Blue Monday (Helm on Buchanan)

Roy Buchanan was the bluesman’s bluesman, and he could do some pretty amazing things with a Telecaster. In the early Sixties, he briefly joined The Hawks, backing up rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins, and shared the stage with the musicians who would go on to become The Band. He even tutored Robbie Robertson just before Robertson stepped up to become the group’s lead guitarist. In his memoir This Wheel’s On Fire, Levon Helm talks about Buchanan, whom he describes as “a brilliant and moody player who definitely had his own mystique.”

He had a beatnik look, complete with goatee, which both Ronnie and I adopted for a while. Roy had strange eyes, didn’t talk to anyone, and looked real fierce. Ronnie always reminded us to smile, move, and dance when we played. We had to look like we were having a better time than anyone. It was show business, those little leg kicks that fellas in bands had to do back then.

Not Roy. He didn’t believe in putting on a show. He just stood there and played the shit out of that guitar. Roy played a Louisiana Hayride style like Fred [Carter Jr.] and James Burton, who was playing with Ricky Nelson then. We loved how good Roy was, but he was too weird for the Hawk. One night Roy tried to convince us that he was a werewolf and destined to marry a nun. Not long after that, Robbie took over the lead guitar.

The clip above shows Buchanan playing “Sweet Dreams,” the instrumental version of a Don Gibson tune that became Buchanan’s signature piece.

Here’s another display of Buchanan’s fiery technique:

In this clip, Buchanan plays dueling Telecasters with Albert Collins on “Further On Down the Road.”

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