Tag Archives: Buddy Guy

The lost summer

Twenty years ago, the life we’d built in one place was ending.

We’d decided, for many reasons, to leave Madison, Wisconsin — widely considered to be the cultural center of the universe — and move back to Green Bay. The lovely Janet had grown up in Green Bay but had been away for 15 years. I’d lived there for a couple of years out of college but had been gone for the better part of a decade.

So we put our house on the market. She stayed behind. I headed north.

I took a new job that really was my old job, the one I’d left eight years before. That was a little strange. As was sleeping on the floor of the guest room at my friends’ duplex. As was trying to find a new place, not knowing when — or whether — the house would sell. It was a blur.

And then my mom died.

It had been barely three weeks since I’d left Madison.

Mom had been in a nursing home, having reached the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Another part of our old life was gone. The handful of days that immediately followed also are a blur, save for the gorgeous summer day on which we buried Mom.

And then life went on. We found a place to live. (I’d come close to wearing out my welcome at my friends’ place.) Our house sold in 17 days. My brothers and I kept a close eye on Dad.

A few weeks later, I was at work, thinking about Dad, and about Mom. It was Aug. 27. It would have been her birthday.

And then the news came across the wire. Stevie Ray Vaughan had died.

It hit home, not so much because of who had died, but because of where and how. Vaughan died early that morning when his helicopter left Alpine Valley, a big outdoor venue southwest of Milwaukee, and crashed into a hillside. If you live in Wisconsin, you know Alpine Valley.

That, and it was a flashback to 1967, when Otis Redding died in a plane crash in Madison, in Lake Monona, not far from where we lived.

They are forever linked for me, my mom and Stevie Ray. Mom’s passing was not a surprise. Stevie Ray’s passing was startling.

“Rememberin’ Stevie,” Buddy Guy, from “Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues,” 1991. (The buy link is to an expanded edition released in 2005.)

Buddy Guy had jammed with Stevie Ray Vaughan that last night at Alpine Valley, along with Eric Clapton, Robert Cray and Stevie Ray’s older brother Jimmie Vaughan. This instrumental is his tribute.

This record was released on Aug. 27, 1991, the first anniversary of Stevie Ray’s death. It again would have been my mom’s birthday.

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Filed under August 2010, Sounds

Blues for T

Working in the newspaper business is a bit like riding a rocket right into the ground.

Today was another of those sad, surreal days that are becoming all too commonplace.

We’ve known for some time that another round of layoffs was coming. We’ve known for a while that the news would come down today. So you sit and wait and try not to worry about it because there’s nothing you can do about it … except have Plan B ready.

Thankfully, I will go back to work tomorrow. However, 19 others will not.

One of the 19 is my old friend T, whom I have known for more than 25 years. We long ago played basketball and downed many beers. We’ve seen all of T’s kids grow up. His youngest daughter was one of our babysitters when our son was little.

So here is a song for T.

I wrote about it a couple of years ago, recalling the night it blew us away as we drove home from a basketball game.

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“Rememberin’ Stevie,” Buddy Guy, from “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues,” 1991. The CD is out of print but is available digitally.

You might think the title track might be more appropriate for this situation, and you might be right.

However, “Rememberin’ Stevie” — a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan — is a tune that reminds me of the good times with T.

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Filed under July 2009, Sounds

Last call for summer

As we sit here, thinking back on the sun-splashed summer months just past, it gets quiet. Deep quiet. You feel like you can reach out and grab a handful of the silence.

Not only is it getting to be the end of the night, but the end of the season, the end of another chapter in the life. The nights are turning cool in our corner of Wisconsin, and all the summer visitors are going home, so they’ll start packing up the outdoor bars after this weekend.

So we head over to the jukebox for a little music that will only intensify that deep quiet, only feed the longing for a few more weeks or days of another summer that blew past too quickly.

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“Summer,” War, 1976, from “The Best of War and More,” 1991.

Cliched, perhaps, but still just the right vibe to get us started.

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“The Moonbeam Song,” Harry Nilsson, from “Nilsson Schmilsson,” 1971. (The link is to a 2004 expanded version with six extra cuts.)

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“Martini 5-0,” The Blue Hawaiians, from “Sway,” 1998.

Just about anything this L.A. surf/tiki/exotica noir band does is suitable for this kind of night. As in “Last Days of Summer,” another cut from the same album. Give it a listen on their MySpace page.

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“Blues for the Night Owl,” Ramsey Lewis, from “The Greatest Hits of Ramsey Lewis,” 1973.

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“Rememberin’ Stevie,” Buddy Guy, from “Damn Right I Got the Blues,” 1991. (The original CD apparently is out of print, so this link is for a 2005 expanded edition with two cuts that were B sides in the UK.)

This tune, a tribute to the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, is one I will forever associate with one particular end-of-the-night experience.

I took this CD along when I joined some pals on a road trip to a college basketball game. It had just come out, so it had to be late 1991 or early 1992 — not all that long after Stevie Ray’s death in a helicopter crash on a southern Wisconsin hillside in August 1990.

It was a 2-hour drive each way, and it got to be a long night. We were driving home, and we’d been shooting the breeze. But once we got to this cut, the last on the CD, it didn’t take too long before all four of us were listening in silence.

When it ended, I vividly remember one of my pals breaking the long silence.

“Whew!” he said, exhaling deeply.

“Man!” another of the fellas said.

Perhaps you, too, will have the same reaction if you play it late at night, as summer winds to a close.

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Filed under September 2007, Sounds