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Music

The "very dark" blues record Mick Jagger listed as one of his favourites

For Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger the blues wasn’t just music, it was a reason to be optimistic. Born to a staunchly middle-class conservative-leaning family in suburban Kent, the plan was that young Mick would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a teacher. Listening to American blues records must have given Jagger a taste of what lay beyond his perfectly adequate but distinctly unexciting future because it wasn’t long before he was hanging out in London’s first blues and R&B venue, The Ealing Club. It is here that The Rolling Stones would come together. Here, Mick Jagger opens up about one of his favourite blues records of all time.

During his appearance on Planet Rock radio show Blues Power back in 2020, Jagger named a number of his most beloved blues records. Surprisingly, not all of them are from the golden age of Delta blues. Indeed, the rocker listed Fantastic Negrito and Tang & The Bangas’ 2020 offering ‘I’m So Happy I Cry’, as well as Alabama Shakes’ 2016 track ‘Always Alright’. But, as you would expect from a man who grew up on the sound of classic blues, he also made sure to mention tracks by the likes of Albert King, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and the like.

One of the classic records Jagger was careful to name was Buddy Guy’s ‘Baby Please Don’t Leave Me’, as he explained: “From a record called ‘Sweet Tea’, that people (sort of) like and they didn’t like it and everything,” the frontman said. “It was taking Buddy back literally to Mississippi and putting him in a shack, which sounds rather sort of pretentiously weird. Anyway, that’s what they did and used a lot of local Mississippi musicians in an attempt to get Buddy back into the Mississippi Delta.”

Jagger continued: “It was actually the first track on a movie I watched the other night called ‘Hustle & Flow’, a Rap movie. Anyway, this is the track that started off the movie. So I hope you enjoy it. He’s tuned the guitar down like about two tones from the normal tuning. So you will hear what I mean, it makes it very dark.” Buddy Guy was also one of Jimi Hendrix’s favourite blues players. The legendary guitarist, himself a yardstick by which all guitarists are measured, once said: “Heaven is lying at Buddy Guy’s feet while listening to him play guitar.”

Buddy Guy hit his stride in the late 1950s. A whole generation younger than established acts like Muddy Waters and BB King, he managed to cement himself as one of the most in-demand guitarists on the scene. Chess famously refused to work with him because his music was too incendiary. In the eyes of label owner Leonard Chess – who apparently had his artists work as handymen to pay off their studio time – Buddy’s brand of blues was just “noise.”

It’s little wonder Hendrix was infatuated. Guy played the guitar as though the fretboard was speckled with gunpowder and, soon enough, others started to mimic his style, even adopting some of his wildest tricks. That’s right: Hendrix was by no means the first guitarist to play the guitar behind his head. Guy was there at the very beginning. By the time he recorded ‘Baby Please Don’t Leave Me’ he was 64 years old and had seen his popularity soar and stagnate countless times over. But even with all those years under his belt, Buddy Guy still sounded like the toughest blues player on the scene.

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