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New Music

Sample Ian's Tunes

Ian And Guitar

The Reverend Gary Davis
Ian At Yale Hoot

Marty Brennan and Charlie Barton 1957


To a small circle of New York based blues and guitar enthusiasts in the early 1960s, Ian Buchanan was one of the greatest then-living masters of traditional blues.

Ian's teen years were devoted to collecting recordings of country blues and mastering guitar techniques by various black players of the '30s and '40s. He studied with Reverend Gary Davis for about five years, leading to a lasting and affectionate friendship, in which Davis laughingly referred to Ian as "his white son."

After a brief stint at NYU, Ian transferred to Antioch College in 1958, where his dramatic, complex playing and singing caught the interest of students and musicians at the forefront of the folk revival. He consolidated his mastery of tunes by a broad range of traditional artists, ranging from Lonnie Johnson to Big Bill Broonzy, and while at Antioch he taught guitar technique to fellow students John Hammond, Jr. and Jorma Kaukonen.

Buchanan's playing of country blues was his passion. His mastery transcended "authentic" and developed into a sound that was personal, unique and brilliant. But as remarkable as his playing and singing became, he remained an "artists artist", indifferent to self promotion and content to be the center of a small circle of friends and admirers. Reserved, in his style and singing in a "natural" voice, his guitar playing showed him to be somewhat ahead of his time. He would not hesitate to show and teach his finger picking technique to anyone with a serious interest. His voice changed in intensity and tone, as one can hear in his Home Recordings, after a serious fall in early 1970 that left him paraplegic for the last twelve years of his life.

Ian's developing genius can be appreciated on this retrospective collection, which includes virtually all of the known informal recordings as well as his contributions to The Blues Project, (EKS-7264), Pigmeat Blues Band- Whatever Happened to Ian Buchanan, (GRT 10013) and the recently released Gary Davis Style, (Inside Sounds CD508).

Ian Buchanan died in December, 1982.

Ian Buchanan
Kirsten Dahl
May 19, 2005

Ian was born in Ontario, Canada on November 10, 1939 to a young single woman of a family of cabinet makers; his mother gave him up for adoption at birth. Ian was adopted through the Spence-Chapin adoption agency by the Buchanan family who lived in Forest Hills, Queens, New York City. The Buchanans had already adopted a two year older boy, named Richard. Mr. And Mrs. Buchanan were newspaper journalists (Ian jokingly referred to them as "hard bitten"); at some point, Ian's mother became editor of Parents Magazine. Ian had photographs of himself as a child posing for an article in the magazine. From a fairly early age Ian felt that he was different from his adoptive family and he felt more alienated as he grew up. We learned his family background when we consulted the adoption agency because Ian had developed a mild diabetes and wanted to know about his family medical history. The story of his biological mother's family gave him some explanation of why he had always felt so different from the other Buchanans. Ian's adoptive father died when Ian was in his mid-teens; Ian said he felt somewhat closer to his father than his mother, but experienced both as cold, distant, middle class strivers who didn=t understand him or his interest in the blues.

Ian took up the guitar in his teens and developed an early interest in what was then called the country blues, becoming a passionate collector of old 78s pretty much unknown to anyone else, re-recording them on his professional reel to reel tape recorder. When I knew him (1961-1967) he had an enormous collection of carefully catalogued tapes of old 78s of then largely unknown of blues artists from the 30s and 40s. In his late teens he sought out Reverend Gary Davis (who lived in the South Bronx at that time) and began lessons with him; he studied with Davis off and on for maybe 5 years. Ian remained close to Davis for many years after he stopped studying with him and would visit him at his house and also occasionally attended church services when Davis was preaching. Davis in turn was very fond of Ian, often laughingly referring to him as "my white son." Davis was not his only influence, however. Ian's tastes in the blues were broad ranging from Lonnie Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leroy Carr/Scrapper Blackwell (Blues before Sunrise) , Furry Lewis, and particular songs by Big Bill Broonzy (especially Keys to the Highway), Hopkins and everyone in between. Ian's taste in the blues was for harmonically complex but understated blues; he disliked electric guitar (although eventually he became interested in playing it) and what he viewed as over the top blues performers. Although Ian was very musical, easily picking up instruments (e.g. piano, harmonica, auto-harp), he could concentrate for days or weeks on one musician, dissecting his style bit by bit until he felt he had mastered it. He had an extensive repertoire; a few of the songs he routinely played were:

