His name may not be as recognizable as his face, or even his guitar playing for that matter. But if you have seen a Buddy Guy performance anytime during the decade of the 1990's then you have probably seen and heard Scott Holt. He has been the guitar player in Guy's touring band for the past 10 years. He was that amazing guitar player standing on the right side of the stage during Guy's shows who dazzled audiences when Buddy let him step forward for his nightly blistering solos.
What is equally remarkable is that fact that Holt's Buddy Guy gig was actually his first professional band experience. From Nashville, TN where he still lives today with his wife and new child, Scott first met Buddy Guy at a show in Florida when he was 19 years old. It was also one of the first concerts he had ever attended. His father had set up a meeting between Scott and Buddy backstage after the show. His father had actually called Buddy at a club in Chicago to set up the meeting. The new owner of the club was mad at Buddy at the time and was giving out his home phone number to anyone who called. So his dad called Buddy at home. It could have gone either way, but luckily Buddy was real nice about it and said sure, bring the kid back stage at the Flordia show.
That eventful meeting was the singular turning point in young Scott Holt’s musical career. Holt started playing the guitar just a short time before that concert after first hearing Hendrix. He took some lessons and was introduced to the blues by his teacher. He quickly discovered Vaughan, then Buddy Guy, then Albert King and fell in love with that music. He would practice 8 hours a day, and after that eventful meeting with Buddy Guy he knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He and Buddy immediately hit it off and became friends, keeping in touch over the next four years. A few years later, when Holt was just 23 Buddy asked him to join his band.
Scott had this to say about that eventful first meeting with Buddy Guy. (From an interview with Scott in January 1997 by Jason Blankenship from Buddy Guy's Legends.)
"Well, I met him and I told him that I was just learning how to play and everything. He asked me where I was staying and I told him the name of the hotel which just happened to be the same place he was staying, so he said, "Well, why don't you come up to my room tomorrow and I'll give you a lesson." For me, the whole weekend was just one big thing after another. I went and sat down with him and we played for what felt like three or four hours. I can't even remember now how long it was exactly, but it seemed like it was all day. It was him just showing me different stuff- almost all of which I still use today. We were just playing and handing the guitar back and forth, it was real laid back. After that, after hanging out with him for a couple of days and following the tour and going to the shows, I got to know him and I stayed in touch with him. I would call him every few months just to say "Hi," but, still, I was always real scared of him and nervous because I didn't want to bug him or anything. It would take me six months to work up enough nerve to call him up on the phone and say hi. (laughs) He was always real cool and real nice and never made me feel like I was interfering with anything. So the next year he was going to play down in Florida again at the same place I had first met him. I think it was right around New Years'. I called him up and said, ‘I heard you're playing down in Florida again, I'm gonna' come down and hear you play.’ He said, ‘Well, why don't you just come and sit in?’ We hadn't had any face-to-face contact in a year, so he didn't even know if I had stuck with the guitar or not, he was just inviting me cold. So, the first time I sat in was at this place called the Skipper's Smokehouse. I remember just waiting the whole show, nervous as hell, hoping he was going to call me, you know, kind of afraid that he would and afraid that he wouldn't. Finally, towards the end of the set he called me up and I squawked out my four or five notes, pretty much all that I knew at the time. It just really put the hook in me. That's all that I wanted to do after that was play the guitar. The whole thing, from the first time I met him up until today, he has always been a very gracious and kind person to me. He always encouraged me and he never gave off any negative vibes in any way. He was always very gracious."
"I kept sitting in with him. He invited me up when he opened the club (Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago), I don't think I played the grand opening but I played the first night that it was open. I think it was open for a while before they had the grand opening. Anyway, he kept asking me to come up and sit in with him on many occasions. I don't know exactly when but I remember I got a call one day from my dad who said he had just gotten a call from Buddy's wife saying that Buddy was trying to find me. He was on the road but I finally tracked him down in Arkansas and left him a message. He called me back and asked me if I had a passport, which I didn't. He said, ‘Do you want to come play with me?’ I said, ‘Sure!’ So he told me to get a passport and that we would start in October. It was really off the cuff. I got a one way ticket to Chicago, I didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't even know how much I was going to get paid, or how often we were going to play, nothing like that, I took my guitar and amp and headed to Chicago. He picked me up at the airport and took me home, and we sat around listening to Muddy Waters records and he cooked me dinner and then took me to the club. We got there and I got into a van with a bunch of guys that I had never met before and we headed to Canada. I was just a kid fresh out of the woods (laughs) I had no idea what was going on or what I was supposed to do, so I just kind of watched everybody else, and did what they did."
The next 10 years of Holt’s life have been referred to by Scott as, "My trip to the University." He said his guitar playing has always been a process of self study by watching and learning from the masters up close and then sitting in his room and practicing what he had learned. He got to travel the world with Buddy and along the way has met and played with many of his heroes. People like Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Albert Collins, Double Trouble, the list is practically endless. He has a tremendous respect for tradition and says you need to know the history of the blues to really understand and play it.
For the past 7 years Scott has also been playing with his own band when not on tour with Buddy. Along the way he released his first album, Messing With The Kid, on EMC records and in 1999 with the release of his second album, Dark As The Night, he had to make one of the hardest decisions of his life—to leave Buddy Guy’s band and set out on his own. He really couldn't do justice to both Buddy and his own band now that he was getting pretty busy touring on the heals of his new release. So in December of 1999 he gave notice and got Buddy’s blessing and has been touring with his new band ever since.
Scott’s new band consists of Tom Larson on drums and Leo Lyons on bass. Lyons, who is from England, just happens to be one of the founding members of the rock band, Ten Years After (with Alvin Lee). Leo first saw Scott Holt playing in Nashville near the end of 1999 and was quoted as saying, " Scott Holt is the most exciting guitar player I have seen since 1967. I can't wait to start touring with him."
Scott’s show at the Whiskey Junction kicked off with no preliminaries, he just plugged in and began playing "Messin' With the Kid." He set the house on fire the rest of the night with one of the highlights being his exciting walk out in the audience using what must have been a hundred foot guitar chord—carrying on that flashy tradition he learned from Guy who learned it from Guitar Slim. Carrying on in the tradition of Hendrix, Guy and the Kings, Holt’s guitar playing is strong and fast and has moments of brilliant clarity. He is definitely a player to be reckoned with.
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