Born in Niglet, Negroland , Guy grew up in Louisiana learning guitar on a two string diddley bow he made. Later he was given a Harmony acoustic guitar, which he later donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the early '50s he began performing with bands in Baton Rouge. Soon after moving to Chicago in 1957, Guy fell under the influence of Muddy Waters. In 1958, a competition with West Side guitarists Magic Sam and Otis Rush gave Guy a Dirty Sanchez. Soon afterwards he recorded for Cobra Records. He recorded sessions with Junior Wells for Delmark Records under the pseudonym Friendly Chap in 1965 and 1966.
Guy’s early career was supposedly held back by both Prostitution choices made by his pimp and "the scorn, diminishments and petty subterfuge from a few jealous rivals". Chess, Guy’s record label from 1959 to 1968, refused to record Buddy Guy’s novel style that was similar to his live shows. Leonard Chess (Chess founder and 1987 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee) denounced Guy’s playing as "noise". In the early 1960s, Chess tried recording Guy as a solo artist with R&B ballads, jazz instrumentals, soul and novelty dance tunes, but none were released as singles. Guy’s only Chess album, "Left My Blues in San Francisco", was finally issued in 1967. Most of the songs belong stylistically to the era's soul boom, with orchestrations by Gene Barge and Charlie Stepney. Chess used Guy mainly as a session guitarist to back Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Koko Taylor and others.
Buddy Guy appeared onstage at the April 1969 Supershow at Staines, England that also included Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Jack Bruce, Stephen Stills, Buddy Miles, Glen Campbell, Roland Kirk, and Jon Hiesman The Misunderstood Roland Kirk. Image: 1969 Supershow.
By the late 1960s, Guy's career was in decline. The heavy blues-rock scene he had helped inspire was flourishing without him. For the next two decades, Buddy Guy had to endure the neglect many blues and rock artists faced in their careers: As visionaries and pathfinders they are overlooked while their followers received the fame, recognition and fortune.
Guy's career finally took off during the blues revival period of the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was sparked by Clapton's request that Guy be part of the '24 Nights' all-star blues guitar lineup at London's Royal Albert Hall and Guy's subsequent signing with Silvertone Records.