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Buddy Guy Picks 12 Year-Old Quinn Sullivan To Fill His Blues Shoes

August 17, 2011
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imgBLUES LEGENDS SUCH AS BUDDY Guy don’t usually go out of their way to sign, record, and promote pre-teenage talents, but that’s exactly the situation with Guy discovery Quinn Sullivan. Guy’s Grammy-winning producer Tom Hambridge recorded the 12 year-old blues-rocker’s new CD, Cyclone [Oarfin], which features the legend and the prodigy together on “Buddy’s Blues.”

How did you get into Buddy Guy’s music, and how did you connect with him?

I discovered Buddy by watching my dad’s DVD of Eric Clapton’s first Crossroads concert. I just fell in love with his playing and his mannerisms. Something about Buddy really inspires me. My dad took me to his show and I brought my guitar for him to sign. We met before the concert and he said, “Be ready when I call you up onstage.” We played a blues jam for about ten minutes, and then we played “Sweet Home Chicago.” I was a little in shock that night, but I wasn’t nervous at all. I just thought it was really cool.

How did your relationship progress from there?

He eventually asked me to play a lead on “Who’s Gonna Fill These Shoes” for his album Skin Deep. Next we took a trip to Nashville to record my album, Cyclone. The backing tracks were already laid down when I arrived. Tom Hambridge had sent me rough mixes to study ahead of time. He did most of the songwriting, and I co-wrote “Peace and Harmony,” “Me and My Guitar,” and “My Sweet Guitar.” When it was time for me to track, I’d play my rhythm part, overdub a few different solos, and then we’d pick the best one. It was pretty easy, actually.

What are your favorite guitars and amps for the studio and stage?

I have a Gibson ES-335, and I used a variety of Stratocasters, Telecasters, and Les Pauls on Cyclone—but the Stratocaster is my main stage guitar because it sounds good on every song. So far, I’ve used the studio’s amps for recording. I love the sound of Fender Super Reverb and Marshall amps. My main stage amp is a Chicago Blues Box “Buddy Guy Signature Amp” that Buddy gave me, which is basically a clone of his favorite ’59 Fender Bassman.

What’s it been like for you playing nightclubs such as Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago? Do you get respect from the players hanging around?

I get standing ovations at Legends, and the players that hang around there do show me respect. I don’t get a lot of comments like, “That kid doesn’t deserve it because he doesn’t have the feeling of the blues yet,” although I have heard that other places. All I can do is keep playing. I want to keep traditional blues alive, but I also want to keep playing rock and roll. Cyclone is a mixture of both. John Mayer and Derek Trucks are both amazing examples of younger players to follow, but I’d like to develop my own style instead of copying them or other people.

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