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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Seeing the great Buddy Guy perform in St. Charles

Steve, Liz, Mary Jo and Bud
By Ted Slowik

I never got the chance to see Jimi Hendrix perform. But I've seen Buddy Guy, and that's the next best thing.

Buddy, who also was a huge influence to Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan, performed Friday night at the historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. I hadn't seen a show at the Arcada before, and I gotta say it was a wonderful experience! It has that old vaudeville/movie house charm and grandeur of theaters like the Rialto in Joliet and Paramount in Aurora, but it's smaller, cozier and more fun.

Mike and Jon
Buddy played really loose last night. I went with brother Mike, his son Jon, sister Liz and her husband Steve, and brother Bud and his wife Mary Jo. A bunch of Slowiks, usually Frank and sometimes Sue and even Jeanne, have gone to see Buddy every January for years at his club Legends in the south Loop. The last time I saw our brother Jim was at Legends, in 2009.

He's simply the best living blues guitarist. I mean no disrespect to B.B. King, who was a mentor to Buddy, along with Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. At age 78, Buddy still rocks like no other. His band, which includes the great Marty Sammon on keyboards, features some of the best players in the world.

Buddy in the Arcada balcony
Buddy's an entertainer. In his youth he used to have a really long guitar cord, and he was known to jump off balconies back onto the stage. He doesn't jump off balconies anymore, but with his wireless guitar he does make his way through the crowd. He likes being close with his audience. You can go down to his club and many times Buddy will be sitting at the bar, and you can strike up a conversation with him.

One of the best hours of my professional life was when I got to interview Buddy, in 2008, when I still worked for the company that publishes the Chicago Sun-Times. We chatted, and he was real friendly, though he has a way of steering the conversation to the stories he feels like telling, regardless of the questions you ask.

At the end of the interview, Buddy reached into a mini-fridge and pulled out a Mason jar of clear liquid. He said it was real Tennessee moonshine--the good stuff. He poured us each a shot and we drank it. That was a good day.

Ivy Ford with J.B. Ritchie
I said hi to the great blues guitarist Kate Moss in the Arcada lobby at the show. Her husband Nick Moss is a fantastic songwriter, blues guitar player, performer, singer and recording artist. Next door to the Arcada, J.B. Ritchie was playing with Mark Schiele on bass. (Mark let me play his bass during a blues jam at the legendary Rainbow in L.A. in 2010). I met a fantastic singer/guitarist named Ivy Ford, who was sitting in with J.B. Ritchie, who was recently inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame along with Joliet's T-Bird Huck and the best bassist I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, Sam Cockrell.

So, it was a really fun time on a cold November night in St. Charles. The Arcada is a great venue that books a lot of big-name rock and blues acts that are still making good music. Buddy played for two hours and delivered a very satisfying show.
Merch counter man at the Arcada