Buddy Guy’s dedication to his role as a mentor and torchbearer for blues musicians is being celebrated in a documentary, The Torch, which is set for theatrical release on March 18.
Guy is renowned as an iconic blues guitarist and inspiration to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, yet his role in supporting young musicians has often been overlooked. Guitar World has lost count of the many players we’ve encountered over the years who got their break when they were given the chance to perform onstage with Guy.
This has not happened by accident. As one of the last surviving Chicago bluesmen and contemporaries of the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, Guy was tasked with passing the torch by his own late peers and mentors. As Waters put it to him, “Last man standing, don’t let the blues die.”
Now The Torch, directed by Jim Farrell, aims to showcase this side of Guy’s musical journey, focusing on the guitarist’s recent efforts to support new players like Quinn Sullivan and Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram.
“Our aim in The Torch was to showcase Buddy’s brilliance and collaborative generosity onstage, while also achieving a fly on the wall intimacy for those backstage moments where he shares his vast life experiences,” Farrell told Rolling Stone.
“Like Derek Trucks says, ‘I always look forward to getting just whatever time we can with him because you walk away and you feel like there’s been this amazing knowledge dropped on you.’ The Torch shows how both onstage and off, Buddy’s dedication to young talent is truly unprecedented.”
The film includes footage and interviews from a wide variety of players, including Sullivan and Ingram, plus Carlos Santana, Joe Bonamassa, Jonny Lang, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. Sullivan’s story, in particular, is highlighted in the trailer above.
“He never told Quinn what to play or how to play it,” observes Farrell, for Rolling Stone. “He simply shared his stage and audience and gave Quinn enough leash to figure it out on his own. A lot of artists promote the younger generation, and Buddy has done it with other artists, but I’d never heard of anyone doing it to this level. He brought Quinn around the world for more than 10 years and put him on some of the biggest stages, without any expectation of payback.”
In addition to tracking the stories and progress of these young players alongside Guy’s own incredible journey with the guitar, the film also reportedly documents the creation of a new Guy song, The Long, Hard Road – and you can hear a snippet in the trailer.
The Torch is released in selected theaters and on-demand on March 18, 2022. Head to IFC Films for more information.