By Stephen K. Peeples
Chicago blues legend, Grammy-winner, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer and Kennedy Center honoree Buddy Guy returns to the Hollywood Bowl August 10, 2016, five years after the Stratocaster blaster and then-12-year-old Strat-slinging protegé Quinn Sullivan blew away 18,000-plus fans at the Playboy Jazz Festival.
Guy, who just turned 80 on July 29, is co-headlining a U.S. tour this summer with British rock guitar icon and major Buddy Guy fan Jeff Beck, after headlining a spring European tour including several dates with Sullivan, now a seasoned solo studio and road warrior at age 17.
Also a Grammy winner and Rock Hall inductee, Beck is celebrating half a century as a rock star, from his rise to fame with British Invasion blues-rockers The Yardbirds in 1966 to now. At age 71, Beck, like Guy, is seemingly unstoppable.
Beck is backing “Loud Hailer,” his first studio album of new material since his Grammy-winning “Emotion & Commotion” six years ago. He’ll be accompanied by his touring band and, on select numbers, the Hollywood Bowl’s renowned house band, the Los Angeles Philharmonic. (Click the link below for a preview.)
RELATED: ‘Strat Cats’ Jeff Beck & Buddy Guy Rock Hollywood Bowl Aug. 10
Born the son of a sharecropper in rural Louisiana in 1936, Guy has another decade or so on Beck when it comes to fame and influence, if not fortune.
Guy’s been performing and recording since the mid-1950s, first around Baton Rouge, then Chicago, New York, London and just about everywhere else on the planet.
(Check out Buddy Guy’s 2013 autobiography, “When I Left Home: My Story,” co-written with David Ritz.)
This year Guy’s on the road as part of an extended international tour backing his latest solo album, 2015’s “Born to Play Guitar.” Between dates with Beck, he ducked back to Chicago on Monday (8/1) for an 80th birthday bash at his club, Buddy Guy’s Legends.
The Kid with the Strat and Polka-Dot Bandanna
As a toddler, Quinn Sullivan showed an affinity for music, and especially guitar players, so his folks gave him a toy guitar at age 3. He got serious pretty fast and was soon taking lessons and sitting in with local musicians many times his age.
Daytime TV variety show host Ellen DeGeneres caught wind of the whiz kid blues guitarist from New Bedford and booked him for his first national TV appearance in 2006, performing “Twist & Shout.”
Guy met Quinn Sullivan in 2007, when the youngster was about 7 1/2 years old and showed up with his Stratocaster at a Guy gig near Sullivan’s home in New Bedford, Mass., sporting a polka-dot bandanna, a Guy trademark.
Guy autographed Quinn’s Strat, but only if the kid would sit in with him, he said. They started jamming onstage, Guy and the audience flipped, and ever since – with the blessing of Sullivan’s parents – Guy has made good on his promise to make sure the kid gets heard. The mentor and his protegé have toured often since then, all over the States and around the world.
Sullivan made his recording debut contributing guitar to Guy’s 2009 album “Skin Deep,” and released his first solo album, “Cyclone,” recorded in Nashville and Chicago with Guy’s Grammy-winning producer-drummer Tom Hambridge, in early 2011.
Sullivan performed the album’s title track on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that March and toured with Guy throughout the U.S. and Canada, with Hambridge performing double duty as road drummer for both Guy and Sullivan. “Cyclone” was a Top 10 hit on the Billboard blues chart.
Sullivan’s second solo album was “Getting There,” also recorded with Hambridge and out in May 2014. Along with an encore appearance on “Ellen,” Sullivan backed it with more touring with Guy and performances on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and other top-rated TV shows.
Sullivan released his third album, “Midnight Highway,” on July 1. He’s backed again by producer Hambridge, with Buddy Guy bassist Michael Rhodes and guitarist Rob McNelley, and keyboardist Reese Wynans of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble. A highlight is a searing cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” a classic from 1968’s “The Beatles” (aka “The White Album”).
Sullivan’s voice changed between his second and third albums, and his latest includes more of his original material than the first two. Still, a highlight is a searing cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” a classic from 1968’s “The Beatles” (aka “The White Album”).
