Buddy Guy and Kingfish at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago Illinois, January 18, 2019. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Keeping the Blues Alive and Well

The Blues are a musical style originated by African Americans living in the Deep South during the post-Civil War era. The Blues began as a melding of their secular and spiritual musical traditions and has continued to evolve and influence many other genres of music. Sometimes mistaken for music that puts people in a sad mood, the Blues more often explores themes of overcoming difficulties and making the best out of the hardships in life.

The Mississippi Delta is regarded as the birthplace of the Blues. African Americans left the South and migrated North with hopes of prosperity, and they brought the Blues along with them to cities like Memphis, St. Louis, and Kansas City. However, when you think of the Blues and a city, Chicago and the Blues are synonymous. As Blues musicians moved from the South to Chicago in the 1940s and 50s, they began playing an electrified urban style of Blues. The Chicago Blues clubs and the Maxwell Street Market served as breeding grounds for new musicians and new styles. Musicians started bands that created musical lineages. Big Bill Broonzy was one of the first big names in Chicago Blues, and Muddy Waters was in Broonzy’s band before forming his own band. Buddy Guy and Junior Wells were in Muddy’s band before going out on their own. Less apparent may be the Blues’ influence on other musical genres – there would be no Rock and Roll without the Blues. Rock and Roll’s roots are the Blues, and one of its first big stars, Chuck Berry, was a Muddy Waters disciple. The Rolling Stones not only took their name from a Muddy Waters song, but his influence on their music is well documented.

Buddy Guy will go down in history as one of the best to ever play the Blues. Buddy and his infamous polka dot guitar have been touring the world since he released his first song 61 years ago in 1960, and he is the current standard-bearer of the Blues. At 85 years young, Buddy Guy is keeping his promise to Muddy Waters as he keeps on playing the Blues. Muddy passed the torch to Buddy, but who does Buddy pass the torch to? 

On January 10th, 2020, Buddy Guy took the stage at Legends, his downtown Chicago Blues Club, with 20-year-old Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. This event was monumental and bridged an age gap of 63 years as the two performed together on a stage that has hosted many legendary artists. Kingfish’s guitar broke during the performance, so Buddy handed his polka-dot guitar to Kingfish so he could finish the song. Was this the torch being passed?

Kingfish is now 22 years old and is taking the Blues world by storm. His self-titled album, Kingfish, won Blues album of the year, and he is recognized as a critical player in the future of the Blues. Kingfish has the talent and sound of the all-time greats and is primed to carry on the tradition. To paraphrase Kingfish’s grandmother, it definitely feels like Kingfish has been here before and will be with us forever through his music.

Matt Peters
Staff Writer

Photo: Getty Images

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