Buddy Guy Talks "Living Proof," Playing with B.B. King
Mon, 18 Oct 2010 11:30:01
"There was a spiritual thing my mom and dad used to tell me," says Buddy Guy with sly smile. "I'm too far gone to turn around."
Either that, or he's too goddamn good with a six-string to turn around. Whatever the case may be, Buddy Guy's playing is as transcendent on his latest album, Living Proof, as it was on Hoodoo Man Blues in 1965. Living Proof hits shelves on October 26, and it features guest spots from Carlos Santana on "Where the Blues Begins" and B.B. King on "Stay Around a Little Longer." However, Buddy's phenomenal precise playing practically lights up the fretboard of his Fender strat on these new cuts. Living Proof is further evidence why Buddy is one of the greatest guitar players of all time.
Buddy Guy sits down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about Living Proof, why the blues doesn't die, collaborating with B.B King and so much more.
Living Proof really is one of your best albums.
I hope you're right. On the last two CDs, we tried to come up with new material that said, "This is Buddy Guy's stuff." I've done a B.B. King song. I've done a Muddy Waters song. I've done a John Lee Hooker song, but you can't fill those guys' shoes. We came up with the spiritual song, and B.B. King joined me for it. We were both excited. Before all of this technology, we all would listen to the spiritual groups. I think blues cops off of some of that old spiritual stuff from years and years ago. It came before all of those great blues players. We decided to do a spiritual song for Living Proof, and what a job B.B. did!
It feels like you and B.B. King were meant to play together on "Stay Around a Little Longer."
Well, I met him in 1958, and there weren't as many guitar players out there then as there are now. I always admired him. He's one of the best guys you'll ever meet. I'd played on one of his records, "Blues Summit," about 15 years ago. To have him come in and sing this spiritual song was incredible. We hope it touches everybody. They finally gave us a music video for it too! Hopefully, we hit the right notes. We both had goose bumps, and B.B. looked at me and said, "You're the only one who can play that Fender Strat, and I can tell it's you." I said, "Yeah, when I hear that Gibson, I can tell it's you!" We were laughing about it. I was happy to have him come in and help me out on that. I hope the blues will live on a little bit longer.
People need the blues, and they always will. Do you feel like that's why it stays alive?
Yeah, but if you don't hear it on your radio and young people don't keep carrying on with it, there's no hope for it. If I'd never had John Lee Hooker, I don't know if you'd be interviewing me this morning, man. My own children didn't know who I was until they walked in the blues club when they turned 21 and said, "Dad, I didn't know you could do that." [Laughs] They don't play blues on the radio on more! Hopefully, it opens people's eyes to let them know we're still here playing it. We're not babies. Maybe some young person will play the blues because of it. Hopefully, these radio stations will play a Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf song once a month. Madonna or whoever doesn't need the exposure like blues does because blues has been on the backburner ever since I remember. Nowadays, they only play what's selling millions of records and they don't really give blues a chance.
What's the story behind "Where the Blues Begins?"
This is my thinking. It's like how you feel about your car, your child or your job. I think we've got four or five songs on Living Proof that should be heard. I'm still doing what I've dedicated my life too. I try to do the best I can when I go into the studio. We've been writing songs and trying to come up with new stuff. We came up with the spiritual song and all of the rest of the material on the album. I can't wait to see what happens. I heard an interview with B.B. being interviewed on satellite radio, someone asked him, "Do you ever think about hanging it up?" He said, "Well no, because I still think there's somebody out there that doesn't know who I am." That gave me a lift because if there's somebody out there who doesn't know who he is, I know damn well there's somebody out there who doesn't know who Buddy Guy is. When I picked up my guitar, the disc jockeys played John Lee Hooker, Lightning Hopkins, Count Basie and Frank Sinatra. Then you'd hear Lou Rawls with the Pilgrim Travelers singing spiritual. That was a good listening. Now, you turn your radio on and you hear the same fucking records all day long by the same person.
It's inspiring that you stay true to yourself and keep that integrity. You're still out there cranking.
We play a lot of outdoor concerts in the summer. Sometimes, I walk outside and I meet all of these little kids who say, "I didn't know who you were until I read what Eric Clapton said!" I would feel much better if they said, "I heard you singing 'Thank the Lord' on the radio the other day." [Laughs] The blues has been put on the backburner. When Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones started out, they were playing blues. The British accepted it, and America wasn't ready for it.
What was your idea behind the name Living Proof?
My producer Tom Hambridge had a lot to do with that. I love working with this guy. Every body was skeptical when he produced my first record because he was new. Everybody was new though. Muhammed Ali was new. Joe DiMaggio and Babe Ruth were new when they went up there. If you give them a chance to prove it, look what happens!
Will you be buying Living Proof?