Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues: The Late 80’s/Early 90’s Blues Revival
by Todd Beebe
The 1960’s were a unique time for American music. Folk, Country, Rock n Roll, Jazz and the grandfather of all of the styles- the Blues, all seemed to “fit” into an eclectic blend.
It was not unusual to see one man (or woman) and a guitar sitting on a stool singing traditional Folk or Country ballads on the same bill for a show that included a loud, psychedelic Rock band, and a Jazz or Blues legend as well.
Rock n Roll was still relatively young, but the mainstream audience was gradually starting to accept and realize the roots of popular music. Audiences now wanted to delve into and discover the foundations of what moved their souls!
As the 1970’s came, Disco and other strictly danceable forms of music seemed to force a lot of music to the side. The Blues survived, but saw a lot of its legendary performers playing in venues nowhere near what they should have been performing at this point in their careers. Things only seemed to sour more as the 80’s dawned.
In 1983, a Texas powerhouse named Stevie Ray Vaughan kicked the public’s door down with his debut album Texas Flood. His next few albums carried the torch for the Blues to reach the mainstream in the 1980’s, eclipsing with the final studio recording released during his life, 1989’s In Step. By the time In Step was on the shelves, the public at large had grown tired of synth-pop and ego driven music, which had dominated the charts up until then. Times had changed, and it seemed that the masses were ready to make room for what they were now realizing started it all to begin with: the Blues.
Vaughan tragically lost his life on August 27, 1990. During his lifetime he was constantly asked who his influences were. One name always appeared on that list: Buddy Guy. The 1990’s came and saw wide media coverage of classic guitarists. Like the 1960’s, the 90’s saw players like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page being asked who they learned from. Again, one name on everyone’s list was Buddy Guy.
The 90’s saw Buddy Guy sign with Silvertone Records, and in 1991, his debut for Silvertone was released: Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues. One year earlier, Robert Johnson’s The Complete Recordings boxed set had been released. The set broke sales records for a Blues recording, as many people scurried to hear, most for the first time, who this mysterious Delta Blues player was. Johnson was also a man on everyone’s list. His release definitely spurred on an interest in the mainstream to discover what was behind the Blues and where it came from. In that vein as well, so did Buddy Guys’ Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues. Many people, only buying what was selling a lot at the time, had not heard a lot of Buddy’s music. Most of it was unavailable then. I can remember lending friends vinyl copies of the classic recordings so they could hear the man and all his power!
Damn Right, I’ve got the Blues should never be undervalued for it’s power and what it did for the Blues scene in the early 1990’s. I remember so many people telling me they had to go pick up a copy to hear the man Clapton hailed as “the greatest living guitarist”. Much in the way that SRV was able to reach the masses through songs like “Pride and Joy”, so was Buddy able to with his great take on “Mustang Sally” featuring Jeff Beck, (which still gets a decent amount of airplay) and the classic title track. That tune still gets a great workout in most of Buddy’s live shows. The tunes on Damn Right have a unique flair to them. [pullquote]You can hear the rawness in each track. Buddy wanted to reach out and show the world his Blues were still alive and well.[/pullquote] By the time you get to the closing tribute to Stevie Ray, “Rememberin’ Stevie”, you feel like you have listened to a debut album from someone just breaking into the business. That’s how much energy it has. Check out the expanded edition as well, which includes 2 bonus tracks, “Doin’ What I Like Best” and “Trouble Don’t Last.”
Historians can always look back and find a point in time where things changed or shifted for various styles of music. The Blues has many, but make no mistake- when Buddy Guy released his “comeback” album, Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues, it kicked down a lot of doors for the music we all love, and made a lot of people wake up and pay attention to something that was right under their noses. You’ll notice I put “comeback” in quotations in the previous sentence. In my opinion there never was a “comeback” for Buddy Guy or the Blues. Mr. Guy has been giving the Blues 110% as long as he’s been playing it. The Blues have been with us since Adam & Eve, and will be with us as long as humans exist. So it’s always a little funny to me to read about the Blues making a “comeback.” It has never gone away. In the early 1990’s it sure must have felt good to Buddy Guy to know that he had given the mainstream music world a swift kick, letting them know the Blues was alive and well. The music world became a better place because of it!