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My Nerves Are In A Cognac Bottle: Legendary Buddy Guy Interviewed Before He Takes One Final Bow

Last Updated: February 12, 2023, 09:00 IST

Legendary blues musician Buddy Guy has inspired artistes like Jimmy Hendrix, Keith Richards and John Mayer among others.

As age catches up with him, Buddy Guy is not ready to let go of his fans. A completely new generation discovers his music every few decades. His final performance in India announces the end of an era.

My nerves are in a cognac bottle,” quips the last of the true blue blues legend Buddy Guy. It is hard to believe that the 87-year-old travels extensively around the world and enthralls the crowd like he did in the 60s. His contemporaries have more or less bowed out, are retired or no longer walking among us, mere mortals. It is perhaps a fitting tribute to the man as he performs to a sold out crowd in Mumbai at the Mahindra Blues Festival today, one last time. Flashing the familiar charming smile, Buddy Guy invokes nostalgia as he tells us about the idyllic world of blues that now lives only in memories. Excerpts:

Welcome to Mumbai. How do you see the city and its association with blues music?

It is kind of scary. They don’t play blues much around the world. Before BB King passed away there were a lot of other blues players in the world. When people ask me why there isn’t much blues around, I don’t have an answer to that. Even I am getting older now but blues will always be there. It will always be there.

Muddy Waters took you under his wing. Now you’re carrying forward his favour by looking after younger blues musicians. Life has come a full circle for you.

Yes that is true. It feels like it was just yesterday when that happened. Now, I am the senior citizen. I remember how I was when I was that age. When they were around me, everything stopped. When Muddy Waters was speaking I was there tapping my feet because it sounded like he was singing. Now, I don’t have that. All those guys had that natural voice that gave you a smile. I think that was what brought me into music because when I heard them sing, I was like ‘Man, if I could do that I could make myself happy first and not somebody else’. And I enjoy making others smile too, so here I am.

Do you get to meet your contemporaries – Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones and others? Do you sit and talk about the good old days?

Well they talk to me about it. When I first met them they were not famous. Then they became more famous than me. If it weren’t for me they wouldn’t have played the Stratocaster. They didn’t think that the Stratocaster played blues until they saw me perform in 1965.

Do you still get the nerves before taking the stage?

When I go to the stage I don’t know what I am going to do. I just look at the people. They are staring at me. If I play a note and I don’t see you move then I realize that I got to play something else. That is how it always has been. All I want to see is a smile on a face. I don’t like to see frowns. My nerves are in a cognac bottle.

How has your relationship with India been over the years?

Wherever I go, people are people. I don’t say ‘Oh! I’ve got to go to India, so I have to go the Indian way’. I am Buddy Guy. Wherever I take my music, I am brining you Buddy Guy. I know I can’t make everybody get me in one visit, so I come again.

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