NEW YORK — Blues guitar legend Buddy Guy has influenced some of the greatest rock guitarists of all time, including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Gary Clark Jr. But the factors that led to his inspiration may not have happened if Guy hadn’t taken a stand – literally.“When I came to Chicago, most blues musicians, including Muddy Waters, they all was sitting in a chair playing. And I said, ‘I can’t play like them, but I think I can outdo them. I can stand up and jump off the stage and get some attention,’” Guy recently told The Associated Press.Jumping around on stage, playing the guitar behind his back, and picking with his teeth brought him lots of attention, especially from an experimental guitarist from Seattle who was recently discharged from the Army named Jimi Hendrix. The future virtuoso not only reinvented the sound of the electric guitar, but he also drew on the showmanship Guy displayed.“I’m blessed with that because I didn’t know that many people would look at me and feel that way,” the multi-Grammy winning Guy said.Now the 84-year-old blues great becomes the subject of the latest installment of the PBS biography series “American Masters.” The episode, “Buddy Guy: The Blues Chase the Blues Away,” dives into his lengthy career.Honored and humble about being recognized, Guy says he saw his contemporaries as better guitarists, so he had to find his own style. That came from being inspired by different types of music, ranging from gospel to country — a mix he equates to a Louisiana culinary specialty.“You can call my guitar playing gumbo, because if you cook a gumbo in Louisiana, you throw every kind of meat you can. And that makes it more delicious than what it was if you just put one meat in it,” he says.Yet, all of the styles he put into his playing required extreme perseverance. Growing up in the Jim Crow era South and raised in a sharecropping family, Guy became fascinated the first time he saw someone play guitar. But actually having one to put in his hands and play created an obstacle he needed to overcome.He would try and make his own, including using rubber bands as strings, before increasing his ingenuity to the wire strands from the window screens in the family home. But the ever-dwindling screens came to the attention of his mother. “My mom noticed mosquitoes in the house because something was wrong with the windows.”He recalls getting his hands on a real guitar during a Christmas celebration when its player took a break to get drunk, providing Guy with some time to figure out how to play what he had seen. His dad eventually bought him a guitar for “a couple of dollars” and he never looked back.But mastering the instrument was one thing, finding an audience was another. By the time Guy came on the scene, the blues were a struggling art form. There was nothing lucrative about playing music in those days because there wasn’t a crossover to a mainstream audience.At the time, he says white audiences didn’t have an appetite for the blues, with a few turning up at shows every “once in a while.”“Nobody was making a decent living off of playing the blues,” he says. “It was going from town to town.” Sometime he said he just made enough money to make it to the next town.It was the love of music that kept him and his counterparts playing. But that would soon change in the 1960s with the arrival of a new sound on the airwaves.“The British,” Guy said succinctly.More appropriately, he credits the Rolling Stones, whose guitarist Keith Richards and singer Mick Jagger especially admired Guy’s playing and the blues in general.When the TV variety show “Shindig!” wanted the Stones to appear, Jagger had one condition. “Jagger said I’ll come on the show if you let me bring Muddy Waters. And they say, ‘Who in the hell is that?’ And he said, ‘You mean to tell me you don’t know who Muddy Waters is? We named ourselves after his famous record, ‘Rolling Stone.’”After that, Guy says the blues exploded.Riding the wave of Waters, BB King, Otis Rush, and other players, Guy found his own style and became one of the most recognizable blues artists of the Chicago blues sound. In 2005, Clapton and King inducted Guy into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.While Guy saw the blues rise from a personal passion to main influence of the biggest rock bands in history, he said his passion has not changed. “I’m playing my guitar for the life that I’m living in this point and time,” he said.Nowadays, he’s a man on a mission to keep the blues alive because he said there’s just not enough places for people to hear it. “The blues is not being played or heard on your big radio stations anymore,” Guy said.Guy says even his son was unaware of his significance as a blues player until he was old enough to go a blues club. “He said, ’Dad, I didn’t know you could do that.’ And he’s been a blues player ever since,” Guy said.———Follow John Carucci at http://www.twitter.com/jacarucci———This story corrects the spelling of Clark, not Clarke.
Perplexed by America’s controversial relationship with Confederate monuments, “The Daily Show” team member CJ Hunt saw potential for what he thought would make an interesting short filmBy JOHN CARUCCI Associated PressJune 21, 2021, 9:30 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNEW YORK — Perplexed by America’s controversial relationship with Confederate monuments, “The Daily Show” team member CJ Hunt saw potential for what he thought would make an interesting short film.But not long after beginning the project, he realized a much bigger story was revealing itself and it became “The Neutral Ground,” a feature-length documentary that premiered Saturday at the Tribeca Film Festival and will available July 5 on PBS.The serious, yet funny, documentary examines the Lost Cause, the campaign that mythicized the Confederacy after the Civil War and continues the narrative that the conflict was more about freedom than the right to own slaves.“You can’t name another war where the losers get thousands of monuments,” Hunt recently told The Associated Press in an interview promoting the film.Hunt said Southern secession documents clearly put slavery first as the reason for the division. But after the Civil War, the film points out that a successful propaganda campaign shifted the cause from being about owning people as property to state’s rights and patriotism.A reluctance to actually read primary source documents about historical events perpetuates the myth, “Sadly, our idea of history is really just like stories that were handed to us,” he said.That notion drove Hunt to delve deeper to understand the division between those that believe monuments should be removed, and others that want them to stay to preserve history.The concept for the film began in 2015 when Hunt was living in New Orleans. The city council voted to remove four monuments from public spaces but was thwarted because work crews felt their lives threatened.The momentum shifted last year after a summer of protests and unrest over social justice, and there was “a strong consensus to challenge these monuments in public spaces,” he said.Before joining the cast of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” Hunt said he watched correspondents like Roy Wood Jr. to learn how to report on a segment with the right balance of humor and information.“Peppered within this doc is CJ’s curiosity and inherent optimism,” said Wood, who serves as executive producer on the film. “He did a great job allowing the story to be heavy, while being light and funny at times.”In one segment, Hunt shows the peculiar placement of a statue of Black tennis icon Arthur Ashe on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, a strip commemorating those who fought for the Confederacy.The film questions the notion of adding Ashe among the slaveholders for “inclusion” purposes.“We’re not going to make the Confederacy better by adding a contextual plaque or by adding a Black tennis player nearby,” Hunt said. “None of these are good. None of these makes sense.”Last year four statues were removed from Monument Avenue, including one of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis, after civil unrest.“I understand the slavery thing, but also this was treason. The idea that we even have to construct a sentence like that is part of the absurdity of the Confederacy, right? It’s like you shouldn’t even have to say, ‘Look, I know this 60-foot-tall statue is to a man who enslaved people, but also, he betrayed the U.S.’ You shouldn’t need that combo. One of those things should disqualify you,” Hunt said.He notes that the myths and failure to condemn traitorous actions continue to haunt the nation, right up to the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.“Because we didn’t deal with that then, it is now difficult to call insurrectionists now insurrectionists. And I think the film tries to make that connection clear,” Hunt said.When it comes to what to do about the statues and memorials, the solution is a bit more complicated. Neither Hunt nor Wood believes these remnants should be destroyed. But they agree they should be out of public view. Wood supports the idea of moving them to special areas in museums or private facilities, so those that have a connection can preserve their history.“The statues are a great place to start, but I don’t think it’s about erasing anything that people hold dear. It’s about reserving my right to not want to see that every damn day when I’m riding past this particular street,” Wood said.