Roy Buchanan

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Roy Buchanan (September 23, 1939 – August 14, 1988) was an American guitarist and

blues musician. A pioneer of the Telecaster sound,[1] Buchanan worked as both a

sideman and solo artist, with two gold albums early in his career,] and two later solo

albums that made it on to the Billboard chart. Despite never having achieved stardom,

he is still considered a highly influential guitar player. Guitar Player praised him as

having one of the "50 Greatest Tones of all Time."

 

 Early career

 

Leroy Buchanan was born in Ozark, Arkansas and was raised there and in Pixley,

California, a farming area near Bakersfield. His father was a sharecropper in Arkansas

and a farm laborer in California.[4] Buchanan told interviewers that his father was also

a Pentecostal preacher, a note repeated in Guitar Player magazine but refuted by his

older brother J.D. Buchanan told how his first musical memories were of racially mixed

revival meetings he attended with his mother Minnie. "Gospel," he recalled, "that's how

I first got into black music." He in fact drew upon many disparate influences while

learning to play his instrument (though he later claimed his aptitude derived from

being "half-wolf). He initially showed talent onsteel guitar before switching to guitar in

the early 50s, and started his professional career at age 15, in Johnny Otis's rhythm

and blues revue.

 

In 1958, Buchanan made his recording debut with Dale Hawkins, including playing the

solo on "My Babe" for Chicago's Chess Records. Two years later, during a tour

throughToronto, Buchanan left Dale Hawkins to play for his cousin Ronnie Hawkins and tutor Ronnie's guitar player, Robbie Robertson. Buchanan

plays bass on the Ronnie Hawkins single, "Who Do You Love?"[ Buchanan soon returned to the U.S. and Ronnie Hawkins' group later gained fame as

The Band.

 

In the early '60s, Buchanan performed numerous gigs as a sideman with various rock bands, and played guitar in a number of sessions with Freddy

Cannon, Merle Kilgore, and others. At the end of the 1960s, with a growing family, Buchanan left the music industry for a while to learn a trade,

and trained as a hairdresser (barber).[4] In the early '70s, Roy Buchanan performed extensively in the Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area

with the Danny Denver Band, which had a large following in the area. He was widely appreciated as a solo act in the DC area at this time.

 

Recording career and death

 

In 1961 he released 'Mule Train Stomp', his first single for Swan, featuring rich guitar tones years ahead of their time. Buchanan's 1962 recording

with drummer Bobby Gregg, nicknamed "Potato Peeler," first introduced the trademark Buchanan "pinch" harmonic. An effort to cash in on the

British Invasion caught Buchanan with the British Walkers. In the mid-'60s, Buchanan settled down in the Washington, D.C., area, playing for Danny

Denver's band for many years while acquiring a reputation as "...one of the very finest rock guitarists around. Jimi Hendrix would not take up the

challenge of a 'pick-off' with Roy." The facts behind that claim are that in March 1968 a photographer friend, John Gossage gave Buchanan tickets to

a concert by the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Washington Hilton. "Buchanan was dismayed to find his own trademark sounds, like the wah-wah

that he'd painstakingly produced with his hands and his Telecaster, created by electronic pedals. He could never attempt Hendrix's stage show, and

this realization refocused him on his own quintessentially American roots-style guitar picking.

 

Gossage recalls how Roy was very impressed by the Hendrix 1967 debut album Are You Experienced?, which was why he made sure to give Roy a

ticket to the early show at the Hilton. Gossage went backstage to take photos and tried to convince Jimi to go and see Roy at the Silver Dollar that

night after the show, but Jimi seemed more interested in hanging out with the young lady who was backstage with him. Gossage confirms Hendrix

never showed up at the Silver Dollar, but he did talk to Roy about seeing the Hilton show. That same night (as the Hilton show) Roy did several

Hendrix numbers and "from that point on, had nothing but good things to say about Hendrix". He later released recordings of the Hendrix

composition "If 6 Was 9" and the Hendrix hit "Hey Joe" (written by Billy Roberts).

