You’re on stage and six-feet away from the most significant blues guitarist in the world. For guitarist Scott Holt, 10 years of musical lessons imparted nightly by Buddy Guy at that distance were pivotal. Sure there were other dayside life lessons with Guy that Holt found pertinent. Holt he learned how to be on time; what to do about two or three different wake up calls lined up when on the road; what to order for lunch. “I learned that if you’ve never been to a restaurant before you should always order the most expensive item on the menu because odds are that’s the best thing they’ll have,” Holt said with a laugh. “Buddy said ‘Man, order the most expensive thing because you know it’s got to be good if they got the nerve to charge that much.’” No truer words of wisdom spoken from Guy, a man with proud southern sharecropper lineage. Scott Holt appears at the Tip Top in Grand Rapids on Nov. 8. Holt is quick to point out that he’s not trying to take Buddy’s place. “I’m sure I learned a lot of of my stage mannerisms from him,” Holt said from Nashville. “He was such a profound influence. You can’t become that good of friends and not have it rub off on you.” Holt says he learned from Guy how to be an entertainer first. “The first time I saw Buddy he jumped off the stage and walked out in the street,” Holt said of Guy’s stage antics. But perhaps the most important thing Guy ever told Holt was that you have to win over a crowd--all over again--every time. “He taught me to be an entertainer; my job is to entertain people when in a live situation.” There are many blues purists who poo-poo the idea of a bluesman with the stature of Buddy Guy ever doing cover songs. But Guy had the answer for those critics. “A lot of times when an audience doesn’t know you as an artist they don’t know your material,” Holt said with a soft Tennessee drawl. “And when you try to hit them over the head with your original stuff you get blank looks. They don’t recognize that stuff anyway. So you got to shake ‘em up and play some stuff that they do know.” While that was largely Guy’s shtick, Holt admits to having a weird sense of humor of his own. “We’ll cover an Elmore James song or a Jimi Hendrix song but every once and a while a Sex Pistol or Elton John tune pops in there,” Holt said. Holt arrives in Grand Rapids as part of a trio featuring bassist Calvin Johnson, formerly of Anthony Gomes outfit. “I’ve got a great band. They can play anything.” What does that feel like anyway? “It’s like having a really nice race car,” Holt said with a chuckle. “It’ll do whatever you want to do and look good doing it.” For all his exposure to the big time world of blues, Scott Holt still sounds grounded. “I’m definitely not the guitar player Buddy is. I’m not the singer or entertainer he is. But I learned a lot of what I do from him.”
Scott Holt at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids tonight. Doors at 7.