Best Unknown Guitarist: Roy Buchanan


It has been a while folks and I do apologize. Life is so incredibly busy and rather stressful at the moment. (Add to that the sad reality that I had composed what I thought was a nicely written introduction to this album but then accidently deleted it! Stress levels higher than normal at the moment!)

So, not wanting to delay this lovely collection of white-man blues any longer I commend to you the wonderful Roy Buchanan

Roy Buchanan has long been considered one of the finest, yet criminally overlooked guitarists of the blues rock genre whose lyrical leads and use of harmonics would later influence such guitar greats asJeff Beck, his one-time student Robbie Robertson, and ZZ Top‘s Billy Gibbons. Although born in Ozark, AR, on September 23, 1939, Buchanan grew up in the small town of Pixley, CA. His father was both a farmer and Pentecostal preacher, which would bring the youngster his first exposure to gospel music when his family would attend racially mixed revival meetings. But it was when Buchanan came across late-night R&B radio shows that he became smitten by the blues, leading to Buchanan picking up the guitar at the age of seven. First learning steel guitar, he switched to electric guitar by the age of 13, finding the instrument that would one day become his trademark: a Fender Telecaster. By 15,Buchanan knew he wanted to concentrate on music full-time and relocated to Los Angeles, which contained a thriving blues/R&B scene at the time. Shortly after his arrival in L.A., Buchanan was taken under the wing by multi-talented bluesman Johnny Otis, before studying blues with such players asJimmy Nolen (later with James Brown), Pete Lewis, and Johnny “Guitar” Watson. During the mid- to late ’50s, Buchanan led his own rock band, the Heartbeats, which soon after began backing rockabilly great Dale (“Suzy Q”)Hawkins

The praise eventually led to an hour-long public television documentary on Buchanan in 1971, the appropriately titled The Best Unknown Guitarist in the World, and a recording contract with Polydor Records shortly thereafter. Buchanan spent the remainder of the decade issuing solo albums, including such guitar classics as his 1972 self-titled debut (which contained one of Buchanan‘s best-known tracks, “The Messiah Will Come Again”), 1974’s That’s What I Am Here For, and 1975’s Live Stock, before switching to Atlantic for several releases. But by the ’80s, Buchanan had grown disillusioned by the music business due to the record company’s attempts to mold the guitarist into a more mainstream artist, which led to a four-year exile from music between 1981 and 1985.

Luckily, the blues label Alligator convinced Buchanan to begin recording again by the middle of the decade, issuing such solid and critically acclaimed releases as 1985’s When a Guitar Plays the Blues, 1986’s Dancing on the Edge, and 1987’s Hot Wires. But just as his career seemed to be on the upswing once more, tragedy struck on August 14, 1988, when Buchanan was picked up by police in Fairfax, VA, for public intoxication. Shortly after being arrested and placed in a holding cell, a policeman performed a routine check onBuchanan and was shocked to discover that he had hung himself in his cell. Buchanan‘s stature as one of blues-rock’s all-time great guitarists grew even greater after his tragic death, resulting in such posthumous collections as Sweet Dreams: The AnthologyGuitar on Fire: The Atlantic SessionsDeluxe Edition, and 20th Century Masters and the live When a Telecaster Plays the Blues, which appeared in 2009. (AMG)

Track Listing:

Sweet Dreams_ The Anthology

Disc 1

1-01 Baltimore

1-02 Black Autumn

1-03 The Story Of Isaac

1-04 There’ll Always Be

1-05 Sweet Dreams

1-06 Pete’s Blue

1-07 The Messiah Will Come Again

1-08 Tribute To Elmore James

1-09 After Hours

1-10 Five String Blues

1-11 C. C. Rider (Live)

1-12 My Baby Says She’s Gonna Leave Me

1-13 Please Don’t Turn Me Away

1-14 Country Preacher

1-15 Wayfaring Pilgrim



Disc 2:

2-01 Down By The River (Live)

2-02 I’m A Ram (Live)

2-03 I’m Evil (Live)

2-04 Good God Have Mercy

2-05 If Six Were Nine

2-06 Green Onions

2-07 Soul Dressing (Live)

2-08 Hey Joe (Live)

2-09 Fly…Night Bird

2-10 Turn To Stone

2-11 Dual Soliloquy



11 thoughts on “Best Unknown Guitarist: Roy Buchanan

  1. Colin Lazzerini

    For reasons of purest idiocy, I always thought he was an Irishman.
    I realise now that I had him very cheaply confused with Rory Gallagher.

    “Best unknown guitarist”, though?
    Qualifying contenders for that title must be legion.
    My own list would certainly include Lenny Breau and Baden Powell.
    Which prompts me to consider Yamandu Costa and Hamilton de Holande
    Carles Benavent, Niño Josele and Pitingo each seem unknown to most.
    How about Pat Coleman or John Parricelli?

    Now to listen to the Buchanan collection.

  2. Colin Lazzerini

    ………………Snooks Eaglin ? Hank Garland ? Norman Blake ?
    Now I find myself working on a “Great Unknown Guitar” collection.
    I blame the Washerman’s Dog.

  3. Lazz

    I imagine that Blake, B.P. and Snooks “don’t count” because they don’t fit our “unknown” category well enough. Which probably carries indication of the states of awareness on the scene in Melbourne. But I guess it all depends ultimately on who we ask. In my small world, and my small experience, very few regular ordinary civilian consumers and amateur strummers will have even heard the name Jim Hall.

    Would you be interested in publishing my own “unknown” compilation when I finish it?

  4. john

    as these recordings make quite clear, brother Roy had to be heard in a live setting to understand why so many people shit their pants hearing him play. here he completely shatters guitar notes…Hey Joe…holy shit…wow…. but he also had, an almost bipolar guitar attack: from complete mind fucking guitar freakouts to those volume shifting thingys he seemed so fond of… but those irresistible tube saturated guitar tones were wet with sweat…..sadly some really dumb song choices messed up a really good thing…..example Soul Dressing, like seriously? If Six Was Nine, oh man how bad is that? ……now compare those to the perfection of I’m Evil (live) except for the voice which needs no further discussion……….and we have brother Ray all into his guitar gunslinger persona…..fuck you.
    most appreciative of all you hard work and dedication…….wonderful

    1. Mr Harmonium Post author

      Indeed, brilliant take. As a man with a similar background to Bro Ray(hardcore Christian) I fully understand where that bipolar aspect of his stuff comes from. Dark and light. Liberation and submission. Sin and repentance! Thanks for the ideas!


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