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Buddy Guy sounds the alarm

Buddy Guy's Legendary Blues

Buddy Guy's Legendary Blues

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Updated: July 9, 2012 6:03AM

Chicago is the world capital of the blues. Ain’t no doubt about it. This city is home to some of the greatest blues men to ever pick up a guitar, men who I’m proud to call my friends and teachers. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter are just a few of those founding fathers. Every award I’ve ever accepted, I accept in their honor. They were the red carpet that rolled out for me to walk upon and learn something.

Believe me, you ain’t lived till you been drunk on hard whiskey and heavy blues in a crowded club down on the South Side. In the 1960s, there were so many blues clubs in Chicago, I couldn’t hope to set foot in ’em all. Now, I can count ’em on one hand. The cultural history of the blues is deeply rooted in our city, and we’re watching it slip away.

When I was coming up in Chicago with Muddy and Wolf, they used to tell me, “Boy, you young. You still wet behind the ears.” Feels like I’m still waiting for them to dry. Then one day I went to sleep, woke up, and suddenly I’m one of the few people left who can tell the real story of Chicago blues. Last year, David Ritz approached me to write it down, and he dug stories out of my memory you can now read in my book, When I Left Home: My Story.

The funny thing about the blues is you play ’em cause you got ’em, but when you play ’em, you lose ’em. The blues chase the blues away. It eases my mind knowing that my club Legends, down at 700 S. Wabash, will still be standing long after I’m gone. Matter of fact, we got our own Blues Fest; come on down to my club and listen to some of the finest live blues in Chicago all day and night today and tomorrow. Hell, if I ain’t on the road, you might even catch me at the corner of the bar takin’ it all in. 

As a traveling musician, I pass through a lot of different cities, and I can tell you this: When I’m in Detroit, I get off the plane and I hear Motown. When I’m in Memphis, I get off the plane and I hear Elvis and BB King. When I’m in New Orleans, I get off the plane and I hear Louis Armstrong. In Austin, Texas, they’ve got a beautiful statue honoring the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. Well, I know one thing for sure: If my friend Stevie was living today, he’d be asking me where Muddy’s statue is.  

With the help of my friend 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti, I would like to see the creation of “Music Row,” a South Loop music and arts district dedicated to the men and women who gave this city the right to call itself the world capital of the blues. Chicago, help me keep these damn blues alive.

Buddy Guy donated his $1,000 fee for this piece to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

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