With his new album, Living Proof, Guy takes a hard look back at a remarkable life. At age 75, he’s a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, a major influence on rock titans like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, a pioneer of Chicago’s fabled West Side sound, and a living link to that city’s halcyon days of electric blues. He has received 6 Grammy Awards, 23 W.C. Handy Blues Awards (the most any artist has received), the Billboard magazine Century Award for distinguished artistic achievement, and the Presidential National Medal of Arts. Rolling Stone ranked him in the top 30 of its "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time."
Yet as the album's opening track declares, today Buddy Guy is "74 Years Young," still searching for new sounds and fresh ideas. The start of each new decade always seems to inspire him (see 1981’s Stone Crazy, 1991’s Damn Right, I Got the Blues, and 2001’s Sweet Tea), and on Living Proof, such songs as "Thank Me Someday" and "Everybody's Got to Go" are strikingly personal meditations on his past, his legacy, and his mortality.
"The life I’ve lived is what we’re singing about," he says. "These songs are exactly what I came up through in my life, what I’ve experienced."
Though Buddy Guy will forever be associated with Chicago, his story actually begins in Louisiana. One of five children, he was born in 1936 to a sharecropper’s family and raised on a plantation near the small town of Lettsworth, located some 140 miles northwest of New Orleans. Buddy was just seven years old when he fashioned his first makeshift “guitar”—a two-string contraption attached to a piece of wood and secured with his mother’s hairpins.
In 1957, he took his guitar to Chicago, where he would permanently alter the direction of the instrument. His incendiary style—still in evidence all over Living Proof—left its mark on guitarists from Jimmy Page to John Mayer.
Perhaps the most significant landmark on Living Proof is that, for the first time, the incomparable B.B. King stopped by to play and sing on a Buddy Guy album. The two giants reel off the introspective “Stay Around a Little Longer” like the old friends they are. “The other day, I heard B.B. King say, ‘I can’t slow down, because I still think there’s somebody out there who doesn’t know who I am yet.’ But, you know, blues players don’t stop, they just drop. It’s like my mother used to say about religion—I’m too far gone to turn around!”
Robert Randolph & The Family Band
Robert Randolph has been hailed by Rolling Stone as one of the 100 greatest guitarist's of all time. Legendary performances by the New Jersey based steel guitar virtuoso and his Family Band have earned critical praise and an ever expanding legion of fans throughout the world.
We Walk This Road is a celebration of African-American music over the past one hundred years and its social messages from the last thirty. Although Robert Randolph & The Family Band cover a whole timeline of different eras on We Walk This Road, what ties these songs together are their message of hope, their ability to uplift. Says Robert Randolph, “ I want to take this musical history and make it relevant … I think even though I’m a young guy who was born into the era of hip-hop and contemporary gospel, I can help bridge the cultural gap between people who are seventy-five years old and kids who are fifteen years old by reaching back into this history of music.”
Robert Randolph grew up in the House of God church where the pedal steel was a big part of church tradition. “I grew up watching older guys play, and I started playing when I was fifteen. When I was nineteen, someone gave me tickets to a Stevie Ray Vaughan concert. After that, I wanted to play pedal steel like Stevie Ray played his guitar. I wanted to take another path than the people who played traditional pedal steel to take it to a whole new level.”
The group started playing and touring around New York City in 2000, when things started to take off. “We were selling out large New York clubs with no record deal, and it started to spread to Philly and Boston. Soon, we signed to Warner Brothers, and word began to get around about us nationally. Great artists like Eric Clapton and Dave Matthews and B.B. King accepted us.
“Hopefully, this record will inspire [people]. It certainly makes me feel happy. I can’t see myself recording depressing lyrics, lyrics that leave people without a sense of hope. It’s not in me to use the power of the microphone to make music like that. That’s why this record is uplifting - it’s got great messages. It’s all there.”