The Rolling Stones and Buddy Guy share a long history, from meeting at Chess Records in 1964 to sharing several bills over the years beginning in the early Seventies. "They were so damn wild back then I couldn't keep up with them," Guy told Rolling Stone recently. "Just a bunch of kids playing the best music that you ever heard."
The band's current Zip Code tour is no exception. Guy opened for the band in Milwaukee on Tuesday night and joined them for Muddy Waters' "Champagne and Reefer," which they first performed together for the 2007 Scorsese-directed Shine a Light. But their reunion didn't stop in Milwaukee. On Thursday, the entire band stopped by Buddy Guy's Legends, the guitarist's Chicago blues club, to reminisce and watch some authentic Chicago blues.
The day started when Keith Richards visited Legends in the afternoon to interview Guy for an upcoming documentary project. The club is packed with guitars on the wall signed by Guy's friends like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. One guitar – a Gibson hollow-body Richards gave to Guy onstage at the Beacon Theatre in 2007 while filming Shine a Light – was unsigned. No longer: Richards signed it, "One Love, Keith Richards '15."
After Richards left, the club received word the Stones wanted to come that evening for a rare night on the town together. The headliner was Jimmy Johnson, the 86-year-old guitarist who has played with Freddy and Albert King. Word got out fast around town, and the show sold out. That night, the band arrived, hanging out in Guy’s memorabilia-packed office upstairs. "The energy in the room was historical," says Annie Lawlor, Guy's publicist.
They sat around and shared stories, beginning with Guy recalling the first time he saw the Stones in 1964: "I was in the studio at Chess Records doing a record called 'My Time After a While,'" Guy tells Rolling Stone in a recent interview. "Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon walked straight in my studio with a bunch of white guys. I got pissed off: Who in the hell are these guys? I had never seen a white man with long hair and high-heeled boots before. I found out later, when they got bigger than bubble gum, they were the Rolling Stones, the greatest rock & roll band I’d ever play with."
"Buddy's like a stand-up comedian the way he tells stories, and they were practically on the floor laughing," says Lawlor. "They mostly listened to Buddy. It's tough to get a word in edgewise when he’s on a roll."
They all continued to talk about their heroes. “They of course remembered B.B. [King]," says Lawler. "They wanted to hear Jimmy Reed stories – Ronnie specifically wanted to hear about Jimmy Reed. These are stories only Buddy has and only he can give them. It was pretty incredible."
Next, the band headed downstairs to watch Johnson. The band sat at the same table in the back of the club at a roped-off area in the back of the room (a scene reminiscent of the time they visited Guy's Checkerboard Lounge club in 1981 to see Muddy Waters play). This time, though, the band didn't hop onstage. "Thats not something that Buddy necessarily wants to do all the time when he's not working, either," says Lawlor. At one point, Guy did jump onstage to perform. He also advised the crowd to let the band enjoy themselves, as the Stones took several pictures throughout the set and made a point to shake Johnson's band's hands before they slipped out after the first set.
"I can’t think of any other club in the world that that can happen, where the Stones would all be there in the same room at the same time," adds Lawlor. "I'm sure they have a hard time going out in a group like that for obvious reasons. If anything is going to bring them all in the same room at the same time, it's Buddy Guy, and thats pretty cool."
The Rolling Stones Visit Buddy Guy