Buddy Guy, happy with the blues

April 09, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

"It's a beautiful day," exults Buddy Guy. He's sitting in a hotel room in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, and can't get over how nice it is outside. "This is the first sunshine day I think I've seen since I've been out on tour," he explains over the p

"But it's beautiful here today. I've got my window open and it feels like the spring out there -- right around 60 degrees. You can't beat that with a hammer and nail."

Seeing as the bluesman's latest album is called "Feels Like Rain," you might think he'd be happier with rainy weather. After all, bad weather seems something of a constant in blues songs; think of T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday," or Elmore James' "The Sky Is Crying."

"Well, you know, actually I'm from Louisiana, and I've seen the most beautiful sunshine in the world down there," Guy says. "So I'm just laying here with my window wide open, saying, let it shine on in. Let it shine on me, as Bobby Bland says."

Besides, Guy thinks it's silly to associate the blues with sadness and despair. Not because those emotions don't occur in the music -- obviously, they do -- but because a good blues player knows how to turn those feelings around and make an audience happy.

"For a great example, I got my ring that says 'Blues' on it. I went into New York City and checked in a hotel, and a beautiful young lady saw that, and said, 'Blues would make you cry.'

"I looked at her. I said, 'Did you ever go out to hear the blues?' She said no, so I give her and her husband passes. And the next morning, she was crying. She said, 'I'm not crying because it was blues -- I'm crying because I was so dumb. I had let people tell me that you just sang so you'd make people cry. But I had fun all night listening to you. I danced all night.' "

Guy chuckles. "I said, 'No, honey. If you don't like the blues, don't come see me. Because I intend to make you like it.' "

Indeed he does. Over the years, Guy has won over some of the biggest names in rock. Eric Clapton has said that Guy is "by far and without a doubt, the best guitar player alive. . . . If you see him live, the way he plays -- it's beyond anyone." His last two albums have been fleshed out with cameos by other members of the Buddy Guy fan club, including Jeff Beck, Bonnie Raitt, Mark Knopfler, John Mayall, Paul Rodgers and Travis Tritt.

It's no wonder, then, that Guy (to quote a famous blues song) is sitting on top of the world. He won a Grammy for his last album, "Damn Right I've Got the Blues," and recently turned up on "Saturday Night Live" as guest soloist with G. E. Smith and the band. And his current tour has been playing to packed houses everywhere.

But it wasn't too long ago that Guy was a virtual unknown, unable to get more than an occasional booking outside his hometown of Chicago. "It looked very dim. But I didn't quit playing, I was still playing small clubs and things, and my die-hard fans was there -- even though it might not have been but six or eight of them."

Back then, record companies wouldn't even reissue his old stuff, much less agree to make a new album. "I was running around to lTC beg, and everybody was putting a frown on their face like I was a rotten egg or something," says Guy. "Like saying, 'Don't crack it, because it'll stink.'

"Then 'Damn Right I've Got The Blues' came out, and I won a Grammy with it. And now people are coming up to me with the CDs that I didn't know they had reissued the albums of." Guy laughs. "I'm like, 'Where was you when I needed you? Where was all these things when I could really use it?' "

He's not complaining, though. In fact, he's more than grateful for the help he's gotten -- particularly from his friends among rock's royalty. "I feel very proud of these people, man," he says.

"If everybody had friends like I got in them, I think we'd be living a little bit more on Easier Street. It looked like record companies, media and television had locked us blues guys in a room, and throwed the key away. These guys, they found the key and said, 'We're going to open this warehouse and let Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters and all of them out.' "

For Buddy Guy, it's like a dream come true. "I have to pinch myself a lot," jokes Guy. " 'Damn Right I Got The Blues' went gold in New Zealand, silver in England, and I accepted a gold record in Canada three weeks ago. I'm just saying, 'Slap yourself, Buddy, because this is not you.' "

Buddy Guy

When: Saturday at 8 p.m.

Where: Hammerjacks, 1101 S. Howard St.

ckets: $12.50

Call: (410) 659-7625 for information, (410) 481-7328 for tickets.

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