CHICAGO (CBS) — The city of Chicago sent bluesman Buddy Guy off in style to the Kennedy Center Awards–as Mayor Emanuel and a select group of bluesmen staged a 45-minute concert on the stage of Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion.
The 76-year-old bluesman arrived with the mayor at his side. Minutes later, Emanuel said that many people have chronicled the Great Migration of blacks to Chicago and other northern cities, “but Buddy Guy wrote the soundtrack.”
Guy appeared humbled as he took the microphone after Emanuel.
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He said Chicago is the true home of the blues — saying he has to “set those straight” who say that Austin, Texas or Memphis deserve that honor — and said he’s glad he decided to stay in Chicago despite encountering wintry weather even before he arrived from his native Louisiana in October 1957.
“I saw birds going to Louisiana because they had a lot of sense with this weather,” he said to the laughter of the crowd. “I got here and it was pretty cold, but I started listening to the music here and I forgot how cold it got.”
Guy quickly fell under the influence of blues immortal Muddy Waters once he arrived in Chicago, worked as a sideman for a series of blues and R&B acts in the late 1950s and 1960s before becoming a star in his own right. He is considered a link between the pioneer Chicago bluesmen and the latest generation.
Emanuel took Guy’s stature as teacher one step further, noting to the crowd that it was Guy who taught President Obama the words to “Sweet Home Chicago.”
Guy is expected to sit with the President and First Lady during the presentation on Sunday. Others who will join Guy as Kennedy Center honorees this year are comedian David Letterman, actor Dustin Hoffman, and the rock band Led Zeppelin.
The distinction from the Kennedy Center is considered the nation’s highest honor for those who have influenced American culture through the arts.