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When I Left Home: My Story Hardcover – May 8, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Edition edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306819570
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306819575
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (150 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #514,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


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, 5/30/12
When 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 ane...

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.

Customer Reviews

Buddy's life is a real journey in American Blues Music History.
Carl Bean
He offers numerous stories of his upbringing, the development of his music, his personal life, and his career.
I got a sample of the book on my kindle I can't wait to get the book to finish reading it.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Jefferson TOP 100 REVIEWER on May 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book, written with the help of David Ritz (whose written about Marvin Gaye, Janet Jackson, B.B. King, Leiber and Stoller, and others), is Guy's personal look back from his beginnings to the present time. Thankfully the book retains the flavor of Guy's speech in the word/sentence structure-it wasn't "cleaned up" grammatically or otherwise. Guy also sprinkles profanities throughout his story. One disappointment are the b&w photographs. All but one (of Guy's father) are from much later in Guy's life. It would have been nice to see Guy in earlier periods of his life. There's also a pretty good Selected Discography included.

Guy begins by talking about his solid family up-bringing and the hard life they shared. Writing about their living conditions, Guy describes the wooden shack on pillars, having no water, no electricity, a wood burning stove, glassless windows, and the isolation they encountered, A telling moment is when Guy writes about crawling under their home and lying in the cool dirt to escape the heat. And that the family ate "fresh non-bird meat" only once a year.

Guy's introduction to the guitar was through Henry Smith, a family acquaintance, whose style Guy studied intently. Guy's family scrounged together the $4.35 to buy Smith's guitar, and from that point Guy played that guitar whenever he could-even sleeping with it. With electricity finally reaching the area, Guy heard John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen", Muddy Waters, and Lightnin' Hopkins, among others.

Moving to Baton Rouge, Guy's first real performance was with a man called Big Poppa. But when it came time for Guy to sing, he turned to the wall and sang-and was promptly fired. But most importantly, Baton Rouge is where Guy came under the influence of the great Guitar Slim.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Blues Lover on May 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The blues have always been by my side. I will hunt out and read any all biographies of these great men and women who have brought this music to life. Some are good, some are not. When I saw this book offered, I had no choice but order it right away. I could not put it down. Thank you Buddy for keeping the blues alive and for telling your story. The flavor and feel is so personal and rich. Buddy takes us on a ride through the cotton fields of Louisiana to the streets of Chicago and beyond. I heard Buddy play many times, live....Records could never capture the energy Buddy gave out in a live performance, especially when he was with his soul brother Junior Wells. There would be no Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, or any of those so called guitar gods if it had not been for Buddy Guy. But today Buddy's time has come, respect at last; the respect he deserves as a master of the blues. He stands next to giants like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Lightning Hopkins and so many others who never got the respect they deserved. Buddy speaks not just for himself, but for all the blues men and women who came before him.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A couple of pre-review statements and disclaimers: First... I am a fanatical electric blues fan... and I absolutely love Buddy Guy... and I firmly believe that he is the greatest living electric-blues-man. Second: I take great pride in the integrity of all my reviews and I would never... ever... falsely "tilt" a review simply because I like the artist. My love for Buddy Guy the entertainer has absolutely no impact on the rating of my review. The only thing my love for Buddy did... was make me buy this book to begin with... after that... it will stand on its own. I never forget that the review I write can influence whether a potential buyer will spend their money on this book. And I always hope that the person that writes the reviews I read... weigh heavy in their soul... that people like me decide whether to invest their money and valuable time on a book they review.

Now to the review...

This is a tremendously entertaining and enlightening biography of a true American original... Buddy Guy. The reader is taken from Buddy's impoverished early life as the son of a Louisiana sheer cropper... all the way to becoming an international blues sensation... that not only played with the likes of the Rolling Stones... but was offered multiple contracts from the Beatles... and becoming idolized... by the likes of Eric Clapton... and innumerable other famous guitarists... and as engrossing as this purely American rags to riches story is... from picking cotton as a child... to being almost adopted by the infamous Muddy Waters... when this naïve and wet- behind-the-ears guitar player ventured from the cotton fields in the deep south... to the rough and tumble streets of Chicago... and everything in between and after... the reader is bestowed with what can only... in retrospect...
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lyn S on June 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I pre-purchased this book for my Kindle, and was so happy when it arrived. Of all the biographies I've read recently, this is my favorite. I hated to see it end. I especially like the conversational style -- it was like he was talking directly to me. I was struck by his passion and desire to become such a great musician, and by the family love and support he shared. Thanks for all the great memories, the inspiring story ... and all that wonderful music! Lyn
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