Listen To This Eddie is a weekly column that examines the important people and events in the classic rock canon and how they continue to impact the world of popular music.
The first time I saw the Rolling Stones live and in-person was back in 2015 on their Zip Code tour. They skipped Chicago for that particular run — they had sold out the United Center three times over just a couple years earlier — and chose to play Summerfest up in Milwaukee instead. Being the massive fan I am, I was more than happy to make the drive up North to witness the spectacle of the self-proclaimed “The World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” in the flesh. Elsewhere on this particular tour, the Stones hosted a variety of divergent opening acts, from established draws like Ed Sheeran, Brad Paisley and Kid Rock to buzzed-about artists like Gary Clark Jr. and Grace Potter. For the Milwaukee show however, they brought out an old friend: Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy.
Where some of those other names on the itinerary may have been awed by the opportunity to share a stage with one of the biggest bands in music history, Guy took the gig in stride. The 78-year old f*cking owned the stage, ripping off savage guitar solos over all-time blues classics like “Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues,” and “Five Years Long.” Later, when the Stones brought out the elder statesmen in the middle of their set to cover Muddy Waters’ immortal “Champagne And Reefer” — a number he played with them before on the Martin Scorsese-directed documentary Shine A Light — he all but stole the show, while playing circles around guitarist Ronnie Wood.
All that’s to say, Guy has a long and affectionate history with the Stones, one that stretches back to the early 1960’s, long before Mick whined about not getting any “Satisfaction.” So, it made all the sense in the world that he’d nab two of the members of that group to guest on his latest solo album, the wild and defiant, The Blues Is Alive And Well. Mick shows up, harmonica in hand, on the slow and simmering “You Did The Crime,” while Keith Richards goes toe-to-toe, not just with Guy, but also with one of the greatest guitar virtuosos the world has ever known, a dude by the name of Jeff Beck, on the explosive “Cognac.”
At 81-years old, it might be easy for the uninterested to dismiss Guy as a museum piece. The last living link to the storied history of Chess Records, and the original Chicago blues scene. This would be an egregious, unforgivable mistake. Despite his age, or maybe because of it, Guy is overflowing with piss and vinegar. His latest album finds the guitarist in a feisty mood, letting loose with fiery solo lines, and energetic vocals, many of which plumb deep topics like the inevitability of death — “A Few Good Years” — while others toast to the simple pleasures in life like a fine drink on “Whiskey For Sale.”
Recently I had the chance to talk to Guy about his new record, his long history with the Rolling Stones, and his everlasting affection for his father figure and guide through the Chicago blues, Muddy Waters.
Hey Buddy, how are you doing?
Oh, for an old fella I’m not gonna holler because, like I tell everybody, if I holler ain’t nobody gonna listen to me no way, so other than that I’m fine. How about you?
I’m doing fantastic, thank you for asking!
So, you have a new album coming out that you called The Blues Is Alive And Well, and I’m curious to know if you think that’s true? Is the blues alive and well?