Onstage over the years, Sullivan’s played music festivals at major venues around the world, with Guy and solo, including the Austin City Limits Festival, Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival (three times), the Experience Hendrix Tour (several editions with Hendrix bassist Billy Cox).
On June 12, 2011, while on summer vacation from middle school, he made his debut at the Hollywood Bowl as a special guest with Playboy Jazz Festival headliner Buddy Guy.
Backstage at the Bowl with Buddy Guy & Quinn Sullivan
After Guy’s and Sullivan’s set at the Hollywood Bowl, which earned a standing ovation, the two guitarists spoke backstage with this reporter and other members of the international jazz and blues press.
Observing the scene was Quinn’s father, Terry Sullivan, who’d been a drummer in an East Coast Grateful Dead tribute band for more than 20 years.
Guy started out talking about his first encounter with young Sullivan. Over the next half hour or so Guy dropped some priceless stories about what he learned first as a kid in those Louisiana cotton fields; his earliest musical influences, including Lightnin’ Slim and Muddy Waters; Chicago; frustration at Chess; uncool encounters with “mentor” Willie Dixon; how rock ‘n’ roll is just sped-up blues; Guy’s first U.K. tour in 1965 (“Rod Stewart was my valet”); friendships with Junior Wells, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix; gigging with his hero B.B. King with Quinn sitting in; playing Eric Clapton’s Crossroads festivals; telling off hawk politicians in Congress; and lots more.
While Guy is naturally gregarious and has done countless interviews in his 60-odd-year career, Sullivan was quite shy with reporters backstage at the Bowl.
Here’s a transcript:
Buddy Guy: I saw a young person, a young man with an instrument, and (Quinn Sullivan) walked in with his dad (Terry), and he had my trademark bandanna, which is polka-dot.
And I said, “Oh, well! Let me see if he can play these three notes.” And I called him up, and let him play three notes and turned him loose, and I haven’t turned him loose yet.
Back then he was 7 years old. And I’m saying, “Man, at 7, if you can play like that, I can’t cut you loose.”
I went to a lot of record companies, and they were just like anybody else, and I said I’m going to release the record myself and I did.
I just want as many people as I can to see how good he is at this age, because if somebody don’t speak up about some of the greatest athletes, musicians, in the world, if the right people don’t see them at the right time, you never know.
When I was invited to play (the Playboy Jazz Festival), I said, “I want to bring him,” and (my agent) said, “Oh, he’s not on the show,” and I said, “Well, he’s on as long as I am. I’m going to bring him.”
Peeples: What’s the name of the record?
Quinn Sullivan: “Cyclone.”
Buddy Guy: We’ve got some here. We’ll make sure you guys get a copy of it.
Question: One of the usual questions that are asked of all musicians is what is the future of the music they’re playing. That question need not be asked of you.
Buddy Guy: I wanted you to see him play because most times I get interviewed, people interview before I play a show. I like to wait till I play the show, then you give me your opinion about what you saw. So, what you saw tonight is what I saw when I first saw him. I’m saying, don’t ask me no question, ask yourself the question. What the hell is that? That’s the way I looked at it.
Peeples: What do you think, young man, about playing the Hollywood Bowl? That’s a pretty big gig for a youngster your age.
Sullivan: Yeah, I know.
Peeples: What are you thinking when you’re looking out on all of those people?
Sullivan: Oh, it’s unbelievable. It’s like it’s not really happening.
Buddy Guy: It’s a good thing you asked him, because after dark, put the light on me – I didn’t see all those people out there. He could see them, I can’t. That’s what the British guys, with the big lights before that… We had the bulbs hanging, and you could see people’s faces.
As I said, I’m going to do whatever I can to let him be exposed as much as I can. I’ve got him on a lot of summer shows. I’ve been on his parents about school, and I don’t want him to forget about the education you need, because the business we’re in is one of the worst businesses in the world so far as being ripped off. You know as well as I do how many white and black people have been ripped off. So I put the record out, and whatever it does, I want his family to know what’s happening in this business – straight up, yeah.
