In “Buddy Guy: Teachin’ the Blues,” the latest installment
I’ve seen in the “Hot Licks” series, producer/director Arlen Roth
released a lesson by this Blues legend. It’s a 2005 reissue of
a videotape that was originally released in 1993. To my
knowledge, prior to the 1990’s, Guy was not as well known,
except by audiences on the Blues circuit and hardcore aficionados.
Buddy Guy (1936 – ) was born in the South, and eventually
came to Chicago during the mid 1950’s, where he observed
various Jazz and Blues legends and learned from them, developing
his own guitar style along the way. He’s since made Chicago his
home, and owns a nightclub there.
This 70-minute DVD was generous in terms of Guy’s musical
examples, possibly because he wasn’t as comfortable speaking
with his prospective “students,” and preferred to “let his fingers
do the talking.” It was an effective method for those who wished
to see great Blues guitar playing; however, as a “lesson,”
let’s just say that it was a bit different. At the beginning of the
DVD, Guy mentioned that he didn’t read music. Therefore, when
illustrating his points by playing examples, he didn’t name
notes or chords, which was the standard practice of the
other musicians I’ve observed in this series. In fact, I’d say
that Buddy Guy’s teaching method was the exact opposite
of the one used by Joe Pass.
Nevertheless, there’s still plenty to learn from him;
He’s the real deal—an authentic Bluesman, and it was interesting
to watch his right hand quickly alternate between using his
fingers and a guitar pick to play, magically “palming” the
pick when it wasn’t necessary. Guy often mentioned his
influences while developing his style, such as T-Bone Walker
and Elmore James, and spoke of his desire to play faster licks,
thereby setting himself apart from the other players.
One of the bonus features on this disc was the “Chord Corner,”
wherein various chords were shown in tablature, adjacent to a
photograph of Guy’s hand, and included the sound of the chord.
The usual printed biography, discography and listening
suggestions were noted, as well as musical examples and
a tuning menu.
Although Buddy Guy is not one of the better “teachers” in the
standard sense of the term, his techniques were well worth
watching, and I was privileged to observe a true Blues master.