Often imitated, never duplicated, legendary bluesman George “Buddy” Guy is the epitome of cool even at the ripe age of 77. The Louisiana-born guitarist has influenced the greatest six-string players in music history. Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Austin’s own Stevie Ray Vaughn all idolized the venerable musician not just for his impact on blues music over the past 60 years but the various musical styles at which he excels. From blues, to avant-garde jazz to free form virtuosity, the man seems to have no limits to his creative output. The huge shadow Guy casts over the landscape of rock and roll is one reason Guy sold-out ACL Live this past weekend.
Fans often howled and yelled things like, “We love you Buddy!” during his 90-minute performance backed by his crack band which featured guitarist Ric Hall. Hall held his own with the blues master, displaying his own dynamic style alongside the guitar great.
The fiery musician took the Moody stage in a black polka-dotted shirt, wielding an attitude of supreme confidence. Guy’s musicianship is unfaltering, varying between loose, playful riffs and mind-bending solos that left fans shaking their heads in amazement. He often pauses to tell a story of how he came to various points in his life, describing his experiences playing with Muddy Waters to his connection to Texas bluesman, Lightin’ Hopkins and his influence on artists like Clapton. Hendrix was known to abandon his own performances to see Guy play.
Guy let everyone in the room know who was in control early in the set suddenly shouting, “Shut the fuck up!” at a fan jabbering while he was telling one of his many tales before finishing his thought and launching into Water’s song, “Hoochie Choochie Man.” We loved the call and response with the audience on “Someone Else is Steppin’ In (Slippin In, Slippin Out). Fans lustily yelled the refrain, drawing a smile from Guy.
Yet another highlight was Guy’s cover of Cream’s song, “The Sunshine of Your Love.” It is one thing to see Buddy Guy play like Buddy Guy. But he easily shifts into playing like Hendrix, Clapton, and Waters like the guitar-wielding chameleon that his is. The impact is stunning for music fans that have to wrap their head around the idea that this septuagenarian can play circles around any guitarist, young and old alike.
As is his custom, Guy ventured into the crowd to play. Another tradition akin to a magician showing off his tricks is Guy playing with his teeth, behind his back, with a towel and finally a drumstick as he shredded Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child.” like it was his own. As his set ended, the man simply thanked the crowd and shuffled off the stage leaving fans to ponder an incredible performance by a living legend.
See more of Buddy Guy playing with other rock superstars, in the documentary film “Festival Express” which features Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Band many others.
Listen to track, “Best in Town” from his latest album, “Rhythm and Blues” released earlier this year on RCA Records.
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