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The Buddy Guy Blues Band Reaches Their Bluesy Zenith

The Buddy Guy Blues Band played an absolutely superb concert outdoors this past Saturday, September 8, 2007, at Chuck Jackson’s 9th Annual Southside Shuffle Blues Fest in Port Credit, Ontario. There was what looked like a ‘sea of people’, taking in all the amazing blues coming from the huge outdoor Main Stage. There was such a big turnout to see Buddy Guy this night, that the initial sight of them really blew my mind. I wasn’t expecting this kind of a turnout, but Buddy definitely deserves it.

There were other outdoor stages at the Shuffle this year, and many clubs within walking distance, all offering some of the best blues around -- outside the clubs as well as indoors. When a band finished a set outside a club, or even outside a supermarket, they’d head down the street to play inside another club, and the band there would then go outdoors or into another club to play a set. The variety of blues and jazz performers at this annual Southside Shuffle, is always a main draw for the many loyal fans who return each year. It happens the first Thursday through Sunday every September, and is always an eagerly awaited event.

Some of the featured performers in this 9th Annual Shuffle, included blues harp player Jerome Godboo (ex-Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks), performing with guitarist Pat Rush (ex-Johnny Winter/James Cotton/Jeff Healey bands), bassist Alec Fraser and drummer Al Cross (ex-Jimmy Bowskill Band) at the Crooked Cue. This club is a massive 2nd story venue on Lakeshore Rd. near the Shuffle Main Stage where Buddy was performing this night.

This writer attended Godboo’s awesome show right after Buddy’s ended. After Godboo's show finished, he headed over to the 'All Star' Jam at the Port Credit Legion, and cooked it up on blues harp, piano and vocals with blues harp player/vocalist Mike Reid, guitarist Teddy Leonard and singer Johnny Max until 3 a.m.

Other notables at this year’s 9th Annual Southside Shuffle, included Johnny Pennino, ‘Sax King of New Orleans’, who played the opening night Beggar's Banquet fundraiser for Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto the previous Thursday evening at the Port Credit Legion, and has been a much-appreciated performer at the Shuffle every year since 2002. He also performs with Jackson, and recorded a live album with him at the Jazz Parlor in New Orleans, only months before Hurricane Katrina almost destroyed N’Awlins forever. Pennino played the Thursday night fundraiser with ‘50s sax great Jimmy Cavallo. Back in 1956 Cavallo played the theme song in the opening credits in one of the first rock ‘n’ roll movies ever -- Rock Rock Rock. It starred a plethora of ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll artists including Chuck Berry, and DJ Alan ‘Mr. Rock ‘n’ Roll’ Freed, who in the early ‘50s originally coined the term rock ‘n’ roll in Cleveland, Ohio. They hosted several ‘All Star’ Jam nights during this fest, at the Port Credit Legion. Downchild tenor sax man Pat Carey was part of this show as well. He along with Pennino and Cavallo performed some 'Three Tenors' material, that's also featured on their live CD of the same name, recorded at the 2006 Southside Shuffle.

Keyboard great Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne joined Pennino and Cavallo onstage part way through this Beggar's Banquet fundraiser show, and ripped it up with some high energy boogie woogie and rock ‘n’ roll, reminiscent of Albert Ammons and Fats Domino. Donnie ‘Mr. Downchild’ Walsh also appeared onstage at this Thursday night fundraiser, playing some very cool blues harp and singing some of his well-known originals. Walsh (along with late brother Hock), were actor/bluesman Dan Aykroyd’s inspiration for The Blues Brothers. Other exciting highlights during this 3-day blues, jazz and folk extravaganza were folk icons Valdy and True North recording artist Murray McLaughlin; as well as jazz-inspired Canadian rock band Lighthouse ("One Fine Morning", etc.).

This writer’s been to many Southside Shuffle fests over the years, and attended several Main Stage events at The Shuffle. Buddy Guy’s concert this year, was by far the biggest turnout for any one artist I’ve ever seen at any Shuffle! During Buddy’s concert, I met and talked briefly with comedian/talk show host Mike Bullard near the side of the stage. Bullard is a naturally funny guy, who I’ve seen many times on TV. He really seemed in an ‘up’ mood seeing Buddy’s band in concert. (Bullard is also the half brother of Southside Shuffle founder Chuck Jackson). In July 2003 Bullard was the co-host along with Dan Aykroyd at Toronto’s biggest rock concert ever, Sarstock which was attended by about 490,000 music fans, and featured headliners The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Rush, the Isely Brothers and Justin Timberlake, to name only a few.

Another familiar face at Buddy’s concert was Toronto Blues Society board member, Mike Smith, who shared some interesting and sometimes humorous stories with this writer, of the times he met and talked to Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones and other icons in music over the years. Mike’s stories are always interesting to hear.

By coincidence, Buddy also mentions Clapton, The Stones, Hendrix and others, and the inspiration he gave them in their careers. Buddy has a live DVD out now, that shows Jimi Hendrix in one scene, in the audience watching Buddy’s concert no doubt taking it all in and learning a few tricks and licks from Guy back then in the mid-‘60s when Hendrix’s career was just taking off.

