Roy Buchanan on turning down the Rolling Stones, loving Eddie Van Halen, and being flattered by Jeff Beck

royphoto

me ‘n Roy backstage at the Pump, February 10, 1986

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 7, 1986

By Steve Newton

Not many guitarists can say they were invited to join the Rolling Stones. Not many can say they turned the offer down either. But Roy Buchanan–quite possibly the best white blues guitarist in the world–can say both. He was the first one the Stones approached to fill original guitarist Brian Jones’ shoes.

“At that time I was still a little too messed up,” says Buchanan, over the phone from Salt Lake City. “They already had one casualty in the band–and I didn’t want to be the next.

“Plus I was just starting to make a little headway the way I was going, and thought I’d be better off just doin’ what I was doin’.”

While Roy’s decision to go it alone may have cost him mass popularity, it has won him a small, devoted following of fans and fellow musicians–and allowed him to stay true to his musical roots. Those gospel, country and blues roots came from growing up in the tiny town of Pixley, California, where Buchanan’s first musical memories were of racially-mixed revival meetings his family would attend. His father was a farmer and Pentecostal preacher, and, says Roy, “about all you had to do was go to church and work in the fields.”

As well as gospel in the pews and R&B on the radio, country music was big in Pixley, and at the age of nine Roy’s parents sent him to the local steel-guitar teacher, a woman by the name of Mrs. Pressure. Those early lessons were instrumental in the development of the awesome technique Buchanan employs today.

“She pretty much set my style,” says the burly, bearded bluesman, “so that when I started playin’ a Telecaster, I was still thinking steel guitar.” (On his latest album, the stunning When a Guitar Sings the Blues, there’s a song called “Mrs. Pressure”, a tribute to the lady who Roy says, “would cry every time I made a mistake.”)

When he was 15 years old Buchanan left the small town for the big city, and in L.A. fell under the wing of famed bandleader Johnny Otis. The blues mastery of Otis’ guitarist, Jimmy Nolen, also had a huge effect on the youthful protege.

“He’s the first guy I saw bend strings, and he was playing loose. I was really impressed with that.”

Nowadays, although he says he doesn’t listen to that many people, Buchanan still has his fave guitarists. “I’d say probably Eddie Van Halen. And I like the guy who played with the Stray Cats, Brian Setzer. And Ray Gomez–he backed up Stanley Clarke for a lot of years.”

Buchanan is himself a favourite of–and influence on–several of rock’s greatest guitarists, including Robbie Robertson (from The Band), Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), and Jeff Beck. Beck actually showed his appreciation to Buchanan by dedicating a song to him–Blow By Blow‘s version of Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers”.

“It’s a pretty song,” says Roy. “I was really flattered by that.”

Roy Buchanan’s one-night-only appearance is set for this Monday, February 10, at the Town Pump.

Albert Collins, a good friend and jamming-buddy of Roy Buchanan, will be preceding him at the Pump this Friday and Saturday (February 7 & 8). Collins did two sold out shows at the Pump four months ago, and there’s a good chance he’ll pack ’em in again. Following his appearance at Live Aid last summer, he was awarded the W.C. Handy Award for Best Blues Band of 1985. Collins is known as “The Master of the Telecaster”, although hardcore Buchanan fans might want to argue that point.

pump

To hear the audio of the interviews I did with Roy Buchanan in 1986 and 1988 subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 200 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover of Deep Purple, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001

….with hundreds more to come

3 thoughts on “Roy Buchanan on turning down the Rolling Stones, loving Eddie Van Halen, and being flattered by Jeff Beck

  1. I went to both the Roy show and one of the Albert shows My twin brother and I treated each other as birthday presents. Thanks for sharing this. Boys shows were iconic. Roy fried my brain.

  2. I once saw Roy in Youngstown, Ohio at the Tomorrow Club and damn he jammed playing like it was nothing but simple snd smoking a cigarette at the same time.

Leave a Reply