Thursday, April 24, 2008

Roy Buchanan-a Sweet surprise 1987

Going in, I really didn't know who he was. My musical friend and co-conspirator in concerts then, Kelley Bass, knew more than I did. We dropped by the club mid-afternoon where Roy Buchanan was going to play that night. He was so soft-spoken, gentle and nice. I asked if he'd mind posing for a portrait and he was more than willing. He was patient and I tried to quickly set something up, light it with a couple old Vivitar 283 flash units. He smiled so openly and friendly.
That night I went back to shoot the show. The club, the SOB (shrimp-oyster-bar) was about 40 tables pushing up to the lip of the small stage. HE BLEW MY MIND! He out Jimi'd Hendrix, out Stevie'd MR Vaughan. I guess that was because I realized that he'd been doing it long before they picked up their instruments. He played lead on Dale Hawkin's (i'll add him in a later post) hit "My Babe" in 1957. Later he joined a Canadian singer Ronnie Hawkins eventually being replaced by Robbie Robertson in the group that went on to become The Band.

His guitar work stretched what people thought possible. Mostly playing a 1953 Telecaster, utilizing a technique I don't completely understand called Pinch Harmonics, a trebly sound emerged similar to a Fender Amp turned to 11. He counted John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Merle Haggard as fans and supposedly was offered a position with the Stones. PBS did a documentary on him titled The Best Unknown Guitarist In The World. I can't argue. I shot him touring behind his 12th album Hot Wires.

Even though he headlined Carnegie Hall a number of times, widespread fame eluded him. Sadly, he was arrested about a year after this show for public intoxication where he was found hung some hours later in his cell.


Kelley said...

Art, thanks for the memories. I just played Roy Buchanan's "Livestock" CD at a Mulberry River float trip 14 of us did this weekend. You know many of them! Sadly, my only national news story picked up on the wire was news of Roy's suicide. I had a phone interview scheduled with him that morning and got the news when I called. Wrote up a brief about his suicide and the AP picked it up. Sad day. World-class guitarist.

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