"B.B. King Had a Left Hand That Could Do Things That Were Not of This Earth. I Knew I Could Never Do Any of That": Blues Legend Buddy Guy Explains How Learning What He Could (and Couldn't) Do from His Guitar Heroes Shaped His Unique Style

Buddy Guy performs at Stern Grove in San Francisco, California on August 6, 2023
(Image credit: Steve Jennings/Getty Images)

In a new interview with Guitar World, blues legend Buddy Guy – who is currently in the midst of his farewell tour – revealed how his style was shaped by watching his heroes – and learning what he could, and couldn't, do from them.

It was one of Guy's own idols, B.B. King, who once said “listen to me and anybody else you like. I won’t use the word ‘steal,’ but try to ‘borrow’ a little bit from each guy. And, like that, you become you.“

Indeed, King was one of the figures who most influenced Guy, but the latter recognized early on that it made little sense to incorporate certain King quirks into his playing.

“I had to find my own unique voice on the electric guitar,“ Guy says. “Because I had heard guys like B.B. King and T-Bone Walker, I said, 'I’ll never be that good. I’ve got to do something different from them or I’m done for.' A guy like Guitar Slim was wild, and B.B. King had a left hand that could do things that were not of this Earth. I knew I could never do any of that. 

“So, I told myself, if I can ever become any good at guitar, I’d like to act like Guitar Slim but play like B.B. King and T-Bone Walker.”

In an interview with Guitar Player earlier this year, Guy also pointed to King as one of the reasons why he chose to end his touring career on a high note. 

“I think Muddy [Waters] died at 70, and he was still okay, but B.B. King was [still touring at] 89 years old,“ Guy told Guitar Player. “Every time I would go play for a promoter that had him six months or a year before me, they’d tell me he was forgetting his songs.

“He was doing the same song three or four times a night. ‘You Are My Sunshine’ – that was his favorite. And everybody was afraid to tell him he was singing it three or four times a night, ’cause he was the boss at all times. So I started thinking about that, and I don’t want it to be that way for me.“

To read GP's full interview with Guy, step right this way.

Jackson Maxwell
Associate Editor, GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.