Question: Were you playing guitar as a youngster?
Buddy Guy: I was picking cotton. I didn’t learn how to pick a guitar, I learned how to pick cotton first. So, no.
When I finally got old enough to go see people like Lightnin’ Slim, there weren’t that many guitar players. When you saw a guitar player when I was (Sullivan’s) age, it was like a sore thumb. It was like one in a million. Nowadays, there’s so much talent and entertainment out there, someone like myself or
Nowadays, there’s so much talent and entertainment out there, someone like myself or Eric Clapton, one of these super-people, ought to introduce somebody like this. Sometimes they can be looked over, and when I saw (Sullivan) and heard him, I said, “Wait a minute. He needs to be heard and be seen and be talked about.”
And I’m glad you guys invited him (to be interviewed) with me tonight. You can ask him more questions than you do me, because, actually, I don’t know how to use a cell phone. Every time I get ready to do something, I have to ask his dad to show me how to do it. In the next few years, I might ask him to show me how to play guitar.
Peeples: Who else are you listening to, Quinn, aside from The Man here?
Sullivan: I listen to a lot of Eric Clapton and David Gilmour, and Derek Trucks.
Question: How did you get this special soul that you have? How did you feel that you needed to play blues versus rock ’n’ roll? All the younger people your age are playing rock ’n’ roll. Why did you choose the blues?
Sullivan: It’s kind of blues and rock ’n’ roll, actually, but… I don’t know. I just felt it (laughs).
Buddy Guy: Let me help him out on that. Do you know, man, before the ’60s there was no such thing as the question you asked him now? It was R&B. It’s the speed-up and a slowdown.
You hear Little Richard back in the ’50s, he was making hit after hit – he was playing blues. If you had those 78s, you’re probably old enough to remember that all you had to do was slow it down to 45 and you heard blues.
So, in other words, you’re confusing him because what he’s playing now, all he’s got to go is speed it up and they’re going to call it rock ’n’ roll. When he plays slow, they’re going to call it blues.
That didn’t happen until the ’60s, and I think a lot of record companies then who were promoting were trying to cash in. It got so bad, once it was called the Chicago blues, Motown blues, Memphis – and I never agreed with that. Everything is still R&B, so far as I’m concerned.
Question: Have you been to Chicago lately?
Sullivan: Yeah, I’ve been a couple times. Five or six times.
Buddy Guy: How could he not? (laughter)
Question: I meant lately! What do you get when you go there, when you go to Buddy’s club (Buddy Guy’s Legends) and hang out with the other musicians? What are you picking up?
Question: In terms of the blues, how do you relate that to your personal life? You’re young, so you really don’t have a clear understanding of what all these old folks are talking about in the blues. What do you feel about the music?
Sullivan: Mostly the sound of it. I don’t really experience a lot of sorrow and stuff, but… yeah, the feeling and the sound.
Question: Ever listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan?
Sullivan: Oh, yeah!
Question: I’m a middle-school teacher – I teach kids your age. I’m going to go back in the fall, I’m going to tell them I’ve got a new hero.
When you walked out on the stage… I just put together a program and I’m getting ready to submit it to the Unified School District to take jazz into the elementary schools to try and get the kids’ attention earlier, get them away from the rock ’n’ roll and all that rap stuff out there. And when you walked out on stage, I had a smile running from ear to ear. My chest was just thumping. There’s talent out there, and you’re standing out there alongside him playing, it just spoke right out. So, congratulations.
Sullivan: Thank you.
Peeples: Your Stratocaster…there’s a bunch of signatures on it. Who’s signed it?
Sullivan: Lenny Kravitz, Billy Gibbons, Mick Jagger, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Ronnie Wood.
Peeples: Buncha lightweights, huh?
Sullivan: (laughter) Yeah!
Question: How did you guys meet?
Sullivan: Actually, we met at a little theater in my hometown.
Question: Do you have a band with guys your age?
Sullivan: No. (laughter)
Peeples: Are there any kids your age playing the same thing that you can play with?
