Alive and well

Buddy Guy, one of the world’s greatest living bluesmen, returns to Israel.

Buddy Guy (photo credit: PAUL NATKIN)
Buddy Guy
(photo credit: PAUL NATKIN)
‘He makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. He has to be one of the most incredible live performers.”
That’s how noted Tel Aviv bluesman Dov Hammer described seeing Buddy Guy for the first time at the Haifa Blues Festival in 1993.
Although the 82-year-old Guy has certainly lost a step or five in the ensuing 25 years, he can still be a powerhouse performer, as anyone who attended his raunchy 2016 show in Caesarea can attest.
One of the world’s greatest living bluesmen, Guy provided the blueprint by which a generation of young guitarists, such as the Stones’ Keith Richard and Ronnie Wood, spent their youth poring over his music in search of the hidden chord that would open up the world of rock & roll. It was no surprise that when the Rolling Stones searched for a guest who exemplified the big bad blues of their formative years to join them in New York for the 2006 filming of the Martin Scorsese concert movie Shine A Light, there wasn’t much discussion about whom to invite. All eyes turned to Buddy.
“We were listening to Buddy before we had two pennies,” Richards told Uncut magazine in 2012 “He has a little seniority on us, but not that much. Buddy Guy is... Buddy Guy. You’re talking about one of the greats here.”
When Guy returns to Israel next week to perform at the Ra’anana Amphitheater, he’s going to have a battery of support from a long list of Israeli guitar slingers whom he’s influenced in some way. Appearing ahead of Guy’s set will be Rami Fortis, Shlomi Bracha, Tamar Eisenman, Yehuda Keisar, Liron Amram and Ninet.
The show is a benefit for the Krembo Wings, the inclusive youth movement providing weekly social activities for young people with all types of mental and physical disabilities. Established in 2002, Krembo Wings operates tens of branches across Israel and welcomes thousands of young people aged seven to 22 from all cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The proceeds beyond the show’s expenses will be earmarked to open additional Krembo Wings branches throughout the country and to finance 3,000 children with severe and complex disabilities who are currently on the waiting list to join the organization, which is unable to take them in, due to lack of funds.
Guy’s career arc has run the gamut from performing in southern segregated roadhouses to making three Grammy-winning albums in the 1990s and more recent projects with John Mayer and Carlos Santana. In 2005, Guy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Louisiana-born musician honed his skills for a decade with such luminaries as Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter, before launching a solo career in 1967. A fruitful collaboration with harmonica player Junior Wells brought him to the limelight and forged a gaggle of rock & roll disciples, including Eric Clapton, Richard and Jeff Beck, the latter two who joined Guy on his latest album released this summer, The Blues Is Alive and Well.
Rather than expressing envy over the younger, white upstarts making millions off of his sound, Guy said that he owes them a debt. Talking to Guitar World magazine this month, he said that people come up to him and say, “‘I didn’t know who you were until I heard what Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck said.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, okay.’ You know, I was playing blues before those guys got a famous name for themselves. That’s a part of this business and I’m not angry about that, but we all should have a chance to be heard. We owe a lot of thanks to the British guys who helped all of us, coming in and telling everyone who Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson were.”
With those bluesmen, along with the likes of B.B. King, Albert King and John Lee Hooker, no longer with us, Guy is one of the last big-name authentic artifacts of a bygone era still on the stage and still shooting fire out of his guitar. That he chooses to share that mastery with Israeli audiences for the second time in a little more than two years is an early Hannukah gift.