Buddy Guy Recalls First Reaction to a Fender Stratocaster: ’I Thought It Was a Joke’

Guitar blues legend Buddy Guy looked back on his career and recalled how he ended up using Fender Stratocaster guitars in the first place. Famous for his use of Strats, Guy told Guitar World that, initially, he thought that they were pretty odd. At that time, he was using Guild guitars and it was all about hollow-body stuff. As he said:

“The first time I saw a Strat, I thought it was a joke. [Laughs] So I had gone down to New Orleans and saw Guitar Slim playing a Strat, and I had no idea what to make of it. But I realized the hollow-body guitars I was playing needed to be babied because of the weather.”

Guitar Slim who Buddy Guy is mentioning is Eddie Jones, a legendary guitar player who passed away back in the late 1950s.

Buddy Guy | Live at North Sea Jazz 2023

But speaking of how incredibly fragile his guitars were, he added:

“God forbid one got wet; they’d swell up and break. Then I’d have to get them repaired, and they’d have all these nasty scars all over ‘em like someone was chopping at them with an axe. So I turned to Strats because they didn’t get overwhelmed by the weather. And I’ve stayed with them ever since.”

Of course, in the coming years, Stratocasters became his go-to guitars. So much that you pretty much couldn’t think of Buddy Guy’s name without imagining him with Strats bearing his signature polka-dot finish.

Buddy Guy - Polka Dot Love

And speaking of which, these finishes have a weird story behind them. During the interview, Guy was asked how these finishes came to be to which he replied:

“My mother would have a stroke with worry whenever I’d go out into the world. At the time, I was working at LSU [Louisiana State University], making nothing. I knew I had to do something different.”

“So I decided to go to Chicago, but my mother was sick over it. So before I left home, I lied to her and said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to Chicago. I can make more money there.’”

“Then I told her, ‘And when I make some money, I’m gonna drive back down to you in a big polka-dot Cadillac.’ That made her smile.”

Buddy Guy Interview - Playing Fender® Stratocaster® Guitars | Fender

The story has a bittersweet ending. Unfortunately, he never managed to drive her in that polka-dot Cadillac that he promised. However, he used the polka-dot finish in his mother’s honor. As he recalled:

“But I regretted it because I never got the chance to tell her that I lied to her before she passed away. So, I said, ‘You know what? I never did get that polka-dot Cadillac, but I can get a polka-dot guitar in her honor.’”

Buddy Guy’s career beginnings were rough. Now almost 90 years old, young Guy struggled to make ends meet back in the day and his potential success was stalled by Chess Records which refused to acknowledge his ideas.

Buddy Guy in 1969 with Jack Bruce and Buddy Miles

During the interview, Guy was also asked about the time before finally getting his break with his debut album “Left My Blues in San Francisco” in 1967 and whether it’s true that he had to drive a tow truck to make a living. Guy replied:

“Oh, you’d better believe it. I was driving that tow truck because it was the only thing I could do to afford anything. I couldn’t make any money playing the blues until the British guys started getting big. That’s when it came out that they were influenced by all of us guys.”

However, unlike most of his contemporaries from the US, Buddy Guy couldn’t simply just fly to Europe and do a tour:

“I’d play in the clubs, but I wasn’t going to Europe like other black players who made a name for themselves by going there to make money. I had a family and couldn’t do that.”


“Only when the British guys came along did playing the blues become an honest living. That’s when we were able to start playing the colleges. Before that, I couldn’t make enough money playing guitar. So I said, ‘I’m gonna drive this tow truck in the daytime to feed my family.’ And I’d play guitar seven nights a week for pennies.”

Although known among blues and rock guitar players, Guy’s career only got its significant commercial success in 1991 with his album “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues.” When asked about this record and his debut album and whether he thinks they’re his “definitive” records, Guy then shared his favorite:

“I don’t know what the people who buy albums think, but I’ve always liked ‘Feels Like Rain’ [1993] and ‘Skin Deep’ [2008], which have a lot of songs that people request. I guess maybe those resonated with people. I even like the album I made last year [‘The Blues Don’t Lie’].”

Buddy Guy - Blues Don't Lie (Official Audio)

Nonetheless, as Guy adds, he still prefers to do the old-school stuff since his audience kind of expects that. He said:

“But at my age, people don’t look for anything new; they wanna hear the old stuff. So I try to carry on with the type of music people want to hear and give them the old licks that can make the whole house stand still.”

Photo: Alex G (Buddy Guy (4776356923))


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.