Quintessential Chicago Blues: Buddy at Buddy’s

Last night wrapped up Buddy Guy’s annual January residency at his club, Buddy Guy’s Legends.  Sixteen shows in all, at which you could count on his on-stage guitar theatrics and nightly walk through the crowd – and upstairs or outside – to let his axe holler straight in yo face!

But there was also an air of spontaneity, as Buddy’s call and response elicited different interpretations from his talented keyboardist, Marty Sammons, and the impromptu setlist weaved songs along different lyrical themes.

The most basic theme?  You can always count on Bluesmen to sing about how they please their women, or more likely – somebody else’s.  But it was all the more amusing to hear him chuckle and charm his way through the Muddy Waters classic “She’s Nineteen Years Old”, and a few lines of that song about the sister milking the bull… (yep!) with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s parents in the house.

Buddy made a point to mention how pleased he is with the Mayor’s interest in music.  Rahm is often spotted at concerts throughout the city – including a visit to Legend’s last weekend.  I also appreciate his interest in music, and actually go to many of the same shows.  I only wish he hadn’t blown up Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs… which expanded our musical horizons and provided invaluable cultural exchanges, by bringing us top-tier acts from around the globe to perform at the beautiful Millennium Park and Cultural Center, for FREE.  But I digress…

Buddy Guy was eager to remind the audience of the Blues innovators who came before him, like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Etta James… and tipped his hat to them as he covered bits of their hits, and told stories of getting his own start in the club scene.  Acknowledging Chicago as the Blues Capital of the World, he noted “When I came to Chicago, there was no Austin.”  (Referencing Austin’s self-proclaimed, and trademarked, title Live Music Capital of the World).  He takes pride in his second home, and the blues musicians who performed with him – or watched from the crowd – are worthy of his praise.

As the night winded down, and staff began celebrating the “victory” of making it through this annual run, Buddy sat at the front, signing every last item fans purchased.  A great, and grateful musician…  that’s a special combination.

Photos courtesy of John “Nunu” Zomot