The 2012 Kennedy Center Honors, which include acknowledgement of bluesman Buddy Guy, will be broadcast 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 26 on CBS.
Buddy Guy didn’t have running water or electricity while growing up in rural Louisiana.
The 76-year-old first played a guitar around age 14. He used to try making guitar strings out of screen wire, but the flimsy strands would break when he pressed his fingers on them.
“But I had to figure it out for myself, man,” Guy said, in an Aol interview, about his desire to play blues. “The first thing I ever figured out was John Lee Hooker’s ‘Boogie Chillen.’ Wore the needle out on it. Took a straw and put in my teeth and put it down on the record. It would skip but I could still hear that boom boom John Lee Hooker was playing.”
Seven years later he hopped on a train to Chicago, with a few dollars in his pocket and his guitar.
“When we learned to play the guitar it was for the love of music,” he said. “A lot of young people can learn how to play now for the love money, because there was no such thing as getting paid well playing the guitar and harmonica when I picked up the guitar.”
The move started his 60-plus year career in music, carrying traditional blues, spiced along the way with Guy’s own growth and progression, to the present day. The journey took him to stages around the world with other famous musicians, like Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones, listening to him the same way he listened to Hooker as a teen.
Guy still performs at his Buddy Guy’s Legends in the South Loop. On his 2010 recording “Living Proof,” he proclaimed before a furious, tense and powerful guitar solo that he is “74 years young.”
The Kennedy Center Honor is considered the highest recognition for artistic effort in the country, according to the Washington Post. Guy will be honored along with Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, Led Zeppelin and Russian ballerina Natalia Makarova in this year’s ceremony.
“Even if a radio station don’t ever play it again, come see me,” he said. “I’ll play it for you.”