When I Left Home: My Story

When I Left Home: My Story

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According to Eric Clapton, John Mayer, and the late Stevie Ray Vaughn, Buddy Guy is the greatest blues guitarist of all time. An enormous influence on these musicians as well as Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck, he is the living embodiment of Chicago blues.

Guy's epic story stands at the absolute nexus of modern blues. He came to Chicago from rural Louisiana in the fifties—the very moment when urban blues were electrifying our culture. He was a regular session player at Chess Records. Willie Dixon was his mentor. He was a sideman in the bands of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. He and Junior Wells formed a band of their own. In the sixties, he became a recording star in his own right.

When I Left Home tells Guy's picaresque story in his own unique voice, that of a storyteller who remembers everything, including blues masters in their prime and the exploding, evolving culture of music that happened all around him.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780306821790
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 03/26/2013
Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 176,581
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Buddy Guy was born in 1936 in Lettsworth, Louisiana. He is considered among the best blues guitarists alive today. He lives in Chicago.

David Ritz is the coauthor of many bestselling autobiographies of musicians, including Ray Charles, Etta James, Scott Weiland, Grandmaster Flash, and more. He is the author of Divided Soul, the definitive biography of Marvin Gaye, and lives in Los Angeles.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Kirkus, 2/15/12
“Tasty as a Buddy Guy guitar lick.”

Library Journal, 3/1/12
“Guy is a vibrant and hilarious storyteller. With a natural ease and honesty, he captures the spirit of the age, the culture of violence in the clubs, and the personalities of his colleagues...Highly recommended for any fan of Guy and those interested in the history of blues music.” Publishers Weekly, 4/16/12“As mesmerizing a storyteller as a guitarist, Guy, writing with Ritz, regales readers with tales of growing up picking cotton in rural Alabama, of seeing his first guitar and standing transfixed in front of Lightning Slim for several hours just memorizing the movements of Slim’s hands, of his father’s friend buying his first guitar for him, and of his endless efforts to play the blues as he had heard and seen Slim and others play…Guy’s memoir is a joyous celebration of the blues, one of our greatest musical treasures.” Chicago Magazine, May 2012“[A] must-read autobiography…What makes the breezy and revealing book special is its ability to bring history—Guy’s own, as well as that of Chicago blues—to life.” Internet Review of Books, 4/6/12“In When I Left Home: My Story we finally get inside Buddy Guy, guitar muse to Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and the Rolling Stones (to name but a few)…Buddy's narrative is cousin to his music. It's down home. It's not clean and prissy…This biography gives the reader unabridged stories of many of the great blues artists of his day and before, and raw images of the Chicago blues scene as it was from the 1950s to the 1980s…A valuable and rare insight into the music and the musician.” Record Collector, May 2012
“Gives the whole picture, from sharecropping family to big city hustling; guitar-playing to womanizing and back again…[Guy] gives a real flavour of the age and circumstances he grew up on.” Boston Globe, 5/11/12“A lively, sharply etched account of Guy’s unlikely ascent from sharecropper roots in Louisiana to the blues hotbed of Chicago and beyond.” Memphis Commercial Appeal, 5/4/12“The music fans [Guy] has affected so profoundly over his 50-plus year career will at last know how he feels.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 5/11/12“Buddy makes his life come alive…Told in his own style and language, the book reads more like a blues song than an actual book, each verse telling a different story. And what stories they are…Buddy's book is as colourful as the blues…If you're looking for a reasonably unvarnished account of the blues life, Buddy has it here…The book is funny, sad, tragic, lusty, honest, loving and insightful. Just like the blues. Just like Buddy Guy. If you love the blues and all that it means, you should love this book.” Houston Press, 5/8/12“In this memoir, the story of [Guy’s] life is also the tale of the music itself of the past 50-plus years…There’s a treasure trove of stories here.” BluesPowR blog, 5/10/12
When I Left Home covers an amazing amount of ground in its close to 300 pages…Relayed in a simple, conversational manner, the book does a terrific job of documenting the life of one of blues music's biggest living stars, making it a must-read for any fan of the blues…When I Left Home isn't, as the title indicates, just Buddy's story; in many respects, this is a story of the blues.” 
Shelf Awareness
, 5/15/12
“The stories in this memoir read as a veritable who’s who of modern electric blues…The man who defined the sound of the Chicago blues and influenced a generation of rock guitarists shares his life story.” BackstageAxxess.com, 5/8/12“The book is a musical journey…A great read, not only for the blues enthusiast, but for the rock and roll enthusiast as well.” Toronto Star, 5/13/12“[Guy’s] co-writer, David Ritz, has served his partner well: Guy’s down-home syntax reads like well-wrought fiction.”

