Innovator. A word said of many established guitarists like Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Hendrix. The man who those players and 100 other masters Like Robbie Robertson all got more than small sparks from was Roy Buchanan. He was not only a Maestro of playing the guitar, he was predating effect pedals and sonic boxes.
Roy Buchanan was able to play Country or Blues and suddenly detune and return to pitch and sound like an airplane dive-bombing. His mastery of the volume knob would be years ahead of the volume pedal and was adopted later by Rory Gallagher.
Tapping Was 20 years in advance of Van Halen, the Harmonics Billy Gibbons would employ later were already created by Roy …in the 1950s. Roy Buchanan and Link Wray are hand in hand as to possibly be the most important electric Guitarists ever. They invented with their hands and minds the sounds we know today.
A Telecaster and Fender Twin amp turned backward on a chair meant Magic time from Roy from the ’50s until his passing in 1988. He was called upon by the likes of Merle Haggard, Dale, and Ronnie Hawkins and debatably according to who you ask, The Rolling Stones. He was courted by none other than Jerry Lee Lewis But Roy Just wanted to be his own man.
After Hours” Studio version
He was known as the musician’s musician but was mostly in the Shadows until a PBS television special aired in 1971. That program was included here for two reasons. First is the sheer reverence of Bill Graham’s wish to bring him to the world although he had already established a career. Secondly, to show the difference between the experience of Hearing a studio recording and then seeing the same song performed live.
Roy’s song “After Hours” was recorded a couple of times, once in the ’50s and then the version found here on his second Major Label record aptly titled “Roy Buchanan. Second Album.”The First song performed in this Documentary Broadcast is again “After Hours” but Live. It’s in my opinion one of the greatest Guitar performances ever captured. The film also gives some insight into who the man was. A Nomad Minstrel of the highest order.
Interview with Roy Buchanan
A second video includes a few insights and stories from Band members and friends for more perspective on the musician and the man.
Buchanan was, as many of the top Creative people in any form of art are prone to be, a Tortured soul. Most recall him as “different”. He was primarily the quiet one and from all accounts a kind man, yet as any human capable of an explosive violent temper. I expect only when the “other’ Roy had exhausted all diplomacy. Long fuses lead to the Largest explosions like grateful dead members for example.
His guitars over the decades were many and regardless of the type He still sounded like himself even on a Les Paul. His main and longest love was a 1953 Fender Telecaster, serial number 2324, nicknamed “Nancy.” Roy, having reached the point of being a family man, had not only “Nancy” to provide an income, but he also had a standing gig with Danny Denver.
This was at a place just outside the Washington D.C. area at a club Called the “Crossroads”. Slowly the word was getting around about this Guitar Player that just walked into the doors of a Saloon in an old wild west movie and needed some action, and Local journalists got it!. Music Journalists were proclaiming him to be possibly the best Rock and Blues guitarist ..ever.
In a matter of a week, there were lines around the building and the clientele had gone from the regulars to the counterculture. They were not there for the Danny Denver Showband, they were there to hear Roy.
The writing was on the wall and he was amicably let go because the Crowds were smoking more pot than they were drinking beer and it was bringing the bar income down.
By 1971 One of the D.C. area writers had their article picked up by Rolling Stone Magazine and the calls came in from Jeff Beck and other now-famous guitarists wanting to know how when and where to see Roy play.
The writers took things a step further and joined forces to Trick the Leadership at Georgetown University into allowing to produce a “Guitar Recital” on campus as they knew if the words “Rock concert” were used it would have never been allowed.
In April there were promotional posters plastered in every record store and headshop in the vicinity to show Roy Buchanan and a Major artist.
Roy had no ambitions but to document a series of live recordings to be possibly released as a set of 3 so some performances as Buch and The Snake Stretchers. This ultimately was trimmed down to one release packaged in a Burlap bag. Roy was content, as he was a simple person and didn’t have the drive to be famous.
