Blues legend Buddy Guy's new album, "Rhythm & Blues," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Blues Albums chart this month -- his fourth title to achieve that mark.
And not bad for an album that Guy wasn't sure he'd get to release.
"The record company was coming to see us in the studio in New York, and I thought I'd be getting my pink slip," recalls the Chicago-based Guy, 77, who began his career with Chess Records backing the likes of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and went on to become an influence on 60s British players such as Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.
"It's part of the business; they come in and cut people loose if you're not producing, and blues doesn't sell like other (genres). There are some people bigger than me who are not with a label right now. But they said, 'No, we want you to go ahead and do another album,' and I was like, 'What?!' It's unbelievable."
Actually it's entirely believable given Guy's track record. The 2005 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has won six Grammy Awards during the past 22 years, including Best Contemporary Blues Album for 2010's "Living Proof." "Rhythm & Blues," meanwhile, is his most ambitious set yet, a two CDs and 21 songs separated into a Rhythm disc and a Blues Disc -- though Guy says that "I really don't hear much difference between the two."
And he was as surprised as anybody else that he produced so much material this time out.
"I went into the studio December the 4th," Guy says, "and when you go into the studio nowadays, the record company wants you to get something pretty good within 11, 12, 13 songs. We were just recording, and every time we got something we were kind of pleased with, we just kept on going.
"I finally said, 'How many songs do we need for this album?' and (producer Tom Hambridge) said, 'We've got 19, but what do you think about this one,' and we started recording again. All of a sudden we had 23, 24 songs and everybody was smiling, so we just said, 'We should put out a double album. It's all so good, I don't know what to put on or take off.' "
Guy gets a little help from famous friends on "Rhythm & Blues," including members of Aerosmith, Keith Urban, Beth Hart and Gary Clark, Jr., while Kid Rock was the appropriate choice for Guy's take on the late Junior Wells' "Messin' With the Kid."
"Kid and I are pretty close, man," Guy says. "I knew that record, and I kept thinkin' 'Why hasn't he thought of that yet?' So I beat him to it. He was in Washington when I received the Kennedy (Center Honors) award, and I said, 'Man, I'm gonna beat you to it' and he fell out laughing.
"We had a drink and I said, 'I want you to come in and do that (song) with me.' We had a couple of drinks on it, and he really killed it. And I'd do the same for him; if he called me tomorrow to do something, I wouldn't say no."
Buddy Guy and George Thorogood & the Destoryers perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15, at Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights. Tickets are $29-$49 pavilion, $10 lawn. Call 568-268-9700 or visit www.freedomhill.net.
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