www.premierguitar.com PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2009 89
Otis Rush recorded for them too. Back then,
if you sold 90,000 45’s, you had a big hit. The
Chess’s made me record stuff I didn’t want to
do because they thought my material and guitar
style was noise. It wasn’t until people like Eric
Clapton and Jimi Hendrix brought the harder
style I play to their attention that they let me
loose. Leonard Chess heard Jimi and realized
that he was doing what I’d been doing all along.
What was your first guitar?
The first good guitar I had was a Harmony
acoustic that we paid $52 for. I learned to
play on that. I donated that guitar to the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In the early days you played Stratocasters,
then a white Gibson SG Les Paul Custom,
then a Guild Starfire. Now you’re back
to Strats again with your own signature
model. Why the Strat?
I had a Les Paul first, but someone broke into
my apartment in Chicago and stole it. I borrowed money from a lady named Theresa, who
owned a bar called Theresa’s Blues Lounge,
and bought a sunburst Strat. She let me pay it
off by playing there. I still have that guitar. The
white SG Custom I gave to my nephew a long
time ago. It was in my guitar room, and one
day I saw that the headstock was cracked so I
gave it to him. I think he got it fixed.
I played the Guild Starfire until they stopped
making them. The first one they gave me was
red [Writer’s Note: it was a Starfire III]. Eric
Clapton got one too, around the same time.
Did you have input in designing your signa-
ture-model Strat? What is unique about it?
I picked the features I wanted and helped
design the neck shape, a soft V shape,
and they sent me prototypes. I use Fender
Noiseless pickups in them. I went back to
Strats because they can take a lot of wear
and tear. I couldn’t afford to be buying guitars all the time back then if they broke. You
know, you’d leave it on the floor and somebody would step on it and break something.
The Strat can take a beating.
I have to ask about the polka-dot finish.
How did that come about?
When I left Louisiana, I told my mother I was
going to Chicago … get a job, make some
money and come back home in a polka-dot
Cadillac. She was worried I would get in
trouble and run out of money, and I did. My
mother is gone now. She died in 1968, so I
remembered what I told her and had Fender
do the black with white polka dots. I never
really wanted a polka-dot Cadillac.
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Buddy Guy plays his Martin signature model – the JC Buddy Guy Blues Guitar – which features Martin’s jumbo body style with
a cutaway, extraordinary purfling (even for a Martin) and his signature polka dots on the rosette, bridge and fingerboard.