Peeples: You have to hang out with old guys…
Sullivan: Um, I don’t know…
Buddy Guy: Not really, man, that’s why I want him exposed. A lot of young people don’t know about what he’s doing. One in a million come along and say, “I got it.” Even the British guys had to do that in the early days, and I’m not afraid to tell you – I know he doesn’t know, I don’t even know if his dad knows – when Elvis (Presley) started singing Arthur Crudup’s music, they were trying to hide (where) he got it from, which is some of the greatest blues players that ever played.
With him, that’s what I’m trying to do, so the young kids can say, “Wow. That music’s not bad at all,” because I thought once, “Who wants the blues?” It’s like, lyrics that they didn’t want kids this age to hear.
When hip-hop came out, I said, let them hear every fucking thing (laughter). Because every time we sung a bad lyric – I didn’t have time to do it tonight, I was going to show you that I’ve been doing it in front of him.
There was a blues cat who made a record once called… the way the blues cats did hip-hop. (He) sang, “My sister went to milk and she didn’t know how. She grabbed the bull instead of a cow. Said, ‘Momma, Momma, come here quick – my sister’s milking the bull by the …’ ” Get it?
Now, when the blues cats did it, they beeped that. We couldn’t even pass a recording studio and talk like that. But now, you can go in and record that and it’d probably be a big hit, because these kids know more about that than me and you.
My youngest daughter is hip-hop, I don’t have anything against her now. I’m just sayin’, B.B. King made a record once – “Got a sweet little angel, I love the way she spreads her wings.” And I was teaching myself how to play, I’m saying, “What the hell is he talking about?”
About 45 years later, the hip-hop started and I didn’t have to ask what he meant – they told me what he meant. So, there’s no beating around the bush now. You can sing, and you sing what and play what – wide open. I want this kid to do the same thing.
Just express yourself. Because it’s out there. A lot of people didn’t know what blues was until the last four-five years.
Question: What’s the most important thing you want to teach him, and what have you learned from him that’s the most important?
Buddy Guy: I don’t want to teach him nothin’. I just want him to be what I saw in him when I first saw him. I want him to take his music to a higher level than we have taken.
Question: And you?
Sullivan: I learned a lot about guitar playing (laughter).
Question: What about where it comes from?
Sullivan: What do you mean?
Question: The soul. You’ve got to get a lot of soul, and this man has stories to tell and a lot of soul…
Question: So, does he teach you about that?
Buddy Guy: To be honest with you, man – every time you’ve confused him, I have to step in. All of that soul crap came up in the ’60s, man… (laughter) As I said earlier, man, we was just playing the music.
You know most black blues players played the guitar, and they took the hat off, turn the bottom of it up on this table, and play acoustic guitar. And you’d drop your nickel, you’d drop your dime, you’d drop your quarter and you patted his foot. John Lee Hooker and all of ’em played, and they’d look over in the hat. The guitar player says, “You got enough to get one?”
And they went out and got a quart of beer, a bottle of wine, and then they drank it and got drunk, woke up the next morning and played again.
And all of those guys played for the pleasure of getting drunk, of playing and singing well enough to get a good lookin’ woman to follow them home (laughter). So, that’s what it was all about.
Then all of a sudden, they found out you could make money with it by recording it after (Leonard and Phil) Chess and some other people did it.
Then, we got so bad, we started callin’ blues Chicago blues, Motown, Memphis, New Orleans, Texas and whatever they wanted to call it, and I still don’t agree with that. I still believe it’s R&B, and this young man can sing with some experience that’s going to come through it. I’m singing about the experience I came through with, and B.B. and Muddy (Waters) and Son House and all those great blues players sung what they saw.
But guess what? You can learn how to play it if you put the time in it. That’s what I wondered from his parents – how did he learn at (such a young age)…? He’s on one of my records – I asked him to play a solo on a record when he was, what, eight, right?
Sullivan: Yes, eight.
Buddy Guy: And when I was eight years old – I was born on a farm, picking cotton. I didn’t know what running water was until 17. So, you know I didn’t have electric lights. I couldn’t even play a fucking radio at seven years old, man (gestures as if twisting a knob on a radio). Oh, yes, you turn that on.
