On Saturday, the first “Live from the Arch” in downtown Reno is headlined by an artist whose new album is No. 1 on Billboard’s Blues Albums chart. Moreover, with this year’s passing of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, 79, is probably the best-known living blues artist. King, who would have turned 90 on Sept. 16, was Guy’s dear friend and mentor.
Tahoe Onstage was unable to speak with Guy for this article, but in a previous interview with us, he discussed his friendship with King.
“Every time I talked to BB King, I used to say, ‘Man, I get more bad write ups than I do good ones,’ and he’d say, ‘But guess what, Buddy? You made the paper.’ ”
Tom Hambridge, who produced and played drums on Guy’s last four albums, relished an opportunity to record a song with the two icons for Guy’s record “Living Proof.”
“It’s beautiful to witness that they truly love each other,” Hambridge said. “They are two guys who are the last two remaining guys in the same field doing the same deal but they love each other. It’s probably like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson or something. They have the utmost respect for each other.”
Guy said King spoke to him about death.
“I wasn’t expecting that out of him,” Guy said. “I was like, ‘Man, ahh shit,’ because my mother used to tell me, ‘Get ready because you know I’m going to leave.’ You don’t want to hear that from your mom, your brother, your friend. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to hear it from nobody. And he comes on and says, ‘You’re nickname is Buddy and don’t forget you always will be my buddy,’ and I just had to cry.”
Expect plenty of stories – sprinkled with salty language – from Guy during his onstage performances. And the stories usually come in the middle of a song that won’t get finished. But his guitar playing is as powerful as ever. His pedal work and distorted sounds famously inspired Jimi Hendrix, and Live at the Arch will provide Reno music lovers an opportunity to witness a living legend.
In the studio, Guy is in his prime. Starting in 2008, Hambridge became his producer and biographer.
“(Hambridge) always had a pencil and pad and said, ‘You don’t know it but just talking to you is like writing songs,’ ” Guy said. “All of the songs on these … albums is true-life history. We were just talking. I was just telling him what I’ve been through and what I’ve come through, and he was just writing these things down.”
Hambridge has an appreciation for Guy’s way with words and a penchant for putting them down on paper.
“I’ll just listen to him talk and my mind goes crazy,” Hambridge said. “The way he said it was cooler the way anyone else would have said that, the way he says certain things. Everybody says that, but nobody says it like that. That’s what I try to capture.”
“In the studio, I’ve worked with young artists that won’t work half as hard. He comes to work, man. He comes to the studio with like a lunch pail and a hammer. He comes to do it, and that is totally inspiring to everybody in the room.”
Guy’s new album, “Born to Play Guitar,” includes more guests that the other three he made with Hambridge. Guitarist Billy Gibbons and harp player Kim Wilson play and sing, there are vocals from Josh Stone, and Van Morrison sings a duet with Guy, “Flesh and Blood,” a song dedicated to B.B. King.
Saturday will be the first of three Live at the Arch shows this fall.
“We’re so excited to bringing an outdoor event of this level to Downtown Reno,” said Niki Gross, the managing director of the Whitney Peak Hotel. “Our goal is to activate this part of town to show the community how incredible it could be, and a legend like Buddy Guy headlining our first event is monumental.”
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- Live from the Arch
Buddy Guy, G. Love & Special Sauce, Todd Snider
Where: Reno ReTRAC East at the Whitney Peak Hotel
When: Todd Snider at 6 p.m.; G. Love at 7:15 p.m.; Buddy Guy at 9 p.m.
All ages admitted
Cargo after-party: Morris Day and the Time at 11 p.m.
Tickets: General admission $55; VIP $125 (includes after-party, private viewing area and bar and VIP hospitality room inside hotel.
- Live from the Arch
Oct. 16: Airborne Toxic Event, The Joy Formidable and Sir Sly. After-party: Paper Diamond, Minnesota and PRSN
Oct. 17: Cold War Kids, Manchester Orchestra, Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, the Mowgli’s and Zella Day. After-party: A-Track