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A true music legend, blues guitarist Buddy Guy turns 87

Buddy Guy performs at the 2023 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on Thursday, May 4, 2023, at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans.
Amy Harris
Buddy Guy performs at the 2023 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on Thursday, May 4, 2023, at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans.

Blues guitarist and singer Buddy Guy was born on July 30, 1936, in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana. Guy stands as the most important link to the first generation of Chicago electric blues players—a generation that included Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson, all of whom the young Guy recorded with at Chess Records in the 1960s.

But it was a recording on the Delmark label that pushed Guy toward the spotlight, if not quite into it. Specifically a 1965 recording called Hoodoo Man Blues, by harmonica player and singer Junior Wells. Guy was then under contract to Chess, and though that label didn’t object to him playing on a Delmark project, they did object to his name appearing in the credits. So in the album’s liner notes, "Buddy Guy" became "Friendly Chap."

In short order, though, the Chess contract ran out. Buddy started getting top-line billing with Wells and by 1970 they were opening for The Rolling Stones. By 1972, having made seven albums with Wells and four solo albums, Guy started to follow his own path as a singer, songwriter and guitarist and never looked back.

Today, Guy is an eight time Grammy winner. He’s been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, received a National Medal of Arts, and Kennedy Center Honors. He’s probably influenced every guitar play who’s ever heard him.

But the most amazing thing that can be said about Guy is this: at age 87, he’s still touring and recording. He recently appeared at Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival before heading off to Europe.

According to his tour schedule, he’ll be taking the day off on his 87th birthday, but will be playing in Las Vegas on August 1. And he’s scheduled to play Spokane on August 9 and Seattle on August 10. Unbelievable.

The appellation "legend" is used far too cavalierly these days—but it’s more than appropriate when applied to Buddy Guy. So, happy birthday to the reigning Blues Man.

Below is a quick overview of Guy's amazing career through three pieces of music. First up: "Ships On The Ocean" is from that seminal 1965 Hoodoo Man Blues album with Junior Wells and it’s the track on which Guy is most allowed to shine.

Junior Wells' Chicago Blues Band - Ships On The Ocean (1965)

"Are You Losing Your Mind,' is from the 1982 Buddy Guy release, Stone Crazy. His guitar solo is a string of explosions.

Buddy Guy - Are You Losing Your Mind?

And finally from Guy's 2022 album The Blues Don’t Lie, "We Go Back" finds Guy teaming up with Mavis Staples to reflect on their past.

Buddy Guy - We Go Back (Official Audio) ft. Mavis Staples

Nick began working at KNKX as a program host in the late 1980’s and, with the exception of a relatively brief hiatus, has been with the station ever since. Along with his work as a Midday Jazz host, Nick worked for several years as KNKX’s Music Director. He is now the station’s Production Manager and also serves as a fill-in host on KNKX’s jazz and blues programs.