Roy Buchanan Biography

23 September 1939, Ozark, Alabama, USA, d. 14 August 1988. The son of a preacher, Buchanan discovered gospel music through the influence of travelling revivalists. This interest engendered his love of R&B and, having served an apprenticeship playing guitar in scores of minor groups, he secured fame on joining Dale Hawkins in 1958. Although Buchanan is often erroneously credited with the break on the singer’s much-lauded ‘Suzie-Q’, contributions on ‘My Babe’ and ‘Grandma’s House’ confirmed his remarkable talent. Buchanan also recorded with Freddie Cannon, Bob Luman and the Hawks, and completed several low-key singles in his own right before retiring in 1962. However, he re-emerged in the following decade with Roy Buchanan, an accomplished, versatile set that included a slow, hypnotic rendition of the C&W standard ‘Sweet Dreams’. Loading Zone was an accomplished album and contained two of his finest (and longest) outings - the pulsating ‘Green Onions’, which featured shared solos with the song’s co-composer Steve Cropper, and the extraordinary ‘Ramon’s Blues’ (again with Cropper). His trademark battered Fender Telecaster guitar gave a distinctive treble-sounding tone to his work. A series of similarly crafted albums were released, before the guitarist again drifted out of the limelight. His career was rekindled in 1986 with When A Guitar Plays The Blues, but despite enjoying the accolades of many contemporaries, including Robbie Robertson, Buchanan was never comfortable with the role of virtuoso. A shy, reticent individual, he made several unsuccessful suicide attempts before hanging himself in a police cell in 1988, following his arrest on a drink-driving charge. For some Buchanan’s tone was a little sharp on the ear, but there could be no denying his rightful place as a guitar virtuoso.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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