Sweet Homes Chicago: Buddy Guy

February 26, 2010 5:41:27 AM PST
There's no doubt he's played "Sweet Home Chicago" hundreds of times. Blues legend Buddy Guy is a living testament to the power and influence of Chicago blues. And a visit with him is literally an oral history lesson.It's the way most of us know the legendary bluesman Buddy Guy. But at his home in Orland Park, he's reflective and extremely appreciative.

"It's a blessing to be able to be uneducated and you can go and say I can pay my bills by playing the guitar," Guy said.

And it is a very good living indeed for the humble hall of famer. He says he has come a long way from his childhood home in rural Louisiana.

"Every time it rained, my mother used to have to put a bucket on the floor," said Guy.

A tour of his sprawling getaway is a trip down a star-studded memory lane with a man who hopes to preserve the legacy of Chicago blues.

"That's history, you know, and a lot of people are saying, 'So what?' And they're not supporting it enough. You can go to O'Hare and Midway and hear them play blues there. When you get off the plane in Detroit you hear Motown. When you get off the lane in Memphis you hear Elvis Presley and some of those other guys playing," Guy said.

Mick Jagger and the Stones, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Hendrix -- they've all been influenced by this man. What his inspiration?

"I come out of a Baptist church. When I hit this note it goes all through me. I can't even stand still, man, when I hit it. So I say, well, baby I got something to do, and sometimes if I go play at night and I'm not jumping off the stage or run off in the crowd or something, I say he's not feeling well," said

But Buddy said giving his all has also taken its toll.

"I told some kids the other night, I got some calluses under my fingers now, man. It's a girlfriend, if I rub across her back she would quit me," said Guy.

He jokes, but there is some real pain involved.

"Last week, it was so sore I almost wanted to cry every time I hit it. But you can't go in front of the audience and say my fingers are sore because I haven't been playing," he said. "You can't take this hand and get a fingerprint off. You can see, all of that's gone there."

And getting a print from these famous fingers, today that's not even possible. Still, he's not complaining, just remembering.

"I've been pretty hungry. When I came ere I didn't know anybody, got off the train on 63rd and Dorchester. And my third day with no food, I still wouldn't sell my guitar. And a guy walked up and said, 'Man, can you play some blues?' I said, 'I'll play anything you want if you just buy me a hamburger,'" Guy said.

Maybe that's why these days, Buddy's other passion is cooking. He even whipped up gumbo just for our visit.

"Did I give you a couple of these claws, Hosea? You gotta get you another one. That's where your meat is," said Guy.

And one other thing, this multiple Grammy winner really loves his cars, like his '55 T-bird, his Ferrari and his baby, a mint-condition classic Edsel.

"I was on the farm when they came out. My mom and dad was living in their good health. They were sharecroppers, would just look at the car and dream. 'My God, I'll never be able to afford a car like that picking cotton,'" Guy said.

Now all that's a distant memory because singing the blues has been very good to Chicago's Buddy Guy. He is still selling out venues all over the world.

Buddy's love for fresh seafood from home has not waned over the years. He still has family members down south ship it to him. Buddy just wrapped up playing a string of shows at his South Loop club. And the new location remains under construction just around the corner from the old club.

There is much more from Buddy's home, including many more stories about blues history and his run-ins with famous rock and roll stars.