Saturday, January 04, 2014

Buddy Guy with David Ritz - When I Left Home - My Story

Truthfully, I'm not the biggest Buddy Guy fan in the world - I, frankly, think that he overdoes it at times, but when he's on, he's up there with the best. His work with Muddy Waters is excellent as is his early solo stuff on Chess, like I Was Walking Through the Woods. In this autobiography he tells his own story, from growing up on a farm in Louisiana, where he first heard the likes of John Lee Hooker (he learned "Boogie Chillen" on a two string guitar), Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. He played whenever and on whatever and however he could and got enough encouragement from family and friends to get up the courage to take the train to Chicago, just so he could be close to these greats.

Once in Chi-town he actually got to meet, be befriended by and play with his biggest influences and he was always in awe of their power and majesty and always humbled to be able to work with the masters. One thing that really gets me throughout the book is his passion for the music and the fact that he was a true fan of the artists and their work and never lost that. I always love stories of musicians' early years, probably because I can relate to those times the most. Buddy went through lots of ups and downs throughout the years, recorded with blues labels Cobra and Chess, traveled the world, owned a couple of blues clubs (one that the Rolling Stones made an appearance at - Checkerboard Lounge - and one that is still thriving - Legends) and later in his life, with the help of famous friends, notably Eric Clapton, actually garnered several best-selling albums and Grammies.

This book is a fascinating read and is told conversationally, but with wit and style and - maybe this is Ritz' contribution - well paced and thoroughly enjoyable. I actually think that this is one of the better auto-biographies that I have read and Guy comes off as a good man who has tried to do right and who continues to love the music that has given him his career. Recommended!