Born in Louisiana, Buddy Guy spent his early days learning how to play guitar on homemade instruments. After exhausting all the modest Louisiana music scene had to offer him, he headed to Chicago where he jumped right into their electrified blues movement of the 1950s and began playing with the great Muddy Waters, who acted as a mentor of sorts.
Buddy proved he didn’t need too much guidance, though. He was born to be a bluesman. Over the course of his extensive career, he defined contemporary blues, and uniquely reimagined history’s most precious works of the genre.
He’s an eight-time Grammy award winner and is considered to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine. For a look into his greatest compositions, we get into the best Buddy Guy songs below.
- 10. (Baby) You Got What It Takes (feat. Joss Stone)
- 9. Ain’t No Sunshine
- 8. Gunsmoke Blues (feat. Jason Isbell)
- 7. Six Strings Down
- 6. Flesh & Bone (Dedicated to B.B. King) (with Van Morrison)
- 5. Follow The Money (feat. James Taylor)
- 4. Stone Crazy
- 3. Mustang Sally (feat. Jeff Beck)
- 2. Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues
- 1. Feels Like Rain (feat. Bonnie Raitt)
10. (Baby) You Got What It Takes (feat. Joss Stone)
Buddy Guy has been making killer Chicago blues music since the ’60s, and in the 2000s he showed no signs of slowing down when he released ‘(Baby) You Got What It Takes,’ a sexy cover of a 1958 tune perfect for his duet with singer Joss Stone. Guy’s raspy baritone voice pairs perfectly with Stone’s controlled, sultry performance as the two trade lines with hints of seduction and romance. A great first look into the blues great’s polished, punchy Chicago-inspired style of playing, this 2015 release is a strong contender for some of Buddy’s greatest work later in his career.
9. Ain’t No Sunshine
Singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman paired up with B.B. King for a stirring rendition of blues classic ‘The Thrill Is Gone,’ then she wasted no time heading into the studio with Buddy Guy to record a moody cover of Bill Withers signature hit, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine.’ With a horn section to round out the background of the temperamental track, Guy focuses on oscillating between plucky and smooth lead guitar work, giving the single an extra bit of grittiness. Chapman’s voice is another that pairs well with the blues guitarist’s gravelly pipes, and the two musicians create magic with their interpretation of this early ’70s songwriting treasure.
8. Gunsmoke Blues (feat. Jason Isbell)
Another strong collaboration finds Buddy pairing up with Americana-country artist Jason Isbell, who experienced a wave of newfound fame when his music was used in the A Star Is Born film remake. The two don’t shy away from heavy subject matter with ‘Gunsmoke Blues,’ a socio-political track focusing on the tragedies of violence and the circumstances surrounding some of America’s most-covered news stories. While much of Guy’s work dives heavily into blues reinterpretations and tried-and-true topics like heartbreak and romance, this single, which received a substantial amount of publicity from music critics and reviewers, expands the scope of material for contemporary, popular music.
7. Six Strings Down
Buddy Guy has been a part of some of the blues’ most important recordings, and ‘Six Strings Down’ is one of them. Headed up by Jimmie Vaughan, the guitarist was looking for a way to pay tribute to his late brother, blues giant Stevie Ray Vaughan. What transpired was a meeting of the minds, with legends like Guy, Bonnie Raitt, and B.B. King all coming together to contribute to the collaborative recording. The once-in-a-lifetime supergroup also performed ‘Six Strings Down’ live in 1996 for a tribute show dedicated to the Texas Flood visionary.
6. Flesh & Bone (Dedicated to B.B. King) (with Van Morrison)
Buddy has long been considered one of the Chicago blues movement’s greatest veterans, but Northern Irish legend Van Morrison plays a style of blues all his own, coined “Celtic blues.” With these two stylings put together, you get a deeply moving, gospel-tinged track that will leave you just how the song intends, still, silent, and acutely reflective. Buddy already had ‘Flesh and Bone’ recorded for his 2015 album Born to Play Guitar when he received a call that his good friend, fellow bluesmaster B.B. King, had passed away. With the music world looking to Guy as the clearcut choice to pay tribute, he turned to the song he had just recorded with his “Celtic blues” collaborator as both a token of comfort for himself, and for those around him grieving such a massive loss to the music community.
5. Follow The Money (feat. James Taylor)
James Taylor’s unmistakable acoustic guitar work immediately pops on his duet with Buddy, the groovy ‘Follow The Money.’ The pair lift some funk-inspired notes right out of the ’70s and place them consistently throughout the song, including smooth chorus harmonies, attitude-driven acoustic guitar licks, and a funky beat. The bluesman’s storybook legacy continues with this timeless collab featured on the album appropriately titled The Blues Don’t Lie. Guy teamed up with a few different notable artists for the project, but this tune features an effortless vibe between the two that critics and listeners alike continue to enjoy.
4. Stone Crazy
A mainstay in the Buddy Guy canon, ‘Stone Crazy’ is a tune that’s been around about as long as Guy’s career. First recorded in the early ’60s, it would become one of the lone true blues songs of the ’70s, unapologetically played and recorded in the style of traditional blues that blazed a trail in the early to mid. 20th century. Blues purists will delight in this Buddy original. Dynamite electric guitar work stands as a formidable pillar for the first few minutes before Buddy’s howling vocals come flying through the speakers. With piano dancing in the background alongside expressive harmonica, the tune would go on to become a blues standard for Guy, with him releasing different versions of the premier blues composition over decades. For a definitive take on the sound that started it all for Buddy, listen to ‘Stone Crazy.’
3. Mustang Sally (feat. Jeff Beck)
Our blues legend does justice to a ’60s soul staple, ‘Mustang Sally,’ originally released by Wilson Pickett. Long considered to be one of America’s most popular contemporary songs, the blues-rock tune tells the tale of a sugar baby who’s no longer paying her man any attention after he buys her a fancy Ford Mustang. This common theme has run throughout the rock genre since its inception, and Buddy applies the blues masterfully while reimagining the hit. In true Chicago blues fashion, he adds in a soaring horn section and female backing vocals to the chorus to give the song extra zip. The song first debuted in 1965, and Buddy included it on his ’91 album, Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues.
2. Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues
Expressive, explosive, melancholy, and moody are words that all describe one of Buddy’s most important works of his career. ‘Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues’ is the title track to a comeback album that reignited his authoritative blues flame once more after taking a considerable break from the biz. Out of all the bluesmen, Buddy Guy’s career has resembled a marathon, while so many musicians’ resemble a domineering but quickly fading sprint. The song applies classic blues techniques, from open-ended lyrics getting to the heart of the protagonist’s downtrodden state of mind by using everyday imagery, to minute-long clinics featuring Buddy effortlessly wailing away on his electric. He meshes old world elements with the new world’s polished, succinct way of playing. This combination exemplifies the comprehensive style of playing that Guy perfected, and others have long tried to emulate over the years.
1. Feels Like Rain (feat. Bonnie Raitt)
With an ethereal, dreamlike quality that evokes the playing style of rock god Jimi Hendrix, ‘Feels Like Rain’ experienced a good amount of chart success after its release, and went on to become Buddy Guy’s most commercially successful tune. Many times he closes out his show with a lengthy rendition of the popular track. The romantic number first debuted in ’93 and is the title track to the album it’s featured on. Making a shining appearance on the recording with her slide guitar in hand is none other than Bonnie Raitt, one of the blues’ bonafide queens. She also provides backing harmonies that lift the song during the chorus. The success of the tune earned Buddy a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.