Blues great Buddy Guy, the master of contemporary blues, is coming to town Saturday to play the Masonic Temple.
Tickets are not selling well, which is surprising, considering his exceptional Masonic Temple show two years ago and his history at the old Red Lion Tavern.
“I’m not very well-known out there,” Guy said from his suburban Chicago home this week. “So I got to do a triplegood show so people will remember me.”
If a regular Buddy Guy show is outstanding, how good could triplegood be?
Eric Clapton might know: “Buddy Guy is the best,” he said not long ago. “You can’t say any more than that. He is the consummate blues musician. … he is living history.”
Anyone who has seen Guy perform should already know that. His Masonic Temple show was a masterpiece despite the crowded, overheated conditions. The year before, he blew away a Gorge Blues Festival lineup that included Dr. John, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and B.B. King.
He used to come to the Red Lion with his musical partner, Junior Wells, and turn the place upside down. Unlike Wells, though, Guy is not known for turning in lackluster performance: He shows up ready to play.
“I don’t know what it is,” Clapton said in 1986. “It doesn’t stand up in a recording studio, you couldn’t put him on a hit record, but when you see him in person, the way he plays is beyond everybody.”
Even so, Guy has labored in obscurity for most of his career. Before “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues” hit the shelves in 1991, Guy hadn’t been in a recording studio for a decade.
“They always tell me the blues is like whiskey; the longer you wait the better it gets, but I don’t think that’s true. I hate missing all that time,” he said. “But I’m grateful to be recording now.”
Several years ago, one record company - it was one he had recorded with - thought he had retired.
“They said, ‘How old is he now, about 90?”’
Hardly. The still hale and hearty Guy, won a Best Contemporary Blues Grammy for “Damn Right” and hauled down a record five W.C. Handys the next year - Entertainer of the Year, Contemporary Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Vocalist and Guitarist of the Year. In 1993, Billboard magazine gave Guy its Century Award, for “distinguished creative achievement.”
Fortunately for Guy and fans, Silvertone Records saw the light and has released two more excellent records: “Feels Like Rain” (it won another Grammy in 1992) and his latest, 1994’s “Slippin’ In.”
It must be said, contrary to Clapton’s aside, that Guy’s last three records have been daring and superb. “Feels Like Rain” brought Bonnie Raitt on board as well as country singer Travis Tritt and won a Grammy in ‘92.
“Slippin’ In” features Johnnie Johnson, the pianist who created the foundation of Chuck Berry’s sound, and the surviving members of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble: keyboardist Reese Wynan, bass player Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton.
Guy, who is understandably unhappy with the way record companies conduct their business, says other musicians have been his biggest champions.
“They have done more for me than any record company - Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, the Stones.”
“Buddy Guy is an international treasure,” wrote Billboard editor Timothy White in 1993, “a bold and no-nonsense reflection of our better selves, as well as the worthy artistic ancestry we draw on.”
Those are nice words, but Buddy Guy isn’t about words; he’s about cranked up amps, shimmering, shivering guitar solos and a shattering voice that comes straight from the heart of the blues.
“If you don’t like the blues, you better not come,” he said, “‘cause I intend to make you like them before I’m through.”
The national treasure is coming back to town; don’t miss him.
Buddy Guy will also perform Sunday at 8 p.m. at the Preston Winery in Pasco. General admission tickets are $20.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Buddy Guy Location and time: Masonic Temple, Saturday, 9 p.m. Tickets: $22.50