Keep on Truckin' Mama
How Long Blues
That'll Never Happen No More
Candy Man
Silver City Bound
I'm a Ram Rod Daddy
Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning

Ian made three recordings: on Elektra album (EKS-7264; 1963) "The Blues Project" he sang "Winding Boy;" "Pigmeat Blues Band: Whatever Happened to Ian Buchanan?" (GRT 10013; 1967) and he sings and plays "Hesitation Blues" on the recently released "gary davis style" (InsideSounds CD 508). The "Pigmeat Blues Band" album includes recordings of "Kind Hearted Woman", "Like a Circle Around the Sun" and "Sweet, Sweet Marie."

Ian began college at NYU's engineering school but then in 1958 transferred to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio - a school that more closely matched his own unconventional style. At that time Antioch attracted a lot of kids from New York City who were talented in the sciences and the arts. It was politically left wing. Students at Antioch viewed themselves as an outpost of "the city" (NYC) both because so many were from there and because so many held co-op jobs in New York through Antioch's work-study program. When Ian began at Antioch, there was a lot of interest in bluegrass but much less in the blues; there were few white acoustic blues guitarists. Ian quickly became a kind of legend on campus - partly because of his James Dean style (black leather jacket, rolled tee-shirts with a pack of Camels held by the roll, well worn blue jeans and engineer boots) and partly because of his brilliant blues guitar. Although very bright, Ian was not much interested in scholastic achievement nor in college life beyond music making. There was a lot of the latter at Antioch but not enough to keep Ian there for long; he dropped out in 1959. He moved back to his family home in Queens and began performing in Greenwich Village: Goerde's Folk City, Caf Bizarre and Caf Wha among others. Ian liked performing for an appreciative, knowledgeable audience but he found much of the club scene pretentious and irritating. One of his favorite stories was of a NY Times critic who heard him play and said foolishly, "Wow that sounds like really old time Negro music, where did you learn it?" Ian's sardonic reply "From an old time Negro" cut short any further conversation. On the other hand the musical scene in the late 50s in Greenwich Village was exciting because other white blues guitarists were emerging as well, people like Dave Van Ronk, Danny Kalb, John Sebastian, and Spider John Koerner. There was a very active folk music scene as well (Bob Dylan also played at Goerde's which had a Monday night open mike policy) but Ian was never interested in folk music, although he enjoyed and could play bluegrass. During this period he also worked at a therapeutic residential school for troubled inner city kids. Ian had a strong interest in troubled adolescents because he had been one himself; he had not graduated from his local public high school but from a private school in Manhattan for troubled adolescents.

Ian returned to Antioch in the summer of 1961. Of course his legend proceeded him and everyone on the campus eagerly anticipated his return. He resumed playing Friday nights at the local bakery - he had an arrangement with the baker that Ian would play all night to entertain the baker as he baked. Anyone could come listen and occasionally other musicians would join in. Ian was a very generous musicianBhe liked playing with others who were as serious as he was and he enjoyed teaching newcomers. It was at Antioch that he taught and played with Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna) and John Hammond, Jr.

As graduation loomed, Ian struggled to figure out what to do. He had no interest in continuing in psychology (his undergraduate major) but also didn't want to return to the club scene in Greenwich Village which he felt was degrading. He was accepted in Guitar Performance at the Mannes College of Music; his plan was to study classical guitar with the idea he might be able to make a living performing and teaching. He was also eager to return to his hometown, Queens and pick up his old friendships. Ian lasted about a year at Mannes. He actually enjoyed it as much as he ever enjoyed any educational setting and he admired his guitar teacher. He developed a small cyst in his right hand, however, which compromised his ability to play classical guitar. He was told in a medical consultation that although the cyst could be removed the operation itself would probably also damage his playing ability. Ian was shattered. He briefly studied jazz guitar and then returned to his deepest passion, the blues. He continued playing the blues until his death. Around 1965 he turned to the electric guitar and formed the first of many small blues bands with his oldest friend, Marty Brennan; his hope was that traditional blues electrified in a band would find him a wider audience than solo acoustic work.

