For the last 20 years, Buddy Guy has done a series of shows during the month of January at his home club in Chicago. The shows are all great, but the best part of the night for me is sitting in his office with him for an hour or so before each show and listening to his stories. Tow years ago, I had the occasion to introduce him to the great writer David Ritz, who, in the course of a five minute conversation and a 90 minute show concluded that it was time for Buddy to get his stories down on paper. Two years later (next month) the opportunity arises for everyone to hear those stories that I have listened to for all those years, with the publication of Buddy’s autobiography, as told to David Ritz. Titled “When I Left Home,” it is an entertaining and deep look at the life of a man who grew up on a farm in Louisiana, taught himself how to play a guitar, overcame poverty and racism and ended up playing at the White House, entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Music Hall of fame, recording about 50 albums, and becoming known as one for the greatest guitar players walking the earth in the modern world of music. I am very proud to be a small part of the evolution of this project (I got to shoot the cover) and hope that many people get to read about the man behind those great songs.
During that same time period, I got to watch a Chicago man conquer many demons, and come out the other side with an amazing CD that has been released this week. His name is Lurrie Bell, the man behind the new CD “The Devil Ain’t Got No Music.” Lurrie was born into a musical family- his father was the great Muddy Waters Harmonica player Carey Bell. Lurrie started playing guitar at the age of six, and played with many of Chicago’s blues greats in his teens and twenties. He had a lot of problems as he grew up. I once saw him homeless and begging for spare change at the Chicago Blues Fest. Then with help from many Chicago people, he got control of his demons, and a few years later, he was performing on the main stage at the same blues fest and regularly recording, culminating in his latest release, which appeared in my mail box this weekend. I am very proud of the cover, with beautiful design by Al Brandtner. We rented a giant painted backdrop, which his producer picked up on the way. Of course, they gave him the wrong one, and he had to exchange it. While he was gone, Lurrie and I had a very deep conversation about suspenders- why would anyone want to wear them. We shot some great pictures, and the results appeared this weekend. My hope is that a lot of people will buy it, and help Lurrie continue on a great journey.