When I was a kid my dad surprised me one day when he told me that his two favorite guitarists, hands down, were T-Bone Walker and Roy Buchanan-- two mostly obscure blues guitarists whose lofty talents are usually held in awe by only record collectors and guitar geeks. You would have thought my dad was a blues musician or at least someone with a passion for obscure vinyl … well, no, he just digs music -- he always said he was too busy working, customizing hotrods in those halcyon days of the 1960’s to be anything but a just a fan, but he does play a mean "Malaguena" from the Suite Andalucia by Ernesto Lecuona on classical piano.
Anyway, T-Bone Walker’s most famous number was "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad)." His other classic recordings include "T-Bone Shuffle" and the brilliantly understated parable, "Let Your Hair Down, Baby, Let's Have a Natural Ball." Walker lived to be a reasonably old man, especially by blues standards, passing away in 1975 at the age of 65. Unfortunately, Roy Buchanan’s life didn’t get that distance.
20 years go today, Roy Buchanan was found hanging in his cell in the Fairfax County Jail in Fairfax, Virginia, by his own shirt, shortly after being arrested and soon after being placed in a holding tank. Buchanan had been picked up by the police earlier in the evening for public intoxication. Though he had a long history of drunken, restless and destructive behavior, many of his fans, friends and family have always doubted the suicide verdict of his death. He was 48.
Countless aficionados in the guitar world have long considered Roy Buchanan one of the finest and most overlooked guitarists of the blues-rock genre. According to legend, Buchanan's soulful and fiery skills led him to being invited to join the Rolling Stones in the late 1960’s. In 1971 Roy Buchanan found his greatest public exposure in an hour long Public Television documentary appropriately titled The Best Unknown Guitarist in the World. For a moment he was famous and in demand, signing a multi-record deal with Polydor. His 1972 self-titled debut contains one of Buchanan's best-known tracks, "The Messiah Will Come Again." Here’s some live footage of that song from a German television show in the early 80’s.