There were others in higher places who had different ideas New York Television executives had also been to the Georgetown show and he was approached to do the Documentary, which we have included below. It was explained to him they just wanted to tell his unique story and by July they began making the film.
Shortly after the Live performance was filmed and a young student of Roy’s Named Nils Lofgren was invited by Roy to jam on the stage which speaks to Buchanan’s character to showcase a young player while he himself was being showcased.
Nils reflection on the matter was that he was young, overly exited and when he started playing he didn’t stop soloing even when he reached the point of playing over Roy in an unprofessional way.
You can see Roy knows what’s going on and simply took control back by Landing the airplane onstage again with a playful look in his eye. My other observation is if you take the time to view this in its entirety, you will see the most unhinged Tambourine player to ever walk the earth. It made me wonder if anyone had any
Thorazine on hand to save his sanity.
11 studio albums and 12 live albums were to follow in his career. The first 3 of the studio albums were done in the first year under contract.
The live Albums always came out of more enthusiasm, yet many were released and cobbled together posthumously and it’s believed that a significant portion of his recorded works was bought by other musicians as he maintained a simple cult status.
Roy seemed to be just fine with that, for him the success was in the playing and didn’t invest much of his interest or energy in the business.
One remarkable night was filmed in 1985 at Carnegie Hall with Albert Collins, Roy, and Lonnie Mack. It was titled “Further on Down the Road”. Prior to showtime one of Roy’s band members recalled Buchanan could not find his Cigar he was smoking and suddenly realized he left it on Lonnie’s amp.
They scrambled like school kids to the stage Laughing that they could easily have “Burned down Carnegie Hall”. A moment of levity from the sometimes stoic Roy.
Roy Buchanan’s last show was on a Blistering hot day Aug 7th, 1988. A Ramshackle set up with no dressing rooms so the band stayed in the Limo with the Air Conditioning cranked up, occasionally letting the window down to sigh and autograph or speak to a fan of his. There were plans to play the following weekend and it seemed like just another week to wait and do it all over again.
Full length documentary on Roy Buchanan
Things did not go that way. Roy Had in the years past battled alcohol and drug use and many times seemed to have got things together only to later revert back to those vices.
August 14th. 1988 Roy came home with a drinking buddy to a townhouse he had in Reston, Virginia. His wife knew for a fact they were going to continue through the night but suspected this houseguest was also supplying the drugs and wanted the man to leave.
She put in a call to the Fairfax County Police to enquire if she could have the man removed without her husband’s consent. Roy didn’t approve of her speaking to the Police and took the phone away and tore the phone off the wall during the call. While the husband and wife argued, the subject of the argument was left on his own.
Roy discovered his friend was gone and went out to try and catch him but it was too late. Instead of returning to his home he just kept walking down the street and the dispatched officer saw him en route to his home and arrested him for Being drunk and Disorderly in public.
His wife made arrangements to collect him the following morning. A few hours later officers knocked on her door to tell her her husband was dead. The Police claimed it was suicide by hanging facilitated by his own shirt as a noose.
An Autopsy was performed before the wife could see the body and she stated the morgue members were acting oddly in her presence. The other issue was the size of the cell in height compared to his stature indicated he could not have hung himself as it was mathematically impossible.
The speculation is he may have fought with the officers and was placed in a choke hold, with him having breathing problems, to begin with, they may have inadvertently killed him. There were also prominently bruised to his head to indicate something unspoken occurred. It’s a division of thought between members of his band and friends as to whether or not he chose to take his own life or not. The scales tip toward him not doing the deed himself. No one may ever know than those involved.
The man is silent, absent, and missed now for many years. However, we are thankful for the extensive work by him and the documentation of others that we can call up the Miraculous sounds he made with the click of a few buttons or the dropping of a needle to vinyl.
His sound was from his mind, fueled by his heart, authenticated by his soul, Delivered from his hands as a gift to all.