 

Buchanan's life changed in 1971, when he gained national notice as the result of an hour-long PBS television documentary. Entitled Introducing Roy

Buchanan, and sometimes mistakenly called The Best Unknown Guitarist in the World, it earned a record deal with Polydor Records and praise from

John Lennon and Merle Haggard, besides an alleged invitation to join the Rolling Stones (which he turned down and which gave him the nickname

"the man who tumbled the stones down").[10] He recorded five albums for Polydor, one of which, Second Album, went gold and after that another

three for Atlantic Records, one of which, 1977's Loading Zone, also went gold.[2][12]Buchanan quit recording in 1981, vowing never to enter a

studio again unless he could record his own music his own way.[10] Four years later, Alligator Records coaxed Buchanan back into the studio. His

first album for Alligator, When a Guitar Plays the Blues, was released in the spring of 1985. It was the first time he had total artistic freedom in the

studio. His second Alligator LP, Dancing on the Edge (with vocals on three tracks by Delbert McClinton), was released in the fall of 1986. He

released the twelfth and last album of his career, Hot Wires, in 1987.

 

According to his agent and others, Buchanan was doing well, having gained control of his drinking habit and playing again, when he was arrested

for public intoxication after a domestic dispute. He was found hanged from his own shirt in a jail cell on August 14, 1988 in the Fairfax County,

Virginia, Jail. According to Jerry Hentman, who was in a cell nearby Buchanan's, the Deputy Sheriff opened the door early in the morning and found

Buchanan with the shirt around his neck.[6][12] Buchanan's last show was on August 7, 1988 in Guilford, CT. His cause of death was officially

recorded as suicide, a finding disputed by Buchanan's friends and family. One of his friends, Marc Fisher, reported seeing Roy's body with bruises

on the head.[6]

 

After his death, compilation and other albums continue to be released, including in 2004 the never-released first album he recorded for Polydor,

The Prophet.

 

Guitars, tone, and technique

 

Guitars

 

Buchanan used a number of guitars in his career, although he was most often associated with a 1953 Fender Telecaster, serial number 2324,

nicknamed "Nancy." There are two very different stories explaining how Buchanan got the guitar. He himself said that, while enrolled in 1969 in a

school to learn to be a hairdresser, he ran after a guy walking down the street with that guitar, and bought him a purple Telecaster to trade. A

friend of Buchanan's, however, said that Buchanan was playing a Gibson Les Paul at the time, and traded it for the '53 Tele.[4] One of Buchanan's

Telecasters was later owned by Danny Gatton and Mike Stern, who lost it in a robbery

 

Tone

 

Buchanan achieved his sound through minimum means. He played the Telecaster through a Fender Vibrolux amplifier with the volume and tone "full

out," and used the guitar's volume and tone controls to control volume and sound[16] (he achieved a wah wah effect using the tone control).[5][14]

To achieve his desired distorted sounds, Buchanan at one point used a razor blade to slit the paper cones of the speakers in his amp, an approach

also employed by the Kinks' Dave Davies. Buchanan rarely used effects pedals, though he started using an Echoplex on A Street Called Straight

(1976) In his later career he played with a Boss DD-2 delay.

 

Technique

 

Buchanan taught himself various playing techniques, including "chicken picking". He sometimes used his thumb nail rather than a plectrum, and

also employed it to augment his index finger and pick. Holding the pick between his thumb and forefinger, Buchanan also plucked the string and

simultaneously touched it lightly with the lower edge of his thumb at one of the harmonic nodes, thus suppressing lower overtones and emphasising

the harmonic, sometimes referred to as pinch harmonics,[14] though Buchanan called it an "overtone. Buchanan could play harmonics at will, and

could mute individual strings with free right-hand fingers while picking or pinching others. He was famous as well for his oblique bends.

 

Having first played lap steel guitar, Buchanan often imitated its effect and bent strings to the required pitch, rather than starting on the desired

note. This was particularly notable in his approach to using double and triple stops.

 

Legacy

 

Buchanan has influenced many guitarists, including Gary Moore, Danny Gatton, and Jeff Beck; Beck dedicated his version of "Cause We've Ended As

Lovers" from Blow by Blow to himHis work is said to "stretch the limits of the electric guitar, and he is praised for "his subtlety of tone and the

breadth of his knowledge, from the blackest of blues to moaning R&B and clean, concise, bone-deep rock 'n' roll In 2004, Guitar Player listed his

version of "Sweet Dreams," from his debut album on Polydor, Roy Buchanan, as having one of the "50 Greatest Tones of All Time. In the same

year, the readers of Guitar Player voted Buchanan #46 in a top 50 readers' poll. Roy is the subject of Freddy Blohm's song "King of a Small Room."

 

Roy Buchanan is interred at Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

 

 

 

 

 

The Forum post is edited by bninna Aug 12 '15
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