Question: How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Buddy Guy: Well… in Louisiana they’ve got mosquitoes big enough to take you out the room. My mother had a screen door. Do you know what the fan is, that you do this with (waves air fan back and forth)? That’s what we used for air. So when she finally got enough money, which is like 10 cents to get a piece of screen, in the middle of the day she said, “I know I put that screen on that window. There’s mosquitoes in here…” She looked around – I had stripped it all out, trying to make a guitar (laughter). That was my first thing, because like I said, we didn’t have a radio or nothin’ like that. It was just some God-gifted talent, and I told myself, I still don’t read – I can’t even read my own writing.
Peeples: So who were you listening to?
Buddy Guy: Back then it was more spiritual than it was blues, but the first electric guitar I saw was Lightnin’ Slim, and then I finally saw, I think, it was Guitar Slim, and B.B. King started coming into town, and I watched them, and I saw Slim. He was wild and crazy, and I said, “I want to act like that, but I want to play like B.B. King.”
Which you cannot wear those shoes, him and Muddy and them wore. You know those shoes (will never) be filled, and in trying to learn how to play like them, you will find something of your own, which is what this kid is going to do. He’ll try to play exactly like me and Eric Clapton. On the way trying to find me and Eric Clapton, he’s going to find Quinn. That’s what it’s all about.
Question: Did anybody mentor you like you’re mentoring him?
Buddy Guy: No. When I first went to Chicago, everybody asks me, “Who are you? Who you played with?” My good friend, Junior Wells – I said, like Mohammad Ali, “One day you’re all going to listen to me.”
Question: Mr. Guy, in the (2004) documentary “Lightning in a Bottle,” it’s insinuated that Jimi Hendrix watched you.
Buddy Guy: They’ve got a tape out on that, with him recording me from a reel-to-reel tape. The first time I ever went to New York was in 1967. They told me, before I left Louisiana, to never play New York. You will never make it. And I proudly played Newport in 1967, and I got invited to New York and I saw this kid, on his knees with a reel-to-reel, and he was listening, and I was, like, wild and crazy and drinking my wine. Sixty cents a bottle, then.
And I heard voices saying, “This is Jimi Hendrix.” I said, “Who in the hell is that? I don’t know.” I had the guitar behind my head, and he came up and told me who he was, and we became good friends about two or three years before he passed away. (Check out this jam from 1968.)
Question: Who inspired you?
Buddy Guy: Well, the first thing I was listening to was Lightnin’ Hopkins. Then, in Louisiana, after my parents got a radio about 17, between 16 and 17, at night you could get… they had a radio station, WLAC, coming out of Nashville and Gallatin, Tennessee. [See “The Nighttime R&B Years.”] They played the boxes of package deals of Chess’s 78 (rpm) records. I think you could get three for a dollar. I would hear John Lee Hooker and “Boogie Chillen” and Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy, and … I would listen to that and try to figure out what they were doing.
No television – I couldn’t look up and say, “OK, I see what your fingers are doing,” like that. I had to figure it out myself.
By the way, just before my mother (had a) stroke, I went into Baton Rouge and with my older sister, still living, tried to send me to high school, and I wanted to read music. I told the teacher, still living, he laughed about it.
I said, “I want to take music.” He said, “Yeah? I’ll send you out to get Book 1.” I had a 78 record of Muddy Waters. I said, “I don’t want Book 1. I got Book 1.” He said, “What is it?” And I held out the 78. He said, “I can’t teach you that.”
I said, “Well, I can’t come to your class.” And now, we laugh about it. He’s told me, “I’m glad you didn’t come to my class.”
Peeples: You ended up at Chess years later (1960-1967), where your heroes were.
Buddy Guy: What I had learned to play − Jimmy Reed, Lightnin’ Hopkins, a few things, and a lot of stuff from Muddy when I went to Chicago − that’s what made me be invited. I played a lot of records with those guys before they gave me the opportunity to do one on my own.
