar.

But I think the blues are expressed in all forms of music.

You know, I think these hip-hop artists, these young poets out here are expressing their blues over these beats.

Sonically, it's changed.

The sentiment is still there and the feeling that you get from hearing these songs is still there.

It makes you think, it makes you wonder, it makes you want to get up and jump and dance.

It makes you want to sit down and be by yourself and shut the door and shed a tear or something.

You know what I mean?

Blues does that, for me.

It evokes. It touches deep down.

It's not surface.

So, that's... that's what it is to me, is... is expressing yourself and getting down to the root of it and shaking it off and hopefully, you can feel better about it.

And if you can spread that around to people who appreciate it, then more power to ya.

And if you're someone who appreciates that, then, uh... then I think you're more in touch with what it is to be a human being than you might realize.

[ Projector clacks ] ♪♪♪ -So, I was beginning to understand how these things were connected. But that's... I still only had Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, so now I had to go get some Buddy Guy music.

And I think around that time, uh, 'Damn Right, I've Got the Blues' came out.

-I always enjoyed how he did those opening licks on that song.

So, like, yeah, when I had first popped in the CD, you know, first thing -- I got an acoustic with me -- but the first thing, you know, you hear this, you know.

♪♪♪ Then he does... then he does the whole Albert King, like, uh, been doing it.

♪♪♪ -♪ Do-do-do-do-duh-do, do-do-do-do-do-do ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -♪ Oh, you damn right I got the blues ♪ [ Crowd cheering ] ♪ From my head down, down to my shoes ♪ ♪ Damn right, damn right, damn right, damn right ♪ ♪ Damn right, damn right, I got the blues ♪ ♪ Ya know, I can't win ♪ ♪ 'Cause I don't have a, a thing to lose ♪ ♪ Lookie here ♪ Make it so funky they can smell it!

-I won a Grammy for 'Damn Right, I've Got the Blues.'

Which was my first one.

And... [ Chuckles ] I think I got eight or nine now.

It was the thrill of my life.

Man, I still can't sit here and believe... I have eight or nine Grammys, and I -- I don't believe it.

Obama told me he wanted me to come in and play, and that's like the... I don't know how to even explain that, man.

It was like I had to keep pinching myself -- 'Are you here in this White House?'

♪ Come on, come on ♪ My daughters was there with me.

I said, 'We got to take pictures, 'cause this -- this might go away and I... I-I-I'm the only one who could remember this.'

♪ Back to that same ol' place, sweet home Chicago ♪ I think BB, he was there with me when I played.

I heard you singin' Al Green.

So you done started somethin', you gotta keep it up now.

♪♪♪ You can do it!

Come on, now. You can do it.

[ Cheers and applause ] Come on!

-♪ Oh, sing, yeah, sing a song ♪ Come on, Mr. President, sing!

-♪ Come on ♪ [ Cheering ] ♪ Baby, don't ya wanna go ♪ -Yeah!

♪ Come on ♪ ♪ Baby, don't ya wanna go ♪ -♪ Same ol' place ♪ -♪ Sweet home, Chicago ♪ [ Cheers and applause ] -But how many people have played the White House as blues players?

And who would dream that picking cotton with a cotton sack on my shoulder, saying, 'One day, I'm gonna play in the White House.'

You couldn't even think of that.

That couldn't even cross your mind.

But I did.

I accept that because if it wasn't for the Muddys, the T-Bones, the Lonnie Johnsons, and all the people I learned my stuff from, I don't know if I'd have made it.

So, I owe that credit to them.

And I will take that to my grave, saying these people left me with something that I went to the White House with.

Left this road where I could travel to come through.

♪♪♪ -Today, they're naming the road that Buddy Guy grew up on -- they're naming it after him.

He did travel a long way, and he's traveled all over the world.

And he's had these awards at the Kennedy Center and the Presidential awards and Rock & Roll of Fame and Grammys and all these wonderful things.

But I really think this means a lot to him.

Because it's where he started and where his -- his family and his friends were, and so he's kinda going back home.

-Buddy's legacy is a guy who gave his entire life to the music that he loved, regardless of his level of success with it at any given time.

Success has come in and out of Buddy Guy's life, and he has never changed his approach to the music that he plays.

He was doing it when it wasn't cool, and he was doing it when it was the biggest thing that people were throwing money at to sign.

And when we live in such a world where you -- the success you're having at a thing is your indicator of whether you should keep doing it, I would advise you take a look at Buddy Guy's career, where sometimes he would go 8, 10 years without a record label.

But every single night, plugging in and playing like his life depended on it.

-And ladies and gentlemen, I've been around the world.

I thought playing in the White House was my favorite thing, but I think coming home is the best.

[ Cheers and applause ] ♪ I was born in Louisiana ♪ ♪ And at the age of 2 ♪ ♪ My mama told my papa ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ 'I think that little boy's got the blues' ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ You know, I was born to play the guitar ♪ ♪ And the blues run through my vein ♪ ♪♪♪ To come back here and look at that levee, and knew some years ago, I was sitting up on top of that levee with a guitar, hoping one day somebody would say, 'I hear that, lemme go see what it sound like,' but that wasn't the case.

I was ran out the house 'cause I was making too much noise.

[ Laughter ] ♪ I got six strings loaded ♪ ♪ On my bad machine ♪ ♪ Show me the money ♪ ♪ And I can make this thing scream, mm ♪ ♪ I'm gonna keep on playin' ♪ ♪ Until my dying day ♪ ♪ And a polka dot guitar'll be resting ♪ ♪ On my grave ♪ ♪ Now, I got a reputation ♪ ♪ And everybody knows my name ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ You know, I was born to play this here guitar ♪ ♪ I'm gonna play this thing till it's a crying shame ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Birds chirping ] ♪♪♪ -♪ You know you be up with me every early mornin' ♪ ♪ And then late in the afternoon ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪


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