Book Review – Buddy Guy’s “When I Left Home”


Buddy Guy’s “When I Left Home”

I first read this book back in 2013 when it first came out. That was long before this website was created. I enjoyed it back then, so I thought that over the weekend I would give it another read.

The weather was pretty nice this weekend so once I finished all of my chores and writing for the website I delved into it.

I became a blues fan at a young age. Well, young for me now, I was fifteen at the time. A friend of my late father gave me a cassette tape of B.B. King live from “The King Biscuit Flower Hour”. Shortly there after I got in to Eric Clapton and then the Rolling Stones. From that came Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Then one day my cousin, who was also an avid young wanna be guitar player came over with a tape of Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. Well, that was it. It was on from there. In my eyes nobody could touch Buddy Guy’s blues guitar playing.

When I Left Home – Buddy Guy – Da Capo Press
My wife put this book in my Christmas stocking in 2013. Yes, like my grandson I still have a Christmas stocking each year. Anyway, I got deep in to this book fast and when I was going through my bookshelf this weekend it stood out as a re-read.

I eagerly embarked, again on the captivating autobiographical journey presented by Buddy Guy in his memoir. To me it was once again enjoyable heartfelt storytelling that show Guy’s unwavering passion for his craft. Guy invites readers into the remarkable life of one of the most influential guitarists in the history of blues. The book has its highs and lows, it succeeds in capturing the essence of Buddy Guy’s extraordinary career.

One of the high points of “When I Left Home” is its candid and engaging narrative style. Guy’s voice resonates throughout the pages, as if he were sitting in a dimly lit club, sharing his life story with intimate detail. His storytelling almost brings to life his childhood in rural Louisiana, his relentless pursuit of his musical dreams, and his encounters with legendary figures such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. The anecdotes are vivid, peppered with humor, and filled with the kind of passion that only a true bluesman possesses.

Another notable aspect of the book is Guy’s unflinching honesty. He bares his soul, revealing both his triumphs and struggles, painting a poignant portrait of the music industry and the personal sacrifices he had to make. The challenges he faced as an African American artist in a racially divided America are not sugar-coated but presented with raw authenticity. It is through his vulnerability that readers can truly connect with his journey, feeling the weight of his successes and failures.

The inclusion of vivid descriptions of the blues scene during the mid-20th century is another high point. Guy expertly transports readers back in time, vividly recreating the vibrant atmosphere of the blues clubs and the spirit of camaraderie among musicians. His vivid recollections of his performances and encounters with fellow blues icons create a sense of nostalgia, allowing readers to experience the magic and energy of those bygone days.

However, “When I Left Home” does have a few low points. At times, the narrative becomes somewhat disjointed, with certain events and periods of Guy’s life receiving more attention than others. Some readers may find themselves wanting more depth in certain areas or wishing for a more cohesive structure. Additionally, while the book delves into Guy’s personal life, including his relationships and family, these aspects could have been further explored to provide a more comprehensive understanding of his journey.

Nevertheless, these minor drawbacks do not detract significantly from the overall quality of “When I Left Home.” Buddy Guy’s autobiography is a captivating and valuable contribution to the blues genre, offering an intimate glimpse into the life of a legendary musician. His compelling storytelling, unwavering honesty, and ability to transport readers to a different era make this memoir a must-read for blues enthusiasts and anyone interested in the life and times of a true musical icon.

So, what to I really think? “When I Left Home” is an essential read for fans of blues music, as well as those seeking an inspiring and authentic account of an artist’s journey. Buddy Guy’s heartfelt storytelling and candid reflections make this autobiography a memorable and valuable addition to the world of music literature. Despite a few minor shortcomings, the highs of this book far outweigh the lows, leaving readers with a deep appreciation for the man behind the guitar and the indelible impact he has made on the blues.

You can still get “When I Left Home” from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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