www.premierguitar.com PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2009 91
I was also surprised to see you don’t use
any distortion pedals onstage, only natural
amp breakup at maximum volume. Have you
experimented with overdrive pedals before?
It’s all in the wrists, man. It’s about shaking the
wrists and the notes. I learned how to play
before all these effects boxes came around.
I tried distortion boxes and don’t need any
because, just like you said, I crank the amp up
all the way and get the distortion naturally.
A wah-wah pedal is the only effect box
you use, isn’t it?
Yeah, and I only use it when I talk about Jimi
and get a little of his sounds going onstage.
You’ve been a huge influence on guitarists
like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix
and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Can you tell us
any interesting stories about your relationships with any of them?
I was talking to Eric Clapton one day, and I
What were the ’70s and ’80s like for you? It
told him I liked that song he did with Cream,
“Strange Brew.” He said, “You should, they’re
all your licks!” All those guys like Jeff Beck
and Stevie Ray said the same things to me
about the way I influenced them. Stevie Ray
was one of my best friends.
was a tough time generally for blues artists.
That was a bad time for me, man. It was a
tough time for all of us. Nobody was making
any money playing blues. You had disco and
big-hair hard rock and other kinds of music
on the charts, and if you were a blues musician, forget it. It wasn’t until the late ’80s and
early ’90s that things started getting better.
It seems like history is repeating itself. You’re
a well-established star, but lesser-known
blues musicians are having a very hard time
right now getting gigs. Clubs are closing all
over, and attendance seems to be down in
the clubs that still feature blues music.
I can see it with my own club in Chicago.
People don’t have money they used to have,
plus the no smoking laws have hurt the clubs.
And people are afraid to have a few drinks
because of the DUI laws. If my club closes,
there’ll only be about three blues clubs left in
Chicago. I’m telling you the truth. There used
to be at least 10 to 20 blues clubs in every
city you went to—Chicago, Detroit, Phoenix,
Los Angeles, Toronto, it didn’t matter. Now,
there are hardly any left.
It’s really hard for musicians to make a living
anyway, but it’s especially hard for blues musicians now with so few places to play. Blues
goes in and out of popularity. Stevie Ray did
a lot to get kids listening to blues, but that’s
all changed now. When I’m not on the road,
I’m down at my club for a couple hours almost
every night checking out what’s going on.
You’ve been touring extensively with B.B.
King. How has the tour been going so far?
It’s been going real good. We’ve known each
other a long time, and enjoy working together.
We do another gig tomorrow, and then we’re
off until February, when we start up again.
I expected to see you and B.B. jam
onstage, but it didn’t happen.
Well, B.B. comes in late off the bus, and I
leave right after my show is done, so it’s
hard to do. People have been asking for us
to jam, so I think I’m going to try to make it
happen when we tour again this winter. The
audience always likes it.
Blues guitarist Quinn Sullivan lays down some licks while Buddy listens with appreciation. Guy is currently helping the 10-year old guitar prodigy record his first record.