Leroy “Roy” Buchanan (September 23, 1939 – August 14, 1988) was an American guitarist and blues musician. A pioneer of the Telecaster sound, Buchanan worked as a sideman and as a solo artist, with two gold albums early in his career and two later solo albums that made it to the Billboard chart.
Highly Influential Guitar Player
He never achieved stardom, but is considered a highly influential guitar player. Guitar Player praised him as having one of the “50 Greatest Tones of All Time.” He appeared on the PBS music program Austin City Limits in 1977 (season 2).
Leroy Buchanan was born in Ozark, Arkansas, and was raised there and in Pixley, California, a farming area near Bakersfield. His father was a sharecropper in Arkansas and a farm laborer in California. Buchanan told interviewers that his father was also a Pentecostal preacher, a note repeated in Guitar Player magazine but disputed by his older brother J.D.
He in fact drew upon many disparate influences while learning to play the guitar (though he later claimed his aptitude derived from being “half-wolf”). He initially showed talent on steel guitar before switching to guitar in the early 50s, and started his professional career at age 15, in Johnny Otis’s rhythm and blues revue.
In 1958, Buchanan made his recording debut accompanying Dale Hawkins (Buchanan played the solo on “My Babe”) for Chicago’s Chess Records. Two years later, during a tour through Toronto, Buchanan left Dale Hawkins to play for his cousin Ronnie Hawkins and tutor Ronnie’s guitar player, Robbie Robertson.
Buchanan used a number of guitars in his career, although he was most often associated with a 1953 Fender Telecaster, serial number 2324, nicknamed “Nancy.” At some point “Nancy” had jumbo frets installed, but remained largely original.
There are two very different stories explaining how Buchanan got the guitar. He himself said that, while enrolled in 1969 in a school to learn to be a hairdresser, he ran after a guy walking down the street with that guitar, and bought him a purple Telecaster to trade.
A friend of Buchanan’s, however, said that Buchanan was playing a Gibson Les Paul at the time, and traded it for the ’53 Tele. One of Buchanan’s Telecasters was later owned by Danny Gatton and Mike Stern, who lost it in a robbery.
Has Influenced Many Guitarists
Buchanan has influenced many guitarists, including Robbie Robertson, Gary Moore, Danny Gatton, Arlen Roth, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Jerry Garcia, Mick Ronson, Nils Lofgren, Jim Campilongo, and Steve Kimock; Beck dedicated his version of “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” from Blow by Blow to him.
His work is said to “stretch the limits of the electric guitar,” and he is praised for “his subtlety of tone and the breadth of his knowledge, from the blackest of blues to moaning R&B and clean, concise, bone-deep rock ‘n’ roll.”
In 2004, Guitar Player listed his version of “Sweet Dreams,” from his debut album on Polydor, Roy Buchanan, as having one of the “50 Greatest Tones of All Time.” In the same year, the readers of Guitar Player voted Buchanan #46 in a top 50 readers’ poll.
Read more on Wikipedia
Compiled by SHARON Q