Two giants in the Blues world, who are sadly no longer with us, would have had birthdays recently. B.B. King would have been 90 years old and Roy Buchanan, the world’s greatest unknown guitar player would have been 76 this year. B.B. lived a long and fruitful life and gave us too many musical highlights to even think about, but Roy was a troubled man whose life came a sudden end in a Virginia jail in 1988, where he allegedly took his own life. B.B. and Roy had very different life stories but they were both called to the Blues and both left behind legions of fans who still wonder how they played those notes.
In honor of B.B. King and his 90th birthday we put together 90 minutes of his music. We could easily have made Live At The Regal half the play list, but part of our goal was to find some gems off the beaten path – so we start off with the first two tracks from that iconic album instead. From there we go to a hot live version of “Hummingbird” from a live gig at the famous Fillmore East. B.B. loved to play music with his friends so we included some of our favorite collaborations too. “Riding With The King” with Eric Clapton, “Call It Stormy Monday” with Albert Collins (because Albert makes everything just that much better), “All Over Again” with Mark Knopfler, and the penultimate tune in the playlist, “Playin’ With My Friends” featuring Robert Cray. We round out the playlist with a stellar version of “The Thrill Is Gone” from a live BBC set. B.B. may be gone, but fortunately the thrill indeed lives on.
Roy Buchanan. I can’t say enough about Roy Buchanan. I never cared about Telecasters until I heard Roy. How did he keep those things in tune? How did he get that tone? Where did he find that note? Roy was the subject of a PBS documentary called Introducing Roy Buchanan, sometimes referred to as “The Greatest Unknown Guitarist In The World.” As a result of the film he began a journeyman recording career, making records for well known labels like Polydor, Atlantic, and Alligator, as well as making a few albums on minor labels in between. He was restless and often bristled at being cast as a guitar star and having labels interfere in the music he wanted to make. In interviews, Roy proclaimed his Alligator albums as his favorites and most representative of the music he wanted to play. To my ears, Roy really shined in live performance. His tone was outrageous and his playing exquisite. He knew incredible licks from every genre and often juxtaposed styles creating exciting musical moments that still leave us stunned today. Unfortunately Roy couldn’t sing worth a damn and never hooked up with a singer who could match the quality of his guitar playing, relegating him to second or third tier in a music industry driven by vocal pop hits and even in Blues where vocalists traditionally had a leg up on instrumentalists.
Regardless of interference, commercial failure, and personal demons, Roy Buchanan left behind a stunning musical legacy that sends guitarists all over the world back to the woodshed when they hear him. For our playlist we pulled tracks from his whole recorded output. The opener is a track from the hodge podge leftovers record called Malaguena. It’s introduced by a commercial for one of Roy’s local gigs and kicks into a track aptly titled “Rambunctious”. From there it is a carousing ride along the back roads of Roy’s mind and musical creations. From pure Blues, to fusion, to roaring hard rock, we covered it all, including several live excursions from posthumous releases. Roy is an endless source of inspiration. If you’ve never heard Roy, or only some bits and pieces, we hope you’ll enjoy this playlist and begin your own journey through Roy’s catalog. He was truly a Master of the telecaster.
Thanks for checking out our playlists. They are a great way to hear new music and revisit some classics, but please keep in mind that artists get very little money from streaming media. If you hear something you like, please buy it and support the artists.