blues guitar

Hound Dog Taylor looks typically jovial while cradling his Kawai-made Kingston S4T. Note the length of his slide, on the fifth of six fingers on his left hand. It is longer than the width of his guitar's estimable neck.

Photo by Diane Allmen

Cheap guitars, cheap booze, and amps on stun—the shaggy tale of the legendary court jester of Chicago slide-guitar blues.

What magicians really practice is subterfuge. The noisy blues mage Hound Dog Taylor was a master. His quote, "When I die, they'll say 'He couldn't play shit, but he sure made it sound good,'" is emblazoned on a T-shirt, over a photo of his 6-fingered fretting and sliding hand. And his stage persona—laughing and joking at warp speed and bullhorn volume, drunk, Pall Mall dangling from his lips, a huge slide raking his Kawai Kingston's strings in a way that made his amp detonate fragmentation bombs—was that of a barroom jester. But there is genuine magic at the nucleus of Hound Dog's wild-ass playing, for the effect it had on audiences and the story in sound it still tells.

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