The new documentary Buddy Guy: The Blues Chase the Blues Away will make its TV debut on PBS’ American Masters series on July 27. It includes contributions from Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Gary Clark Jr., John Mayer, and Kingfish, as well as Guy himself. It will also be available at pbs.org/americanmasters and on the PBS Video app, just before Guy turns 85, on July 30.
The film, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival as part of its Juneteenth programming, tells the story of how Charles “Buddy” Guy, from a sharecropping family in rural Lettswork, Louisiana was inspired by John Lee Hooker’s seminal “Boogie Chillun.” In 1957 he set out for Chicago and played his way onto the city’s blues circuit, performing, recording and befriending Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Rush, and others.
There are archival and never-before-seen performances in the film, including footage of Guy on stage with President Obama and the Rolling Stones, and vintage interviews with Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Willie Dixon. It shows his influences on such admirers as Clapton, the Stones, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
The feature also documents Guy’s decades of work at the forefront of Chicago’s West Side sound and how he struggled for full commercial recognition until the 1990s. As the humble blues titan says in the tribute: “Funny thing about the blues: you play ’em ’cause you got ’em. But when you play ’em, you lose ’em.”
The Blues Chase the Blues Away is directed by Devin Chanda, Devin Amar, Charles Todd, and Matt Mitchener. All but Chanda are creative directors at Scheme Engine, a creative studio which they founded in their dormitory room in 2009. The studio has also made music videos and commercials and collaborated with Jay-Z, Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, and Celine Dion on documentary projects.