By Jenna Lazenby, Slideshow by Meagan Iwaniszek Reynolds
“They all told me that if they left here before I did, then everything was going to be on my shoulders. So as long as I’m here, I’m going to do whatever I can to keep it alive.”
Buddy Guy is one of the last of the original great bluesmen, and he is carrying the load just fine. Last night he carried it to the Harvester with a performance that felt like he was surrounded onstage by the blues masters who had gone before him, as he schooled the crowd on what great blues is all about.
“Here’s your education,” proclaimed Buddy Guy last night from the Harvester stage as he broke into the first few notes of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom.”
At eighty, Guy, who has played with blues icons Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Walter, and has since influenced every great rock and blues guitarist, is still bringing major heat to the stage. Last night’s performance was no exception, featuring hits from his own records, including his opening song, “Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues” to “Someone Else Is Steppin,” as well as a few of the classics, including “Fever,” originally recorded by Little Willie John, and “I Just Wanna Make Love to You,” a Muddy Waters original.
For a man who has been playing the blues for more than six decades, Guy shows no signs of slowing down. He talked and joked with the audience, and was clearly having a good time on stage as he spun his guitar, played behind his back, and even with his teeth for a few moments during his 90-minute set where he was backed by four other musical talents, including Ric ‘Jaz’ Hall on guitar, Marty Sammon on keys, Tim Austin on drums, and Orlando Wright on bass.
The crowd dished out heaping amounts of cheers and applause. Guy returned the praise with heartfelt appreciation. “I don’t get this treatment everywhere. Y’all make me feel like I’m at home.” Later commenting, “I like it here. I like playing for a smaller audience. It’s where it all started, in little smoky blues clubs. It’s still what’s good for you know, the Blues.”
A little more than mid-way through the set, Guy delivered another lesson, this one speaking to the need for racial harmony, as he performed a soulful rendition of his song, “Skin Deep.”
I’ve been around a while
I know wrong from right
And since a long time ago
Things been always black and white
Just like you can’t judge a book by the cover
We all gotta be careful
How we treat one another
Underneath we’re all the same
“I love everybody. If everybody was like me, we wouldn’t have all this fighting,” Guy proclaimed. Shortly after, the lights went up and Guy carried that love into the crowd, guitar in hand, as he traveled all the way to the back of the house while he played. On his way back to the stage, he stopped for a few moments to let one of the youngest audience members strum the strings from his guitar.
For the remainder of the set the history lesson continued as Guy covered pieces of songs from many of the greats who had come before and after him, Guitar Slim, B.B. King, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, among others.
His performance made it clear that Guy’s ability to create a distinct blues style, coupled with his courage to break every rule during his onstage improvisations has served to inspire countless musicians who shaped modern music. But just in case, Guy made sure that message too was delivered. “Yes sir, y’all don’t know. I was doing this before Jimi Hendrix ever picked up a guitar … Jimi, Clapton, Page, when I met them they didn’t even know what a strap was.”
Anybody in the crowd that didn’t know who Guy was before last night, they certainly know now. It’s not everyday a legend like Guy comes to Rocky Mount.
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