Last month, Buddy Guy joined the Rolling Stones onstage in Milwaukee for “Champagne and Reefer,” and then hit up Legends, his Chicago club, to watch some live blues. For our new special issue Keith Richards: The Ultimate Guide to His Music & Legend, we spoke to Guy about his long history with the Stones, which has included playing with the band many times since 1970. Here is Guy’s tribute:
In 1964, I was in the studio at Chess Records doing a record called “My Time After a While.” Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon walked straight in my studio while I was singing with a bunch of white guys, who lined up against the wall while I was singing. I got pissed off: “Who in the hell are these guys?” I had never seen a white man with hair that long and high-heeled boots before. They had come to do an audition for Chess Records.
I found out later when they were bigger than bubblegum that they were the Rolling Stones, the greatest rock & roll band I’d ever play with. Nobody matches that sound that the Rolling Stones get. Playing with them is like playing with a machine.
When they came to America, they recognized some of the greatest musicians that I had admired – Ike and Tina Turner, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf – and let America know who we were. They let white America know what the blues is. We owe those guys all the thanks in the world.
You didn’t hear Muddy Waters on Dick Clark. They still do us like that, man. You don’t hear blues on these radio stations where young kids can hear Muddy Waters once or twice a week. Nowadays you don’t hear blues on the radio no more. Unless you have satellite, it’s slim and none to hear a good Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters.
When the Stones did Shindig, Mick only agreed to do it if they let Muddy Waters on. He said, “You mean to tell me you don’t know who Muddy Waters is?” That’s the first time I ever got to see Muddy or Wolf on television, and the Stones had something to do with it. That brought tears to my eyes. The Stones told America, “This is no new music. This music you had – you just didn’t know it.”
Junior Wells and I toured with the Stones in Europe in 1970. They were so damn wild back then I couldn’t keep up with them man, you know. They were just a wild bunch of kids playing the best music that you ever heard.
It’s hard to put your finger on why Keith is such a great guitar player, but you never can – same thing with B.B. King. He don’t play solos like Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix, but whatever he does, it works. I try to copy that stuff from him and I can’t get it, man. And I’ve been trying ever since I met him.
When we hang out, the music they talk about is the same I talk about, the ones we got it from. And they got a little something from me but it was handed down by Muddy, Wolf, Sonny Boy, T-Bone, Lightnin’ Hopkins, all those people like that. All our lessons come from those guys, man, that left that legacy here.
Keith is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. When I did Shine a Light with them, Keith gave me his guitar. I’d been trying to get that for 40 years. Every time I saw him he said, “You didn’t get it from my manager?” I said, “I’m gonna get it tonight.” He’s so well educated, too. All of them are, man. That’s why they’re so damn rich – they can’t let nobody take their money!