Vinyl Treasures: Roy Buchanan's Self-Titled Debut

I’ve avoided writing about Roy Buchanan’s debut album for Polydor, because I thought it might be too obvious, but how could I pass over this classic masterpiece in Vinyl Treasures?
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I’ve avoided writing about Roy Buchanan’s debut album for Polydor, because I thought it might be too obvious, but how could I pass over this classic masterpiece in Vinyl Treasures? Released in 1972—after shelving a project that Roy described as a failed attempt at trendy commercialism—Roy Buchanan significantly furthered the potential of the Fender Telecaster. It also influenced guitarists all over the world—most notably, Jeff Beck (who dedicated “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers” to Mr. Buchanan) and guitar virtuoso Danny Gatton.

I was first exposed to Roy by the 1971 PBS documentary, Introducing Roy Buchanan. Luckily, my father called me into the living room, “Hey Jim! You should hear this guy playing guitar!” At the time, I was 12 years old, and seeing Roy play guitar changed my life. I immediately bought Roy Buchanan, and I was knocked out by “Pete’s Blues”—most significantly at the 1:50 mark, where Roy leaves the boundaries of the blues and enters a modal Middle Eastern world that builds to an explosive musical climax. Mike Bloomfield’s “East-West” instrumental [1966] may have paved the way, but Roy’s sheer modal emotionalism on “Pete’s Blues” is unequaled to my ears.

Roy played his ’53 Telecaster—“Nancy”—through a Fender Vibrolux (that, unless I’m mistaken, was not cranked to 10), and, more then any other Buchanan release, Roy Buchanan displays Roy’s multi-genre virtuosity. On “Hey Good Lookin’,” he defines 6th and 9th chords à la steelguitar. “The Messiah will Come Again” displays a groundbreaking use of Volume- and Tone-knob swells, and Roy’s timeless rendition of “Sweet Dreams” throws in the kitchen sink of Telecaster techniques along with a brilliant melodic sense.

Where do I start? From this album, I learned hybrid picking, behind-the-nut bending, detuning the 6th string for ominous rumblings, Tone-knob swells, Volumeknob swells, steel-guitar bends, steel-guitar chord voicings, and, of course, a lifelong love for the Telecaster. I tried to recreate a visual homage to Roy Buchanan with my Dream Dictionary release, and I’ve included a Buchanan tribute on almost every single record I’ve made. I think my most successful was “Blues for Roy” from Orange, where I basically reinterpret “Pete’s Blues,” and try to employ all the techniques Roy taught me. Hopefully, I achieved the art of storytelling, as well—a talent Roy so poignantly exhibited. I’ve met many guitarists who have a bulging toolbox of scales and chords, but sidestep digging down deep to get to the “truth.” Roy teaches us how to tell a captivating personal story, while combining emotionalism with technique that we all can learn from.

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