Buddy Guy’s touring band are all masters of the ‘art of the blues’ in their own right, and all deserve special mention for the way they go all out in backing Buddy at all his concerts. There’s Ric ‘Jaz Guitar’ Hall on 2nd lead and rhythm guitar; Orlando Wright doin’ it ‘just right’ on electric bass; Tim Austin, a powerhouse of a drummer; and last but not least Marty Sammon’s extremely enjoyable and sometimes deeply introspective organ and electric piano playing. They all do regular stints in their own bands, and have regular gigs at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago. Hall also plays guitar with 1950s Chicago doo-wop legends (and Chess recording artists) The Dells, out of Harvey, Illinois:

Buddy Guy's outdoor show at the Shuffle, was a definite ‘good time’ blues concert -- one that was lots of fun to be at, thanks to the great weather as well as Buddy and his whole band making sure the crowd enjoyed themselves. Singer Virgil Scott was the enthusiastic MC for this great blues concert.

The classic "Goin’ Down" started off this quintessential evening of ‘da blooz’ and was high-energy all the way! The soulful "Nine Below Zero" was up next, and was invigorating to listen to. Buddy’s vocals on "Nine " were absolutely soul-wrenching! Willie Dixon’s always welcome "Hootchie Cootchie Man" was awesome ... a blues ‘meditation’ of a sort, which featured dual soloing with Buddy and Ric playing some incredible leads off one another. Wright’s bass lines came down like a blues ‘mantra’ on this Dixon classic blues, and were given meaningful support from Austin’s steady, emphatic drumming.

Buddy played several of his well-known blues tunes this night, including "Mustang Sally" -- a song more noted for a parody on itself, than anything else these days. However, Buddy who made "Sally" a big hit in the ‘60s, does the best ‘blues parody’ on a parody there is, by stopping part way through this song - and while smirking at the audience tells them: "I forgot the words". This ‘confession’ of a sort only brings the house down in a good-natured laugh. They say laughter is the best medicine, and it can’t get any better than sharing a good laugh and listening to the blues outdoors on a beautiful southern Ontario night like this.

Buddy’s jokes are almost as good as his melodic, bluesy guitar leads. His great sense of humor and comedic timing, never fails to get him a huge laugh from the audience with his stories and anecdotes.

At one point Buddy held his cream-colored Fender Strat behind his neck, and played some amazing leads. Another time he played some notes with his teeth, which got the crowd’s roaring approval.

A comical interlude happened when Buddy scratched his eyebrow with one hand, and played some blues leads with the other. This came across as something of a blues ‘mime’. Buddy ‘s timing in this skit, made it seem like he was producing the sounds by touching his eyebrows, which brought a chuckle from the audience.

Blues fans came to this event from far and wide. I had the opportunity to talk to a couple from Europe who loved every minute of Buddy Guy’s great show. Others I spoke to, also raved about tonight’s concert!

Buddy’s a great showman onstage. One specific part of his show that illustrates this happened when he strolled out into the audience, on a red ‘ground level’ runway. This runway led Buddy into a huge crowd of blues fans, where he continued soloing intricate blues leads from "Drowning On Dry Land" on his Strat, that were stellar in execution. Buddy’s guitar tech Gilbert Garza helped Buddy get out to his audience with ease, and shined a light on him so his fans could see him better then got Buddy back to the stage safe and sound, where he continued his great show. Buddy takes this walk into the audience at all his concerts, which really says it all about how far he’ll go to make sure his fans have a good time at his live shows. This truly is one of the most exciting parts of any Buddy Guy concert, and one this writer always looks forward to! There's a clip at 'You Tube' of Buddy doing "Drowning ..." at a recent Long Beach, California outdoor show:

Buddy always makes sure he features the various members of his band, in solos of their own, just so everyone knows what a great band he has. Hall wowed the crowd with some mouthwatering blues leads this night, that are also one of the major highlights of any Buddy Guy concert. Sammon’s solo mini-piano concerto added a touch of class to this ‘blues bash’. During this solo, Buddy sauntered over to the keyboards, much like Dean Martin did in days gone by on his late ‘60s TV variety show. Wright came up with some high-energy bass solos that were a real pleasure to listen to. Austin’s drum solo towards the end of this concert came across like a blockbuster of percussive genius that never let up. It was amazing to hear live!

Buddy occasionally played some scorching leads, which sizzled in the summer heat just right! He didn’t get much into the Hendrix material like he did in previous shows. Considering this was a huge outdoor stage on a beautiful summer night, it would have been the perfect setting to hear more Hendrix, from Buddy - the guitarist who had such a strong influence on Jimi’s evolution as a guitarist!

Buddy had some very nice things to say about Toronto and Ontario blues audiences. He always mentions the Mariposa Folk Festival, held annually since 1961 near Orillia, Ontario. This is the premier folk festival in Canada, and it was here where Buddy got such a great crowd reaction in ‘67, that it helped him decide back them to keep playing the blues, and not give up and take a 9 to 5 job instead. This same Mariposa Folk Fest gave rise to the talent of folk icons Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot early in their careers, much like the Newport Jazz Festival did for Muddy Waters and Bob Dylan in the ‘60s. Lightfoot has played Mariposa almost every year since 1962.

This is the first time this writer has seen Buddy Guy in concert outdoors, and the experience was absolutely incredible! The audience was impressively large, attentive and clued into each and every song. The weather was comfortably warm, and there was a refreshing summer breeze, which helped it be even better. This great weather and upbeat crowd who turned out this night, added to the atmosphere and enjoyment of watching the Buddy Guy Blues Band do what they do best - playin' 'n' singin' the blues - in the great outdoors, on this memorable summer evening of blues of the very best kind!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Buddy Guy Band
  • Concert Date: September 8, 2007
  • Subtitle: At The 9th Annual Southside Shuffle Blues Fest
  • Venue: Southside Shuffle Blues Fest, Main Stage
  • City State Country: Port Credit, Ontario, Canada
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