At 83, Buddy Guy is the elder statesman of the blues, a Chicago legend whose unique guitar vocabulary and six-string mastery leave most other guitarists shaking their heads in wonderment. He continues to record and tour regularly, and for more than a decade his go-to man for drums, production, and a lot of songwriting has been Tom Hambridge, whose songwriting success alone, especially in the blues arena, eclipses that of most writers.
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Hambridge was the sole author of “Living Proof,” the title track of Guy’s 2010 Grammy-winning album. “Living Proof” is somewhat unusual for a modern-day blues song; where the origins of lyrics by such Delta blues writers as Blind Willie Johnson and Robert Johnson (no relation) had deep roots in spiritual matters, that’s not so much the case these days. But Hambridge’s “Living Proof” lyric obviously comes from the same place of faith as the work of some of the greats, with lines like
When you’re too weak to walk, He’ll carry you through
I’m living proof
Just say a prayer, He’ll listen to you
I’m living proof.
Hambridge says that his belief in the Almighty led him to write “Living Proof.” “I believe in God and I know that He is responsible for all the good in my life,” he says. “He saves me daily. I believe that anyone who has gone through trials and tribulations, tough times, and has made it through, is proof that there is a higher power watching over us and caring for us during those hard times. I wanted to express this in a song.”
While some listeners might balk at a song with God-centric lyrics and black Gospel harmonies, Hambridge says the subject matter wasn’t a negative factor when Buddy Guy made the decision to not only cut the song, but to make it the album’s title track. “Nobody brought that up,” Hambridge says. “It’s interesting how a song can make someone feel good and yet they may not be aware of what it’s truly about. I wrote it and put it on a CD with some other songs for Buddy to consider. He heard it, liked it and wanted to record it. At every step along the way it kept getting a good reaction, so the song kept moving along until after the album was done. I suggested it as the title track and Buddy, his management and the label loved the idea. I’m very honored that ‘Living Proof’ won Song of the Year at the Blues Awards, and it was surreal when the album Living Proof won the Album of the Year Grammy. They were playing the song as Buddy and I walked onstage to accept the Grammy Award.”
Currently on the road with Guy in support of his latest album, The Blues Is Alive and Well, Hambridge is also well-known in Nashville as a successful country writer. He co-wrote Keith Anderson’s ASCAP award-winning “Every Time I Hear Your Name,” as well as cuts by Rascal Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus and others. He says he doesn’t really make any distinction between styles when he starts to develop an idea – he just writes. “There’s no real difference. Each time I sit down I just try to write the best song I can that day.”