Buddy Guy has long talked about being the last man standing when it comes to the Blues.
And with friend and mentor B.B. King's death on May 14, the 79-year-old Guy -- a Louisiana native who came north to Chicago in 1957 and was Chess Records' in-house guitarist -- feels like he's waving the flag more than ever for the old guard.
"Y'know, every time I go in the studio now my mind is on all the great blues players that have passed on before B.B.," Guy says by phone from New York. "We used to talk about it -- Muddy (Waters), (Howlin') Wolf, (Little) Walter, (Little) Sonny, all those guys. They were my teachers, y'know? When I got to know them, they would always wind up saying, 'If I go before you, boy, keep playing those blues.'
"The last words Muddy Waters told me was, 'Man, just keep playing those blues;' I didn't know how ill he was, and two days later I got a call he was gone."
Guy, however, is quick to explain that his mission is not to replace his forebears but to maintain their legacy and hopefully introduce younger generations to their music.
"It's not easy for me because I don't think anybody can fill the shows of B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter...I could go on 'til tomorrow," Guy says. "Those guys were unnatural, man. You don't fill shoes like that; you just keep playing the music and talking about them.
"It's tough because radio doesn't play (blues) no more, y'know? They say the blues is too slow or something, but I don't know if I buy that. So what I do is we go in the studio and be like, 'Let's play some funky blues like those older guys, the ones that taught me,' and hopefully we can hit a note that will get people to pay attention."
Guy, not surprisingly, memorializes King on his latest album, "Born to Play Guitar." He'd had already recorded the track "Flesh & Bone" with guest Van Morrison when he got word of King's death in Las Vegas and immediately turned it into a tribute for King. But his thoughts also drifted to "Stay Around a Little Longer," a song from Guy's 2010 release "Living Proof" that was his last recording session with King.
"I had him help me sing on the album, thank the Lord," Guy recalls. "I looked in his face when he was talking to me, and he told me it won't be that long before he was pushing up daisies. I shed a few tears at that, but then I said, 'Well B, I don't think you can push up daisies anymore. They put you in a vault know,' and he just laughed, so that's a great memory to have."
Buddy Guy and the Danielle Nicole Band
Friday, Oct. 9. Doors open at 7 p.m.
The Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit.
Tickets are $29.50-$75. Call 313-961-5451 or visit thefillmoredetroit.com.
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