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Roy Buchanan

Roy Buchanan

Roy Buchanan (September 23, 1939 – August 14, 1988) was an American guitarist and blues musician. A pioneer of the Telecaster sound, Buchanan was a sideman and solo artist, with two gold albums early in his career, and two later solo albums that made it on to the Billboard chart. Despite never having achieved stardom, he is still considered a highly influential guitar player. Guitar Player praised him as having one of the "50 Greatest Tones of all Time."GuitarsBuchanan used a number of guitars in his career, although he was most often associated with a 1953 Fender Telecaster, serial number 2324, nicknamed "Nancy." There are two very different stories explaining how Buchanan got the guitar. He himself said that, while enrolled in 1969 in a school to learn to be a hairdresser, he ran after a guy walking down the street with that guitar, and bought him a purple Telecaster to trade. A friend of Buchanan's, however, said that Buchanan was playing a Gibson Les Paul at the time, and traded it for the '53 Tele. One of Buchanan's Telecasters was later owned by Danny Gatton and Mike Stern, who lost it in a robbery.


Buchanan achieved his sound through minimum means. He played the Telecaster through a Fender Vibrolux amplifier with the volume and tone "full out," and used the guitar's volume and tone controls to control volume and sound (he achieved a wah wah effect using the tone control). To achieve his desired distorted sounds, Buchanan at one point used a razor blade to slit the paper cones of the speakers in his amp, an approach also employed by the Kinks' Dave Davies; additionally, he was even reputed to have poured water over the tubes in his amplifiers. Buchanan rarely used effects pedals, though he started using an Echoplex on A Street Called Straight (1976),. In his later career he played with a Boss DD-2 delay.


Buchanan taught himself various playing techniques, including "chicken pickin". He sometimes used his thumb nail rather than a plectrum, and also employed it to augment his index finger and pick. Holding the pick between his thumb and forefinger, Buchanan also plucked the string and simultaneously touched it lightly with the lower edge of his thumb at one of the harmonic nodes, thus suppressing lower overtones and emphasising the harmonic, sometimes referred to as pinch harmonics, though Buchanan called it an "overtone." Buchanan could play harmonics at will, and could mute individual strings with free right-hand fingers while picking or pinching others. He was famous as well for his oblique bends.Having first played lap steel guitar, Buchanan often imitated its effect and bent strings to the required pitch, rather than starting on the desired note. This was particularly notable in his approach to using double and triple stops.


Buchanan has influenced many guitarists, including Gary Moore, Danny Gatton, and Jeff Beck; Beck dedicated his version of "Cause We've Ended As Lovers" from Blow by Blow to him. His work is said to "stretch the limits of the electric guitar," and he is praised for "his subtlety of tone and the breadth of his knowledge, from the blackest of blues to moaning R&B and clean, concise, bone-deep rock 'n' roll." In 2004, Guitar Player listed his version of "Sweet Dreams," from his debut album on Polydor, Roy Buchanan, as having one of the "50 Greatest Tones of All Time." In the same year, the readers of Guitar Player voted Buchanan #46 in a top 50 readers' poll. Roy is the subject of Freddy Blohm's song "King of a Small Room."Roy Buchanan is interred at Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

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