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.