Booklist, 6/1/12
“[An] amiable and entertaining biography…Full of fascinating anecdotes about some of the greatest of the twentieth-century bluesmen and the now mostly shuttered South and West Side Chicago blues clubs they played in…A must for Buddy Guy fans and blues enthusiasts.”

DownBeat, July 2012
“Buddy Guy is a stellar storyteller…The guitarist relates the fascinating story of his life in the well-organized, speedily read When I Left Home…Guy weighs in on the blues experience, good and bad, maintaining a warmth of spirit…Guy gives his two cents on blues Chicago without lapsing into romanticizing…Buddy Guy’s smile on the cover of When I Left Home is every but a lasting image for modern blues.” Washington Times, 5/25/12“Filled with high spirits, good humor, magnanimity toward old foes and gratitude toward those who helped him. [Guy] tells his story in the earthy, salty style of the blues itself, honest about feelings, frank about sex, all imbued with an unconquerable love of life, even (especially?) at its hardest. Mr. Guy owes a debt to his co-author, David Ritz, who has helped capture the sound, the rhythms and the raw energy of the language bluesmen speak…The book is rich in anecdotes, hilarious and tragic, about the giants he knew…Quite a tribute. Quite a book. Quite a Guy.” PopMatters.com, 5/30/12When I Left Home: My Story is exactly what is promises to be: the recollections of a 74-year-old blues maestro who paid his dues, grew up poor, gigged a lot and rubbed elbows with some of the most remarkable musicians of his time, even as he himself developed into another of that elite group…A compulsively readable book.” Blogcritics.org, 5/25/12“[A] lively autobiography...Throughout Guy’s vivid character sketches, anecdotes, and descriptions of his work in the studio and in clubs, Guy reveals the realities of the music business…A perfect blend of insights, observations, and behind-the-scenes looks into a seminal place and time in American music. Guy’s perspective seems balanced, candid, and level-headed…He knows how to tell a story with an open-hearted personality and down-home style.” WBEZ Blog, 5/29/12
“Guy takes the reader on a wonderful ride filled with humor, sadness, some regret, lucky breaks and, of course, music.” Los Angeles Times, 6/10/12“A colorful account of [Guy’s] 50-year-long tenure as perhaps the most influential guitar slinger in Chicago blues.” Jackson Clarion Ledger, 6/7/12“Next to B.B. King, there's no bigger blues star today than George ‘Buddy’ Guy, a major influence on Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix…Blues fans will cherish this insider's take on the last half-century of the genre.” The Daily Beast, 6/7/12“Ramblingly entertaining.” A.V. Club, 5/28/12“In memoir, likeability helps, and Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy is an easy guy to like.” BlindedBySound.com, 6/1/12“It's fascinating to hear Guy tell of his formative years…In addition to seeing the journey of his life through his own eyes, the real joy in this book is the cast of characters we're introduced to…His stories bring these men back to life and his love for them is genuine and palpable…A breezy yet engaging read.” Maclean’s, 6/6/12“In unvarnished prose dotted with vernacular poetry, Guy relates his journey from rags to relative riches with the help of younger acolytes such as Keith Richards and Eric Clapton; along the way, he gives us the story of the blues as an art form and unstable, even dangerous, business. He tells it like it was.” Guitarist (UK), July 2012
“Entertaining, lively and vivid…[Guy] emerges as real as you’d dare hope…Guy is connected to the blues in a way that runs so deep it’s difficult to fully understand and appreciate; this book explains the link.” Living Blues, June 2012“What makes this rendition special is the care with which Guy and his co-writer David Ritz limn the details and make everything come alive…The ‘you-are-there’ feel of living history that the best autobiographies afford us is among the richest gifts to be garnered from this book…Rewarding reading for long-time fans as well as newer, more casual acquaintances.” New York Journal of Books, 5/22/12“[An] entertaining first-person narrative by an iconic musician…Many amusing anecdotes…Well worth reading—especially for blues fans interested in the southern rural and Chicago music scenes of the 1960s to the present.” Asbury Park Press, 6/3/12“When you think about the blues, and blues guitarists in particular, it’s hard not to think of Buddy Guy.” Montreal Gazette, 6/14/12
“Reading it is like hearing a Buddy Guy solo.” New York Post, 6/17/12“[A] captivating memoir.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 6/17/12“The book is like the blues: sad, humorous, joyous and plainspokenly insightful.” San Antonio Express News, 6/14/12“[Ritz] did a masterful job of getting Guy’s story down in his own words. Guy doesn’t sugarcoat anything, but he has done a whale of a job growing up positive, working positive, living positive and making music that makes people feel nothing but good.” Sacramento Bee, 6/17/12
“Guy is one of the world’s top bluesmen, a seen-it-all artist who helped shape an American sound. Here, he recalls his life transformation.”

