Why It Mattered: Buddy Guy’s Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues

Buddy Guy’s album Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues is a commercial comeback masterpiece that earned him the recognition he deserved after a decade-long hiatus from recording his own music.

Buddy Guy, one of the most enduring and prodigious performers in the blues canon, has announced that his upcoming tour of Australia will be his last. Despite performing at least 130 nights a year, including a regular residency at his famed Chicago blues club, Buddy Guy’s Legends, this farewell tour marks the end of an era for the legendary musician. By popular demand, Bluesfest Touring is presenting a final show for Guy at the State Theatre, a fitting send-off for a true icon of American music.

In addition to bidding farewell to his Australian fans, Buddy Guy’s upcoming tour is also a chance to reflect on his legendary career, which includes numerous albums and collaborations with some of the biggest names in music. Among his most iconic works is the album “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues”, a commercial and critical success that marked his comeback in the early 1990s.

With its stripped-down sound and guest appearances from guitar legends like Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, the album solidified Guy’s place in the pantheon of blues greats. As he prepares to take the stage for his final performances down under, it’s worth taking a look back at this seminal album and the impact it had on the genre.

Buddy Guy

George “Buddy” Guy, has been instrumental in shaping the Chicago blues scene and inspiring generations of musicians. Despite being frequently classified as a Chicago blues artist, Guy’s musical style is beyond compare. His repertoire encompasses the deepest, most traditional blues, as well as a dynamic and innovative blend of avant-garde rock, soul, and free jazz that changes from one performance to the next.

After a hiatus of nearly a decade from recording his own music, Buddy Guy released “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues” in 1991. Recorded at Battery Studios New York, and produced by John Porter,  who is known best for producing Roxy Music, B. B. King, Ryan Adams, and Missy Higgins.  Although Guy’s influence on the blues had been widely acknowledged by luminaries such as Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Guy had largely flown under the radar in the 1980s. But with the backing of Silvertone Records and producer John Porter, he made a triumphant return to the recording studio.

When it came to recording the iconic album Damn Right… by Buddy Guy, Porter assembled a top-notch group of musicians to accompany the blues legend. The producer handpicked an impressive lineup that included Guy’s bassist Greg Rzab, Little Feat’s Richie Hayward on drums, keyboardists Mick Weaver and Pete Wingfield, guitarists Neil Hubbard and Porter himself, backing vocalists Tessa Niles, Katie Kissoon, and Carol Kenyon, and saxophonist Malcolm ‘Molly’ Duncan. To add some extra flair to the album, Porter also recruited the legendary Memphis Horns and even convinced British guitar legends Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Mark Knopfler to play on a few tracks.

Despite the trend of loading albums with big-name guest stars that would come later, Porter’s decision to bring in these guitar greats was a shrewd one. “Buddy was going out for, like, 500 bucks a night or something, and was very low-profile. He was always one of my absolute heroes as a guitar player and as a singer, so I thought, ‘Well, let’s load this record up a bit with a couple of ‘names’ on it and maybe we can sell a few copies,‘” Porter recalls. And sell it did, becoming one of only a handful of blues albums to sell over a million copies, and securing Guy and Porter with a GRAMMY win.

The album’s stripped-down sound, featuring just a Fender Stratocaster and a couple of tweed Fender amps, was fitting for an electric blues artist with Guy’s classic Chicago roots. With an effortless fluidity, Guy sings with both a subdued menace and fearless creativity, navigating his way through the blues with masterful ease. He possesses an unparalleled ability to create and release tension, captivating his audience with each unexpected turn. Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues was a commercial and critical success, and its 2005 Expanded Edition added two bonus tracks.

Buddy Guy

Few artists have attempted to improve upon the classic blues records of the golden age of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, but Buddy Guy has done just that, continuing to innovate and inspire with each new release. Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues boasts a roster of heavyweights, including Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Mark Knopfler, as well as the talents of The Memphis Horns: Wayne Jackson, Andrew Love, and Jack Hale. With this album, Guy cemented his place in the pantheon of blues greats and reaffirmed his status as one of the best guitar players alive, as Clapton once put it.

Whether he’s experimenting with novel twists on classic blues riffs or pushing the boundaries of what the genre can accomplish, Guy’s every spontaneous impulse is utterly spellbinding. His music defies simple description and instead must be experienced firsthand to be truly appreciated.

Buddy Guy is set to headline the stage at Bluesfest 2023.