Ian was a loving, generous man. He was never cruel or mean but would simply withdraw from social contact if he found the other person hard to bear. He was most comfortable either with his close friends or performing, but became ill at ease with large groups or people he did not know very well. He was laconic, finding it hard to express his deepest feelings except through his music. He had a wonderful, whimsical sense of humor that often involved word play and puns. He was a person of contradictions: although he dressed in a sort of 50s juvenile delinquent style, his tee shirts actually were imported from England and he had a standing charge account at Brooks Brothers. He liked performing as in playing with and for other musicians, but had little interest in self promotion. His career in music always depended on his reputation and his friends pursuing gigs for him. Ian had a number of interests besides music. He was an avid ham radio operator, often staying up late into the night contacting other radio buffs around the world. He was entranced by the beauty of tropical fish and had a large aquarium of many different species he tended carefully. He loved good design whether in furniture, guitars or well built engines. He once owned an Austin-Healy but sold it because it spent so much time up on blocks; he replaced it with a VW Beetle which he loved because he could fix the engine himself. Equally he loved a well designed motorcycle, at one point owning both a large touring BSA and a smaller off road bike. He loved riding his bikes but he also loved spending long hours cleaning and tuning their engines.

In June of 1970 Ian suffered a terrible fall that left him a paralplegic. Although in constant pain and sometimes depressed, he continued to perform and teach. He died on December 9, 1982.

Jimmie Rodgers Music

Marty Brennan

It was on a cold rainy Tuesday  night in February, 1970; the  Pig Meat Blues Band, with Ian Buchanan had just finished their one and only set at the Filmore East and were enjoying a free case of Heineken in their cubby-hole of a dressing room, when a stranger in a "Six Button Benny" camel hair overcoat walked in. He introduced himself as Roy Horton and asked as if we'd be interested in recording some Jimmie Rodgers songs. He said he was told by our one and only record producer, Harold Kleiner of GRT records, of our insistence in always including a Jimmie Rodgers song in our playing. Would we be interested?!!

It was Jimmie Rodgers singing and yodeling that brought Ian Buchanan and me together in 1951 when I heard him playing "Brakeman's Blues" sitting on the stoop of his Mother's house in Forest Hills, Queens. It was the love of this music that morphed us from the gangland zip-gun life and anti-social activities of the streets into the even more anti-social world of Hillbilly music and the Blues. But it was safer.

After years of playing together, Ian delved further into the Blues, while I became his rhythm man and stayed closer to Country and Hillbilly music. We always played Blues and rural American music in all our band efforts; The TBQ, the Cagemen (in our rock and roll period), and the Pigmeat Blues Band, named after Leadbelly's "Pig Meat Papa".

So, on that cold and rainy night in February, a beautiful and far too brief relationship started with Country Music Hall of Famer, Roy Horton.

Inviting the Band up to his offices, Peer Southern Music in the Mony building in midtown NY, Roy realized how much we loved Jimmie Rodgers and graciously unlocked the door to the Jimmie Rodgers archives at Peer Southern and showed us the personal letters and photographs sent by Jimmie to Ralph Peer. Needless to say Ian and I had entered "Hillbilly Heaven".

Roy recorded us, under his personal supervision, at the Peer Southern studios and gave us free reign in song selection and let us invite the house band of Jimmie Ryan's Cafe on 54th street, which was fronted by "Little Jazz" himself, Roy Eldridge, to assist on two of the songs.

  Ian and Roy are passed on now, so this project is a cherished memory for me.                        

Marty Brennan

My Time Ain't Long:
Ian Buchanan Sings Jimmie Rodgers

Jimmie CD Cover
Jimmie CD Back
Jimmie CD Insert
Jimmie CD Label

CD Set Lists

Following are the playlists for several Ian Buchanan recordings. The first four are for the four CDs in the Retrospective Collection. The next is for the Ian Sings Jimmie Rodgers CD. And the last is for the original 'Pigmeat Tape.'

