A few would argue against the opinion that Buddy Guy (born on July 30, 1936, in Lettsworth, Louisiana) embodies the best example of supercharged, hard-blowing, electric Chicago blues. His favourite guitars and the amps he plays them through can be considered nowadays the staples of the bluesman’s toolbox. Despite the utter simplicity of these ingredients, they are apt to generate such a powerful sound, when used by a skilful guitarist. Any of Guy’s early songs are clear examples of his legendary stinging pick attack and extreme bends, while the 2001’s raw, stripped-down album, Sweet Tea, contains evidence that the artist has maintained that incendiary style five decades later. Although Guy has occasionally played a Guild Starfire semi-acoustics, he is far and away best known for his distinctive use of several Fender Stratocaster guitars throughout his career.
For many years, Guy handled vintage 1950s Strats with maple fingerboards. Recently, he has inspired two Fender signature models, among which the Buddy Guy Standard Polka Dot Stratocaster better expresses his desires in a modified Strat, together with his taste for fashion and performance. The Polka Dot Stratocaster is based on classic Strat lines, featured with an alder body and all-maple neck, vintage-style vibrato, five-way switch, and single-volume and dual-tone controls (for neck and middle pickup only). However, its pickups are refined by their ceramic magnets. In the second of Guy’s Fender signature models, the high-end Artist Series Buddy Guy Stratocaster, the alder body has been replaced by ash, the ceramic-magnet pickups changed for three Lace Sensor Golds, and a mid-boost has been added to the guitar’s electrics. These modifications aim to offer the classic Strat playability and versatility while allowing to hit the amp harder than many bluesmen might even dream to do.
Guy’s amps deserve some separate consideration together with the way in which he uses them. In his early career, Guy preferred a late 1950s Fender Tweed 5F6-A Bassman, a model that can claim to the tag “ultimate blues amp of all time”. Presumably, he used these 4x10-inch combos with all knobs lifted up toward max and kept down low the bass tone control. However, like most artists with his sort of longevity on the scenes, Guy has diversified his gear over time. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Guy often played a Victoria 45410 which is a hand-wired reproduction of a Bassman. Lately, he has switched over the Buddy Guy Signature Series Amp from Chicago Blues Box, modelled specifically on Guy’s own favourite ’59 Bassman. Between guitar and amp, Guy has often placed a Crybaby wah pedal, then replaced by the Jim Dunlop Crybaby Buddy Guy Signature Wah in black with white polka dots, needless to say.
As with most guitar stars, though, it’s not so much the ingredients as the way the artist plays with them that accounts for the hot, sharp tone.