Friday, December 19, 2008


A good friend from Dallas was at the ranch last week. We were comparing notes on live shows we saw in the good old days. He mentioned seeing Roy Buchanan in Washington DC back in the '70's.

This conversation made me realize that I had completely lost track of the music of one of the best and most underrated guitarist to ever play the blues. Although Roy Buchanan, his 1972 debut album on Polydor, was in the regular rotation on the turntable  at Floyd's Hotel in the early '70's, I never owned it since vinyl. After downloading it from iTunes this week, I have been blown away by how good it sounds today.

In the 70's, Roy had all the good  buzz. A "musician's musician", his playing was admired by John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Merle Haggard and Jeff Beck to name a few. It is part of his legend that he was invited to join the Rolling Stones, but turned them down. His great playing built up a loyal following, but not widespread fame or recognition.

Buchanan was born in California in 1939. He initially played steel guitar, but switched to guitar in the 1950's. In 1960, he joined Ronnie Hawkins as his lead guitar. He was later replaced in the band by that mathematical guitar genius, Robbie Robertson, who may have learned a lot from Roy.

Buchanan is known for the distinctive tone he was able to coax out of his trademark 1953 Telecaster. His talent is on full display on this album. It opens with his gorgeous take on Sweet Dreams. His guitar soars like no other on this beautiful instrumental version of a country classic. It is followed by Haggard's I Am a Lonesome Fugitive, which was my first taste of Merle's music. When Buchanan gets to the break on this song, it is some of the best guitar you will ever hear. The album also includes his masterpiece The Messiah Will Come Again. His guitar soars again on this instrumental work out. Every song on this album is great.

Like many musician of that era, his appetite for alcohol and drugs began taking it's toll. In August of 1988, Buchanan was arrested for public intoxication. Later that night he was found hanging in his cell at the Fairfax County jail. His death was ruled a suicide. A brilliant career cut short.

If you like guitar, this album is a must for your playlist. Available on iTunes and from Amazon.


  1. Roy Buchanan's use of "pinched harmonics" contributed to his unique signature tone and is evident in Robbie Robertson's guitar style. It is incredible to think he had such a tone in the late '50's and early '60 and was clearly way ahead of his time. I saw Roy many times at a variety of venues from 1975 to months before his untimely death. He never failed to amaze and stupefy audiences with his other worldly original technique. The last time I saw him was in a biker bar in New London CT with two skin heads as his backup band. Roy, swaddled in plaid and corduroy, looked liked he was coming from a PTA meeting and decided to drop by and rage with a surf punk band. He stood stoically stone still all evening, staring manically while playing with a fiery intensity that ran the gauntlet from virtuosity to junk on his '53 Telecaster. I remember shaking my head in disbelief, as his brilliance washed over us in the room.

    I would suggest for your listening pleasure the bootleg "Live in Japan," recorded in 1977.

  2. Mr Moore, Thanks for your comments. I thought there was some conection of style between Roy and Robbie. You articulated it well.