Preview: Buddy Guy–Damn Right Farewell Tour w/ Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Buddy Guy is making his last trip to the Red Butte Garden as part of his Damn Right Farewell tour. Unlike artists who announce farewell tours, but end up on the road again (I’m looking at you, Kiss, and the Who), he’s not kidding. Salt Lake concerts aren’t over yet, so don’t put those low back chairs and picnic coolers away. Monday, September 11, 2023 will be the last chance to see the blues legend in Salt Lake City. 

Guy’s biography reads like the history of the blues. Born to sharecropper parents in rural Louisiana, he grew up in a home without electricity or indoor plumbing. A self-taught guitarist, he abandoned the cotton fields and bought a one-way ticket to Chicago to play an electrified version of the Delta Blues. In 1957, at age 21, he fell under the influence of Chicago blues icon Muddy Waters. He signed a contract with the infamous Chess Records where he worked mainly as a session guitarist backing Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Koko Taylor. 

Chess Records balked at recording Guy as a solo artist because they thought his unique, free-style, string-bending guitar licks were too erratic. In his live performances, he’d creatively pick the guitar with his teeth or play it over his head–two tricks that later influenced Jimi Hendrix. In 1967, Guy released his debut album Left My Blues in San Francisco, his only Chess Records release before moving on to other labels. 

In racially segregated America, the blues received little airplay outside African-American communities. But young British musicians were listening. When artists like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin took mainstream American music by storm, interviewers asked them about their musical influences, they’d name their American blues heroes like Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, or Buddy Guy. Reporters were often befuddled, unfamiliar with those home-grown artists.

By the 1980s, Blues music enjoyed a renaissance. Unfortunately, it once again took British rock legends, like Eric Clapton, to introduce white American audiences to these incredible musicians. In 1991, Guy signed with Silvertone Records and released his mainstream breakthrough album Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues. It was his 7th studio album. The record won a Grammy for best Contemporary Blues Album. He won the award again in 1994 for Feel Like Rain, and 1996 for Slippin’ In. Larger audiences finally began to recognize him as one of the amazing artists who shaped our musical heritage, despite the second-class status they endured under segregation and social conservatism. Guy would take home Nine Grammy Awards including a Lifetime Achievement award. BB King and Eric Clapton inducted Guy into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

The man who grew up with no running water or electricity eventually found his way to The White House where he was honored by President Obama in 2012. The same year he won a Kennedy Center Honors. Guy continues to record and in 2022, at age 86, he released a 16-song album, The Blues Don’t Lie, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album. Guy will stop touring soon, but he will continue to play the blues.

Opening the evening is Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. The Clarksdale, Mississippi child prodigy  got his start in blues at age five after seeing a PBS documentary on Muddy Waters. His father took him to the Delta Blues Museum to learn more. He began music lessons at the museum’s arts and education program and started playing drums at age six, then bass, before settling on the guitar at age 11. Ingram played gigs around his hometown as a 7th grader. He played for First Lady Michelle Obama at age 15 as a member of the Delta Blues Museum band. When his childhood friends teased him about playing blues when they were all listening to hip hop, he told them he played history, the music that birthed their music. He noted, Rap is nothing but the blues’ grandchild.

As Ingram approached adulthood he played blues festivals across the country and shared the stage with idols like Buddy Guy. I first saw him at the Utah Blues Festival in 2018 and marveled at his skills. He released his critically-acclaimed debut album Kingfish in 2019. The record reached #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart and received a Grammy nomination. No Depression magazine said the album was “a stunning debut from a young bluesman with an ancient soul and a large presence in the here and now.” His 2021 follow-up album, 662, won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

To see a blues master, for the final time, and watch him pass the musical torch to a protege is something I can’t miss. I just saw rising blues star Ally Venable at The State Room and she was amazing. She toured with Guy earlier this year and they recorded a duet together on her latest record. Guy is a national treasure and a generous mentor to the next generation of blues artists. I know he will fill his setlist with his original material and songs from those artists that guided him along the way. 

Tickets for this show may still be available.

Who: Buddy Guy w/Christone Kingfish Ingram

What: Damn Right Farewell tour

Where: Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre

When: Monday, September 11, 2023

Tickets and info:

John Nelson
John Nelson
John Nelson covers the local music scene for Salt Lake magazine. He is a 20-year veteran of Uncle Sam’s Flying Circus with a lifelong addiction to American roots music, live music venues, craft beer and baseball.

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