We focus this week on what was probably the most argued
about absence on our 'Masters of the Telecaster' list: Roy Buchanan. You asked for it, you
demanded it, some of you might have even got pissed off about it ... and we feel
it a lot. Consequently, we promised you an 'In
the style of', not to seek forgiveness for our profanity but at least to
make it more bearable, and so here we are, writing these lines on the
anniversary of his birthday.
Roy Buchanan is a guy whose most characteristic sound is always linked to a guitar with the name of a doll, Nancy, but with quite a few more years, as it is a 1953 Fender Telecaster. Nancy, acquired in 1969 by the guitarist, used to always be plugged into a Fender Vibrolux with the tone jammed at number 10. It was more or less with that that he forged his sound, although many of you already know that the real 'mojo' of Roy Buchanan was what he was able to extract from that minimalist equipment. His games with the potentiometers, both of tone (to create that kind of so characteristic wah effect), and with the volume, to create those solos full of 'swell', and his playing technique– both with and without a pick – as well as creating those harmonics that were so sharp that others copied him afterwards, are really the essence of his legacy.
But we are here to talk about guitars, not hands and fingers, and therefore we have to tell you that although we talked about him being a 'Master of the Telecaster', at the end of the 70s he swapped his Nancy for a Fender Stratocaster and a 30th Anniversary Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. With these two guitars he spent most of the early 80's until he eventually returned to the Telecaster: however this time not with his traveling friend Nancy but with a 1983 Fender Telecaster with some Bill Lawrence pickups, which produced much more output than those of the 50s.
Also during this time he tried to find new tones and sounds in amplifiers like the Peavey, the Marshall and the Mesa Boogie until finally becoming anchored to the Roland Jazz Chorus 120, almost until the end of his life. He also cracked the cones of his speakers, by the way, to achieve a saturated sound, like Dave Davies of the Kinks did years before to record You Really Got Me. He was not inclined to get those distortion effects by using pedals on the floor, but we do know that he used the Echoplex and a Boss DD-2 to get the 'slapback' effect.
Maybe he never got the popular recognition he deserved, some nicknamed him "the best unknown guitarist in the world", but he did get the veneration of some of the greatest guitarists of his time and those who have come later, such as Danny Gatton, Jeff Beck and Gary Moore. Perhaps if he had not decided to take his own life - or as his family maintains, if the police at Fairfax County prison had not taken his life - today, he could have taken advantage of the passion of new generations to listen to blues from the pre-youtube era; that rootsy blues that comes from the soul and not from music scores, and he could perhaps have enjoyed some of the star status that he never got during his lifetime.