Chicago Sun-Times, 6/24/12
“Rich with tales from Buddy Guy’s storied life…When I Left Home travels well in a down-home style that is uniquely Guy…Ritz gets out of the way and lets Guy play.”

Milwaukee Shepherd-Express, 6/19/12“A dazzling book, rife with details about people, guitars and historically significant musical events…Will enthrall Guy’s fans as well as guitar aficionados and cultural historians. It’s a lively and informative book placing one of the last, living blues greats in proper perspective…Anyone consumed by the blues will find that this book makes them feel right at home.” Austin Chronicle, 6/15/12“Guy’s recount of his hoochie-coochie life…An easy read, heavy with dialogue…An insightful look into a Chess Records crew that got into just as much trouble as anybody willing to waltz their way down South Michigan Avenue…Since Guy was there every step of the way from 1960 on, he’s got stories to tell.” InfoDad.com, 6/21/12“Ritz deserves credit for helping Guy tell his story in a voice that seems authentic…The detail and personal insight are wonderfully well communicated…Guy’s fans will enjoy hearing his voice come clearly through in this book, and the many names that he drops will be of interest to them, too.” London Daily Telegraph (UK), 6/20/12
“His book does his life story justice.”
Smooth Jazz News
, July 2012
“[Guy] relates the story of his life in a lively conversational tone…Entertaining and enlightening.” Tucson Citizen, 7/3/12“The personal story of a man who helped redefine American music.” Bookviews Blog, July 2012
“For anyone who loves the blues, I guarantee you will love this autobiography.”

Elmore, July/August 2012“Not just an account of a musician’s triumphs, but a stunning representation of the struggles and sacrifices only a boy playin’ the blues knows. Vernacular intact, Guy tells an honest tale…Endearing and informative…When I Left Home gives the blues the attention it deserves—and then some.”

Asbury Park Press, 7/15/12“A pleasant read.”
KMUW.org“Anything but dull…Guy is a great storyteller. He also comes across as a clear observer, a surprisingly shy and modest man who has a unique perspective of one of the few remaining witnesses to the most important times and places in blues history…Thoroughly entertaining and engaging…A true pleasure to read.”

