Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy chosen for Kennedy Center Honors

Local musicians pay respect to Guy through song

November 27, 2012

By Rebecca Kruth

Download Story
(AP/Jeff Daly)
Buddy Guy performs at the Seminole Casino in Coconut Creek, Florida.

Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy will receive Kennedy Center Honors this Sunday in Washington, D.C.

The Chicago blues community came together Tuesday to give him a musical send-off. Blues artist Eddy Clearwater, the Blues Kids of America and several other musicians took the stage at Jay Pritzker Pavilion to congratulate Guy.

Michelle Boone, commissioner of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, said Chicago wanted to send Guy off in style.

“Everybody was so willing to participate and wanted to show their love and be a part of something really special for a very special man,” Boone said.

Buddy Guy’s been playing the blues in Chicago since leaving his home state of Louisiana in 1957. He came to the city hoping to see Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf play the blues in person.

After several months in the city, Guy found a steady gig playing guitar at the famed 708 Club in Bronzeville. He later became a session man at South Side record label Chess Records.

“I came to Chicago 55 years ago, and [when] I got here, it was pretty cold," remembered Guy. "I started listening to the music here, and I forgot how cold it got. 55 years later, I’m still here, and I’ll be here."

Guy owns Buddy Guy’s Legends club in the South Loop, where he can be found performing when he’s in Chicago.

He was chosen as a Kennedy Center honoree for his musical contributions. Numerous guitarists including Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn cite him as a major influence.

On the Kennedy Center website, chairman David M. Rubenstein called Guy a "titan of the blues." 

"[He] has been a tremendous influence on virtually everyone who has picked up an electric guitar in the last half century,” said Rubenstein.

During his career, Guy has received six Grammy awards and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2003, he received the National Medal of Arts for his contributions to blues music.

The bluesman will be joined in Washington this weekend by his fellow honorees including TV host David Letterman and rock band Led Zeppelin.