The great blues guitarist Albert King said, “If you don’t dig the blues you got a hole in your soul” and I would have to agree with him after this week’s triple-threat blues bill at the Hollywood Bowl featuring the revered harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite, former Fabulous Thunderbirds lead guitarist Jimmie Vaughan and the legendary Buddy Guy.
Charlie Musselwhite; photo by Richard Bilow

The sound of Charlie Musselwhite’s electric blues harmonica and his band kicked things off with a high energy set of rockabilly inspired blues. The 75-year-old Blues Music Hall of Famer, 35-time Blues Music Award winner and 11-time Grammy® nominee (he won one in 2014) displayed his talents during his set backed by a stellar three-piece band. They hit their stride on “Big Legged Woman” and the instrumental jam that followed. The band all had room to shine, in particular guitarist Matt Stubbs and of course, Musselwhite on harmonica and his distinctive gruff vocals. As the set came to close, Musselwhite told an entertaining story about his Chicago days before the band broke into “Strange Land” from his 1967 debut album Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite’s Southside Band. It was a highly energetic set and it was easy to see how Musselwhite was the inspiration for Dan Aykroyd’s character in the Blues Brothers.

The youngster of the night’s lineup, 68-year-old Jimmie Vaughn followed. Backed by an eight-piece band featuring a three-piece horn section (Michael Rinta on trombone, Doug James on baritone sax and Al Gomez on trumpet), the four-time Grammy® winner began with a burning instrumental before playing a couple of tunes from his new album of covers called Baby Please Come Home. A highlight of the set included the blues standard “Texas Flood” which has been part of Vaughn’s set list for years and is also a tribute to his younger brother Stevie Ray, who was closely associated with the tune and used it as the title of his debut album. However, the standout tune was “The Crawl” from The Fabulous Thunderbirds 1980 album What’s the Word. The fun party track provided some audience participation, had the house lights going on and off and gave Vaughn an opportunity to wow the crowd by playing a solo behind his back and over his head.
Jimmie Vaughn; photo by Richard Bilow

Headliner Buddy Guy who just turned 83 is nothing short of a legend. The singer and blues guitarist is a trailblazer; an icon and one of the best guitarists in the world, according to Rolling Stone—number 23. He is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and an eight-time Grammy winner. Guy opened with a scorching version of “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues”. He was in excellent spirits and he toyed with the audience throughout the set. In between blazing guitar solos and booming vocals, he would tease the crowd about messing (although he used a different word) up his lyrics. He also would stop mid-song, after a lewd lyric and say, “Don’t blame me, I didn’t write it.” As he began to play Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man” he said, “I can play something so funky you can smell it.” Then, the band broke into the classic, “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” as the audience sang along. Guy gave a shout out to his drummer, Tom Hambridge, who wrote and produced the song “Cognac,” from the band’s new album The Blues Is Alive and Well.

His showmanship was on full display throughout the night. He placed his guitar on an amplifier and played a solo with a drumstick and a towel. He also played behind his back and let the guitar rest on his butt as he shook it to beat and got the crowd laughing. While the band was playing “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In (Slippin’ Out, Slippin’ In)”, Guy walked through the crowd stopping every now and then to sing a verse or play a solo. When Guy returned to stage he played “Fever” and during the song he played riffs in tribute to John Lee Hooker and B.B. King, whom he called the greatest guitarist of all-time.

Buddy Guy; photo by Richard Bilow

Guy has always been about generous about giving younger guitar slingers a chance to shine and he did this during his set by providing his rhythm guitarist Ric Jaz plenty of opportunities to display his impressive chops. This continued during the encore when he brought out Jimmie Vaughan, young guitar blues prodigy Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and his son Greg Guy. They played Don Nix’s “Going Down,” with each guitarist taking a solo. Buddy Guy took the last solo, said goodbye to the crowd and we all stood up and gave them a thunderous standing ovation. We left with smiles on our faces knowing that great music only gets better with age.

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