3 Must Read Blues Autobiographies: David Honeyboy Edwards, Billy Boy Arnold and Buddy Guy

I find musician’s autobiographies to be some of my most treasured blues books. I enjoy the unfiltered first hand accounts of the blues musician’s journey. -Eric Noden

The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing: The Life and Times of Delta Bluesman Honeyboy Edwards

Chicago Review Press: 1997

I first met Honeyboy Edwards through musician Rick “Cookin'” Sherry in Chicago in the 1990’s. Rick backed up Honeyboy on many shows and played subtle washboard and harmonica behind Honeyboy’s unconventional Delta blues style. Honeyboy was born in 1915 and his story is of particular interest to me because of his encounters with many of the early acoustic blues artists including Charley Patton and Robert Johnson. As a young man he traveled quite a bit with Mississippi blues guitarist Big Joe Williams until Big Joe stole his guitar and disappeared after a gig. He spent time in Memphis with Will “Son Brimmer” Shade and from Memphis Jug Band, Frank Stokes, Memphis Minnie, Sleepy John Estes and more. He also mentions under-appreciated delta bluesman Tommy McClennan, who wrote “Crosscut Saw”. “The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing” is a fascinating look into the world of street performing, gambling, juke joints and house parties from Honeyboy Edward’s unique perspective.

The Blues Dream of Billy Boy Arnold: Billy Boy Arnold with Kim Field

University of Chicago Press: 2021

I first met Billy Boy Arnold when I was organizing a tribute to Big Bill Broonzy show at the Old Town School of Folk Music in 1996. Billy Boy agreed to play some Big Bill songs on the concert and have me accompany him on guitar. I was honored to get the opportunity to meet and work with Billy Boy. Later in 2012 I produced and played guitar on his album “Billy Boy Arnold sings Big Bill Broonzy” on Electro-Fi Records. I’ve always been amazed at the vivid recollections that Billy Boy has of of blues musicians and history. I had always hoped that someone would turn these stories and observations into a book. I was thrilled when I heard that author Kim Field had taken on the task. Kim’s attention to detail, knowledge of the harmonica and commitment to getting Billy Boy’s spoken words in print are evident throughout the book. Arnold has spent his whole life in Chicago and has been a blues artist for over 60 years. Just a few of the musicians Billy Boy encounters in the book include Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Minnie, John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson and Bo Diddley. “The Blues Dream of Billy Boy Arnold” is an amazing account of a life lived deep in the Chicago blues.

When I left Home my story: Buddy Guy with David Ritz

Da Capo Press 2012

Buddy Guy always blows my mind when I see him live because of his ability to win a room over with his charismatic personality and his fiery guitar playing. This book is just as real and honest as Buddy’s live performances. Buddy left Louisiana and moved to Chicago in 1957 where he was soon immersed in the thriving Chicago blues scene. In the city he met Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Brother Montgomery, Earl Hooker, Jimmy Reed and Little Walter just to name a few. This autobiography gives an in depth first hand account of the personalities and music that shaped the Chicago blues. Guy also explains the workings of the Chicago blues record industry that was dominated by Chess records Willie Dixon in the 1950’s and 60’s. In “When I Left Home” Buddy Guy takes you on a spectacular journey from rural Louisiana to the bright lights, big city of Chicago and beyond.

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