George “Buddy” Guy takes us back to the cotton fields of Louisiana during the 1940s, to tell us about the struggles and sacrifices he made as a boy learning to play the blues. His new autobiography, When I Left Home, co-written with David Ritz, is rich in detail. He writes about the first time he saw and met his hero, Guitar Slim, in Baton Rouge, an event that changed his life. He also details his initial struggles with the tough Chicago blues scene in the late ’50s and the kindness of Muddy Waters, who fed Guy when he was literally starving.
Guy was driving a tow truck in Chicago, and playing music part-time, when a booking to play a show in Toronto changed his life. That gig was the 1967 Mariposa Folk Festival, and it put Guy in front of his biggest audience ever. During that wild performance, Guy used his shoe as a guitar pick, played the strings with a white handkerchief and jumped off the stage to be carried around by the audience “like I’d been elected president of the United States.” He realized he had been discovered by a new white, hippie audience. When he got back home, Guy gave his notice at the service station.
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