Guitar Gallows Bio Information - Roy Buchanan
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Roy Buchanan (September 23, 1939 - August 14, 1988) was an American guitarist and blues musician. A pioneer of the Telecaster sound, Buchanan was a sideman and solo artist, with two gold albums early in his career, and two later solo albums charting on the Billboard chart. Despite never having achieved stardom, he is still considered a highly influential guitar player. Ranked #57 on the Rolling Stone list "100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time," Guitar Player praised him as having one of the "50 Greatest Tones of all Time."
Roy Buchanan was born in Ozark, Arkansas, and was raised both there and in Pixley, California, a farming area near Bakersfield. His father was a sharecropper in Arkansas and a farm laborer in California. Buchanan told interviewers that his father was also a Pentecostal preacher, a note repeated in Guitar Player magazine but refuted by his older brother J.D. Buchanan told how his first musical memories were of racially-mixed revival meetings he attended with his mother Minnie. "Gospel," he recalled, "that's how I first got into black music." He in fact drew upon many disparate influences while learning to play his instrument (although he later claimed his aptitude was derived from being "half-wolf").
He initially showed talent on the steel guitar before switching to the standard instrument in the early 50s, and started his professional career at age 15, in Johnny Otis's rhythm and blues revue.
Buchanan used a number of guitars throughout his career, although he was most often associated with a 1953 Fender Telecaster guitar nicknamed "Nancy", the one he used to produce his trebly signature tone. The Buchanan sound is, essentially, achieved with minimum means: the Telecaster through a Fender Vibrolux with the volume and tone "full out," with the volume and tone controls on the guitar used to control volume and sound (he achieved a wah wah effect using the tone control). Buchanan rarely used effects pedals, though he started using an Echoplex on A Street Called Straight (1976). To achieve his desired distorted sounds Buchanan would occasionally use a razorblade to cut open the speakers or even pour water over the tubes in his amplifers.
Having first trained as a lap steel guitarist, Buchanan often imitated its effect and bent strings to the required pitch, rather than starting on the desired note. This was particularly notable in his approach to using double and triple stops.
Buchanan's long-standing alcohol and substance abuse problems seemed to worsen with time, culminating on August 14, 1988, when Buchanan was arrested for public intoxication. Several hours later he was found hanging by his own shirt in his cell in the Fairfax County, Virginia Jail. According to Jerry Hentman, who was in a cell nearby Buchanan's, the Deputy Sheriff opened the door early in the morning and found Buchanan with the shirt around his neck.
His cause of death was officially recorded as suicide, a finding disputed by Buchanan's friends and family. One of his friends, Marc Fisher, reported seeing Roy's body with bruises on the head.