by John Sowell
AUGUST 13, 2011
The eighth-grader at Spencer Butte Middle School in Eugene never got that autograph and she missed most of the show. Still, she had the time of her life when the blues legend called for her to join him on stage and front his band.
Coen, using a guitar borrowed from Guy, launched into “Fever,” a song written by Eddie Cooley and John Davenport and originally recorded by Little Willie John in 1958. It later became a hit for Peggy Lee.
Guy stood several paces behind the youngster and flashed a wide smile as he and members of his band accompanied her. When she finished, Coen started to walk off the stage but was stopped by Guy.
“Have you got another one? “They love you,” Guy said, motioning to the cheering crowd.
She chose another classic, Cross Road Blues, released on an old 78 rpm record in 1936 by Robert Johnson. By the time Coen was finished, she received a standing ovation.
“She wasn’t holding back. At that age, I was quiet,” said Guy, 75, who grew up in Louisiana but made his mark in Chicago, where he moved in 1957 and fell under the tutelage of Muddy Waters. “The next time Buddy Guy comes to town, bring your own guitar.”
A chance conversation with a News-Review reporter led to Coen’s performance at the PremierWest Bank Amphitheater. She and her dad, Josh Coen, were interviewed about an hour before the show as they stood on the grass outside the performers’ dressing room behind the stage.
They were asked why they had come to the show and what they hoped to hear. Savanna told how she had been singing since she was 10 and began singing blues and playing the guitar a year later and how she would love to meet Guy and get his autograph.
Harold Phillips, the fairgrounds director, offered her a ticket for a short meet-and-greet session with about two dozen people and the performers. She had her photo taken with Jimmy Vaughan, who performed for an hour before Guy went on stage, and got an autograph from the Texan.
The group was brought back later for a similar audience with Guy. She told him how she attended last summer’s Blues Kids camp in Chicago, with attendees invited after auditions. Coen and the other youngsters performed in a finale held at Guy’s Legends nightclub in downtown Chicago.
During their conversation, Coen got the surprise of her life.
“He just asked me to come out and perform with him. It was amazing. I didn’t expect that at all,” she said. “I was just looking for an autograph.’
Backstage after the show, Phillips praised the youngster and offered her a spot performing on the Charter Communications Garden Park Stage.
“That was wonderful. You were phenomenal,” Phillips said. “I would love to have you here next year for the fair.”
About 4,000 people watched the performances by Vaughan and Guy. It was the first blues concert during the history of the Douglas Country Fair.
Vaughan, who formed The Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1974, played off a list that included “I Ain’t Never,” “Miss You So,” “Shake a Hand” and “Comin’ & Goin’.”
Guy played without a set list, performing an assortment of old and new songs.
A song off his latest album Living Proof, “74 Years Young,” brought the crowd to its feet and led fans to clap. Among others, Guy played “She’s 19 Years Old,” “Skin Deep” and a standard from his mentor Waters, “Hoochie Coochie Man.”
Guy, who celebrated his 75th birthday July 30, had the street in front of his Chicago club renamed Honorary Buddy Guy Way last week, following a presentation by city officials.
Guy roamed the stage throughout his 90-minute set. He showed great energy and even broke a couple of guitar picks early in the performance. He bantered with the audience and drew laughs when he turned his electric guitar backwards and rubbed it up and down his chest as the guitar emitted a scratching noise.
“You’re all making me feel at home here,” he said, acknowledging the crowd reaction.