At this point in his life, Guy is the greatest living Chicago bluesman, and one of the most influential guitar players ever. But for more than 50 years, he's also been a club manager. He started managing in 1961 at Club 99 in Joliet, Illinois, where he once booked Little Walter for a 90-cent bottle of Seagrams gin. The Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters came to play Guy's tiny old club the Checkerboard Lounge in 1981 (although their entourage filled up 55 of the club's 65 seats — "I didn't hear my cash register ring once," said Guy).Read the full Buddy Guy piece in Rolling Stone here.
The walls of Legends are covered in guitars donated by visitors: Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan. "Eric don't come around anymore," Guy says of Clapton. "He can't even look at whiskey." The Stones will still visit, though — all four band members enjoyed a rare night out together at Legends in June. ("Keith hasn't slowed down nothing," says Guy. "He drank everything I was selling in the club — moonshine, gin, whiskey, everything. Son of a bitch is made of iron, man.")
Sometimes Guy sticks his head in areas the staff thinks are below his pay grade — he gets testy when drink lines get too long, or when bartenders leave the cash register open. He proudly notes that merchandise sales increase 90 percent when he's in the room. "Most clubs are not surviving because of DUI and non-smoking," he says, "but they come see me sitting at the bar and take pictures."
Legends is one of the few major Chicago blues clubs standing. "I think if I closed my club, there might be two left," says Guy. When he first arrived here, in 1957, "there wasn't even space to have another club, there were so many. You could work Chicago seven nights a week. They were small, 40 to 50 people. But Muddy was playing, Sonny Boy Williamson, all of 'em. No cover charge."