Even when I started doing mine, I was loud like I was out there (onstage) tonight, and they weren’t ready for that. Finally, Eric and the British guys got in there, (Chess) found out that I was playing louder than Hendrix. You know Hendrix had to go to England before they recognized him. And when Chess got it – that was the first time (I’d) ever (been made an offer) at Chess. They said, “Go get him and bring him here.”
And I’m saying, “What do you want?” And they just put Hendrix’s (“Are You Experienced” 1967 debut) album on and said, “Now kick me in my butt, because you’ve been trying to play this for us ever since you’ve come here.”
Question: Hopefully Quinn won’t have that problem…
Buddy Guy: When I brought him out on the stage with B.B. in New York (in 2009) – B.B. said, “Well, if you think he’s okay, then bring him on out.” … And oh, (B.B.) was busy. He can act nutty, too. He was just buggin’ his eyes, man.
That’s the same way I felt. I’m saying, “There’s no way somebody eight years old can play like this.” I made sure (Sullivan) was with me here tonight. I (don’t even) want his dad to take him out of school, but I had to have him at the Bowl with me.
Question: When he walked out on the stage and played those first few notes, I turned to the people that were next to me, I said, “He’ll be here next year,” and a lady leaned over and said, “No kidding!” I said, “Listen to him.”
Buddy Guy: I told him, and I told his dad who was right behind him, I said, “I want you to give me a ride in your Ferrari in the next year, all right?”
Question: Buddy, besides this young man, who are some of the people that you’re listening to or you respect as, really, the next generation of blues people?
Buddy Guy: Oh, that’s why I’m taking him out. … I’ve got grown children and grandchildren. They don’t know who the blues people are until they make 21, and then they can get in the blues club.
My children walked into the blues club after they turned 21 and said, “Oh my God, Dad, I didn’t know you could play like that!” So, that’s why I’ve got (Sullivan) out on the road. I don’t want you to wait till they get 21, (then) say “Oh, I’ve seen him! But I didn’t see him when he was 7 ’cause I wasn’t old enough to get in here.”
Another thing, I played for the Congressmen in Washington about three years ago, right? Soon as I walked in there, I said, “Y’all don’t want to see me.”
“Uh, yes, we do! We love blues!”
I said, “That ain’t what I’m asking. I want to ask you all: How can you send our young women and men to kill and be killed at 18, and (at) 18 or 19 they can’t come into a blues club and drink a beer?”
Because all the stuff that you should keep them from, they’re getting it anyway. What are you telling me? Chicago got a name during Prohibition when Al Capone (controlled the booze). As soon as they legalized it, he disappeared. That’s what you’ve got to do with this other stuff, because you’re not going to get rid of it – it’s too much money. And if you find out who’s behind it, it would stop the world.
Peeples: You’ve done a few (actually five) Crossroads festivals with Eric, B.B., Jeff Beck and all of those guys. What’s that experience like?
Buddy Guy: We just finished four days with B.B. last week, and when Muddy was living and B.B. still playing, whenever they played, like I’d bring him out, they would always… Like, you come out here and play. I don’t want to say what they called me, because jazz cats and blues cats will call you that, MF – you know what I’m talkin’ about.
And I said, “When you guys play, it’s like going to class, man. I’m supposed to sit in a chair like this and listen.” After they found out I could play a few of their notes, they said, “I don’t want to hear that. You come up and play.”
And that’s my experience. I don’t read nothing. I can hardly read my own handwriting, man, so everything you see me play has come straight from what I’ve heard from somebody else, and 95 percent of my listening is spiritual.
Because when I first started playing guitar, it wasn’t all the bands, I was listening to Mahalia – my girlfriend now, Mahalia – Jackson. I got my girlfriend in the room, and I said (to her), “Now, that’s the stuff, with no big band.” (You hear) the voice of Lou Rawls, Sam Cooke, and the soul singer Johnnie Taylor. When they started, they didn’t have all those drums and stuff behind ’em. It was all voice.
Then we came in with the guitar, and I curse B.B. King out right now, when he learned how to squeeze those strings.
