Book Review: 33 Revolutions Per Page
Tall tales of Texas and beyond
Reviewed by Chase Hoffberger, Fri., June 15, 2012
When I Left Home: My Storyby Buddy Guy with David Ritz
Da Capo Press, 288 pp., $26 (paper)
Buddy Guy was raised on killing pigs, taming wild horses, and taking guitar lessons from the birds in Louisiana trees. The Chicago blues legend, 75, credits those three ingredients, plus John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen'," for making him into one of the baddest bluesmen ever to walk this earth – as told in When I Left Home, Guy's recount of his hoochie-coochie life. Written with artist biographer David Ritz (Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye), it's an easy read, heavy with dialogue – and by the 10th detailed conversation between Guy and a fellow Chicago bluesman, you start wondering just exactly how much he's embellishing. Otherwise, it's an insightful look into a Chess Records crew that got into just as much trouble as anybody willing to waltz their way down South Michigan Avenue. Theirs was the Midwest rat pack: Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter – dudes who ruled the Chicago graveyard crowd on late-night business. Since Guy was there every step of the way from 1960 on, he's got stories to tell, and they certainly come in handy when he's barely mentioning his mother's passing ("That year, 1968 was marked by death, none more painful to me than my mom's"), or offering a sales pitch about his club, Legends. Even then, you can't ignore the Hoodoo Man.