New Orleans Times-Picayune, 7/29/12“A big, bluesy autobiography packed with vivid anecdotes and authentic passion.”
Blues News“[Ritz] has allowed Buddy Guy to tell his story simply but effectively…Guy’s narrative has a downhome elegance…An engaging account by one of the most acclaimed blues men of our time.”
Washington Independent Review of Books“Filled with wonderful tales—convincingly written in the conversational style you might expect from an old blues man…Throughout the book Guy’s confident yet self-effacing manner and his appreciation of other people inside and outside the music world is a winning combination.”
San Francisco Book Review, August 2012“[A] heartfelt autobiography…[Guy’s] anecdotes about mentors are priceless. Guy is an American treasure. Listen to a Buddy Guy playlist while reading this, and you’re in blues heaven.”

The Weekender, 7/25/12“[Guy] proves that his gift of song extends to every page he writes…Guy’s narration, much like his music, is deeply satuated by emotions… Impeccable transitioning from chapter to chapter, keeping readers interested and involved. There is a definite grittiness to the book, something raw at certain instances, but all the while addicting.”
Midwest Book Review, July 2012“A 'must' for any collection strong in blues music history in general and the autobiographies of blues musicians in particular.”
Midwest Book Review, July 2012“For those who want a powerful personal story of a man fueled by music out of Chicago, "When I Left Home" is a fine addition to any biography collection focusing on musicians, especially the Blues men of the twentieth century."

Guitar World, October 2012“One of the very best books we’ve read in some time…A great read for anyone who loves music. Guy tells the entire history of the blues from the eyes of someone who saw it all go down. It is bawdy and hilarious and offers a true glimpse of what it was like to make music with some of the greatest guitarists who ever plugged in and bent a blue note to the heavens.”
Baton Rouge Advocate, 8/5/12“Guy is not afraid to reveal the dirty, humiliating and altogether human aspects of his long and fascinating like…He brings the story forth in vivid color.”

Gambit, 9/4/12“[A] breezy read. In tone, it's as if Guy is sitting on a barstool telling you his life story.”

GuitarInternational.com, 9/11/12“[An] amazingly rich and colorful, deeply insightful, and warmly jubilant, autobiographical document of his life and of the incomparable Guy’s lifelong love affair with the blues.”

Summit Daily News, 9/21/12“An autobiography wherein the reader can learn some great musical history…[Guy] writes a simple story that makes you feel like you’re listening to him in your living room.”

OffBeat, August 2012“The man who might just be the greatest living six-string electric guitar player portrays his life as mythology, which might offend without his perpetual humility , laced with humor, and without all the bona-fide myths surrounding him.”

Curled Up with a Good Book, 10/14/12“The beauty of the book is that it's written in the particular and colorful way in which Guy talks…Guy is funny and able to laugh at himself and turn the misery around him into something humorous and uplifting. If you're a fan of Buddy Guy or just want to hear the story of the history of the blues from one of the men who created the style, pick this up.”

New York Times Book Review, 12/2/12“A likable…telling of a classic American story…Certainly add[s] some new details to the history of the blues.”
Tribune, 12/2/12“Memoirs by Patti Smith and Keith Richards sparked a flurry of musicians' autobiographies this year. Perhaps the best of the crop were When I Left Home by Buddy Guy with David Ritz, which features a particularly riveting account of his early, lonely years in Chicago.”
New Orleans
magazine, November 2012“Fans of blues legend Buddy Guy will enjoy his autobiography…The book is an eye-opening look at Guy’s life story…Guy’s distinctive voice helps the book read more like a novel than an autobiography.”
“Bookworm Sez” syndicated column, 11/22/12
“It’ll be an R&B fan’s favorite gift.”

A KMUW.org “Best Books in Music 2012”

KMUW.org, 12/13/12
“A surprisingly readable look back at [Guy’s] life…including a vivid account of the tough times he faced at first in Chicago and intriguing portraits of some of the blues legends whose paths he crossed on the way to become one himself.”

Reference and Research Book News, December 2012
“In his own voice, [Guy] describes milestones in his career such as playing alongside blues greats Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, the transition to electric blues, and concerts with the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead in the 1960s.”

Customer Reviews