And did you know that Little Walter made a comment about the harmonica? When he made “Juke,” you know what the price of a harmonica was? A nickel. And he told ’em that George Washington Carver took a peanut and got so much technology out of it. He said, “I’m going to take the harmonica,” which is about as big as this little mic here, and when he made “Juke,” he told the truth.
I’m trying to get the harmonica makers to put (Little Walter’s) picture on at least two or three harmonicas. And a guitar – you would go to the store and say, “How much is that acoustic guitar?” We didn’t have big Guitar Centers then. And the guy would say, “I don’t know man,” and get it out of the way, since it was obsolete. Until Leo Fender and Les Paul and them amplified it, and look out, then.
Question: You’re a Jeff Beck fan, right?
Buddy Guy: Oh, yeah.
Question: And he’s a Les Paul fan. Have you heard Les Paul or heard any of the…
Buddy Guy: Who told you that? I gotta cut in. Now, who told you he was a Les Paul…? [Guy misunderstood that the question was about the man, not the guitar.] No, he’s a Strat man, ’cause they got it in Rolling Stone magazine, me and (Beck). They call us “The Strat Cats.”
Question: Tell us about your Strat.
Buddy Guy: Well, when I first went to England (in 1965), Eric wasn’t famous, Jeff Beck wasn’t famous…and they told me they had never seen a Strat play blues till he saw me. And they threw all those other guitars away that you’ve been talking about and they’ve been playing Strat ever since.
Question: I wasn’t really talking about the (brand of) guitar…
Buddy Guy: They were playing it before they saw me play the Strat, because they thought the Strat was just for country and western.
There’s a lot of stuff about the blues a lot of people don’t know. And I know all of you know what I mentioned earlier about Elvis Presley, when he came out shaking – and I know you remember Ed Sullivan, and he told him and said, “We’ve got to show you from the waist up. We can’t show you shaking the waist-level down.” But (Ed) had went to Mississippi and saw Little Richard and all those guys doing that, and he didn’t want the white kids to know this.
In case you don’t know, I’m going to tell it. And when they asked him about it, they wanted him to get credit for what he was doing because was doing Arthur Crudup stuff. “Dee, dee, da-da-da, dee-dee-dee.” That was old black people stuff. But they wanted to say, “Okay, here comes a white kid with something new.” Like when the British cats came back here, Rod Stewart and all them – Rod Stewart was my valet when I first went to England.
And when they come back, ask him. When they come out here and say, “British Invasion,” and I say, “No, man, you had this already and didn’t know it.”
Remember the television show called “Shindig”? Well, it was crazy for the Stones as they were getting big, and Mick said, “We’ll do ‘Shindig’ if you let us bring Muddy Waters.” And they said, “Who in the hell is that?” And he got offended, saying, “You don’t know who Muddy is? And we named ourselves after (his) famous record, “Rollin’ Stone”? Now you got it from the horse’s mouth.
Peter Sherman: Can you tell us about Willie Dixon at all? You did a little work with him…
Buddy Guy: You want the truth? I’ll tell you. (I went to Chess Records) as a youngster, and Willie Dixon was one of the greatest songwriters that ever wrote.
Everything I ever wrote.
Eric Clapton came to me about 30 years ago, and he was doin’ a soundtrack on a movie called “Rush,” and Eric told them, “Get Buddy,” ’cause I’ve got a tune that will fit this script just right. And that was my first live album, was to back up Muddy Waters, ’cause I had the best rhythm (section) in Chicago with (drummer) Fred Below, (piano player) Otis Spann and my bass player, Jack Myers.
They said, “Warm up some, Buddy.” I didn’t even know what I was singing. I just sung off the top of my head, and they put it on the album, “Buddy Guy’s Tune.”
When Eric did it for the movie, I didn’t watch the movie. When the credits came out, it was Willie Dixon. And I went and found the album and showed them, and it wasn’t Willie Dixon.
Every time I went in (to Chess) there with a song, Leonard Chess would say, “Let Willie Dixon hear it.” And I would go and he would listen to this song, and say, “That’s a pretty good song, but you’ve got one line there that’s not punchy enough.” And I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. I said, “What?”
