Buddy Guy: The Blues Chase the Blues Away makes its broadcast premiere on PBS days before Guy celebrates his 85th birthday.
Buddy Guy arrived in Chicago on September 25, 1957 and blues music would never be the same. He heard John Lee Hooker while growing up in Louisiana and it made for a life-changing opportunity. Without this, it’s quite possible that Guy would never have made the trip from Louisiana. Guy even shares his recollections about a dream he once had about going to Chicago.
The Chicago blues scene was quite different from that of the Mississippi Delta blues scene. It was in Chicago where he would make a name for himself, befriending such blues stars as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Otis Rush, etc.
A number of musicians appear in the film to discuss Guy be it present-day or archive footage. It’s not unfair to say that Guy inspired a number of present-day musicians as well as some classic rock stars. What he did on his guitar is primary reason why he is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (class of 2005). The Rolling Stones make an appearance via archive footage but don’t forget that they were more of a blue-rock band, quite different from The Beatles. Another honor came during 2012 when he received a Kennedy Center Honor. This was preceded by an appearance at the White House and yes, you get to see then-President Barack Obama singing a few bars of “Sweet Home Chicago.” To have been a fly on that wall!
Production took a turn once the pandemic hit. During the Tribeca screening Q&A, the filmmakers mentioned doing five interviews with the legend. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to go on tour with him because of the pandemic. In lieu of this, they piece the film together with the archival footage. It works even if it didn’t exactly go in the direction they wanted.
The documentary is rather short with a run time around 80 minutes. Whether this is because of the pandemic or to fit the PBS run time, I don’t know. Regardless, it’s an enjoyable ride getting the chance to listen to the blues legend. It’s a shame that this year’s Chicago Blues Fest got canceled but sooner than later, I hope we’ll see him performing live again. He usually appears at Buddy Guy’s Legends for several shows each January. There was no shortage of musical offerings during Tribeca 2021 even if some films were supposed to premiere last year. This documentary appeared during the festival as a part of the Juneteenth offerings. Buddy Guy is one of the last of the Chicago bluesmen and this documentary gives him another chance to shine.
DIRECTORS: Devin Amar, Charles Todd, Matt Mitchener
FEATURING: Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, Carlos Santana, Gary Clark Jr, Kingfish