He said, “When you say ‘My baby left me this morning,’ don’t say she left you this morning, say she left you last night.” And when the song came out, it was his.
So I started thinking, not only Willie Dixon – some of those great songwriters – I don’t think none of them wrote all those songs, because we didn’t know what was going on, for what you get for writing the song. And I think they were just ripping off everybody with the songs… Yeah, ’cause all of my songs came out was me, and Willie Dixon wrote it, even (if) he wasn’t there when I wrote it.
Sherman: His name was on them, so he got some of the royalties?
Buddy Guy: No, he got it all, not some of it. I know his wife will get mad at me for sayin’ this, but like I said, I don’t like to lie, man.
I didn’t lie when I brought you (Quinn Sullivan). When I walked up on the stage, I said, “I’ve got something for you all.” I didn’t want you to walk out of there and say, “What the hell did he bring him up there for, when I paid to see you?” I wanted you to walk out of there just like me saying, “What the hell did he bring?” I’m not disappointed, what he did.
I told his dad I was going to (see) that. I told my manager, I said, “You watch this.”
Sherman: I’ve seen Hendrix, Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughan…
Buddy Guy: You ain’t seen nothing, I wish I had the time. I was going to make (Quinn) put on a show, everything he did when I first saw him. I was trying to make him feel like you need to learn something else, and I was, like, flipping the guitar and doing things that I know he can’t do. And he was like, 7 years old, saying, “Show me something I don’t know, man.” (laughter) I can’t cut him loose now ‘cause he’s too good!
[Guy turns to longtime Playboy Jazz publicist Nina Gordon, coordinating the interview:] Are you the one I told you I had something special? Did you get it?
Gordon: Yes! Yes!
Buddy Guy: Whatever you guys can do, keep (Quinn) out there for me.
Question: How do you describe the sound (at the Bowl)?
Sullivan: Really good.
Question: There’s something about the way that you play the guitar, this distortion, and how you get lost in the cloud and this amazing rhythm. You get lost and become centered, and then you’re gone. Talk about how that feels. Talk about how you describe your experience playing that.
Sullivan: It’s, ah… I don’t really know.
Peeples: Where are you when you’re playing?
Sullivan: Just playing…
Question: Are you here? Are you mostly with the band?
Sullivan: I’m with the band.
Peeples: He’s in the zone.
Buddy Guy: I haven’t heard him yet, but tell me he (didn’t) play drums and keyboards. Now you know. Like I said, at that age, if you’re that good, somebody needs to hear you.
Question: Where can folks find you?
Sullivan: My website is www.quinnsullivanmusic.com. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.
Peeples: Can we get a quick question from Dad? Dad, what do you think about your son playing the Hollywood Bowl at the Playboy Jazz Festival?
Terry Sullivan: It’s just the most amazing experience for both of us, and thank God for Buddy Guy. That’s all I can say. When Buddy met Quinn four years ago and said, “I’m going to make sure people know about you,” he’s done everything that he said he’s going to do and more. And now we’re on tour this summer, and it’s just the most amazing experience that we could ever ask for.
Peeples: The real deal.
Photos: Stephen K. Peeples (except album covers, super-young Quinn Sullivan and Yardbirds)
Special thanks: Nina Gordon; Paige Hagen
Santa Clarita journalist and Grammy-nominee Stephen K. Peeples was an entertainment reporter for Santa Clarita television station SCVTV and its website at SCVNews.com, and for Santa Clarita radio station KHTS AM 1220 and its website at HometownStation.com, from 2011-2016. He hosted and co-produced SCVTV’s WAVE-nominated “House Blend” local music and interview program for five seasons, 2010-2015. Peeples was also an award-winning international radio producer and newspaper online editor. Now an in-demand website project manager and content editor, he blogs about music at his personal site, https://stephenkpeeples.com, and posts exclusive interviews on his YouTube channel.
Article: Buddy Guy & Quinn Sullivan Playboy Jazz Q&A, June 2011
Category: News & Reviews
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
Article Source: StephenKPeeples.com