Too Close To Heaven
A Retrospective Collection: 1957-1982

Disc 1: Ian Buchanan and Friends
Yale Hoots 1957-1960

  1. 219 Blues (1:46)
    Ian Buchanan, guitar & vocal
  2. Instrumental(1:39)
    Charlie Barton, guitar
  3. Betty and Dupree (1:38)
    Ian Buchanan, guitar & vocal
  4. John Henry (2:55)
  5. Pawn Shop Blues (3:12)
  6. Sportin' Life (2:24)
  7. Hard Luck Blues 2:22
  8. Careless Love (2:21)
    Ian Buchanan, guitar & vocal
    Charlie Barton, guitar
  9. Woman At The Well (2:16)
    Ian Buchanan, guitar & vocal
  10. Muddy Water (1:34)
    Frank Collin
  11. Dear Old Dixie (1:13)
    Grey Sky Boys
  12. Rowan County Blues (2:29)
    George McCeney
  13. East Virginia Blues (2:16)
    Ian Buchanan & Marty Brennan, guitars & vocals
  14. Banjo Tune (1:22)
  15. I Ate The Baloney (1:37)
  16. Mother's Not Dead (3:31)
    Ann Bird and Margaret Wagner
  17. Sweet Annie (3:15)
    Ann Bird and Margaret Wagner
  18. Sailor In The Deep Blue Sea (3:38)
    George McCeney, autoharp
  19. Flower Garden (3:49)
    Ann Bird and Margaret Wagner
  20. The Butcher Boy (2:23)
    George McCeney, guitar & vocal

Too Close To Heaven
A Retrospective Collection: 1957-1982

Disc 2: Antioch College & Queens, NY
Ian Buchanan, guitar & vocals

  1. Ranrod Daddy (3:27)
  2. Too Close To Heaven (1:35)
  3. True Religion (2:55)
  4. How Long (3:00)
  5. Keep On Truckin' (2:25)
  6. Silver City Bound (3:10)
  7. Candy Man 2:20
  8. Good Morning Blues (2:21)
  9. Ride My Mule (1:51)
  10. Everyday I Have The Blues (3:12)
  11. Winding Boy (3:17)

Too Close To Heaven
A Retrospective Collection: 1957-1982

Disc 3: Ian Buchanan Home Tapes: 1968-1980
Ian Buchanan, First Guitar; Marty Brennan, Second Guitar

  1. All Arouind The Water Tank (3:21)
  2. Hard Luck Blues (2:55)
  3. Roll Your Lemon (3:09)
  4. Bad Feelin' Blues (2:29)
  5. Lifesaver Blues (6:09)
  6. Too Close (1:42)
  7. Alberta [slower version] (3:33)
  8. Alberta [faster version] (3:49)
  9. No Education (3:20)
  10. Cocaine Blues (2:32)
  11. Civil War March (2:30)
  12. Sportin' Life (3:37)
  13. Ramrod Daddy (4:51)
  14. Do Right Papa (2:09)
  15. Careless Love #1 (1:44)
  16. Careless Love #2 (5:05)
  17. Bad Feelin' Blues w/bass (3:45)
    Bob Guida, bass
  18. Lifesaver Blues w/bass (00:47)
    Bob Guida, bass

Too Close To Heaven
A Retrospective Collection: 1957-1982

Disc 4: Ian Buchanan 'Live' At Eagle Tavern
May 25, 1982
Ian Buchanan & Marty Brennan, Guitars & vocals; Pat Conte, Mandolin; Bob Guida, Bass; Brian Moran, Harmonica

  1. Lifeboat Blues (8:31)
  2. Careless Love (4:41)
  3. When The Sun Goes Down (2:16)
  4. Cocaine Blues (3:09)
  5. Alberta (6:04)
  6. You Don't Know (3:27)
  7. Don't Lie To Me (4:38)
  8. Winding Boy (4:36)
  9. Too Close To Heaven (1:12)

'Ian Buchanan Sings Jimmie Rodgers' CD

My Time Ain't Long:
Ian Buchanan Sings Jimmie Rodgers

  1. All Arouind The Water Tank (2:32)
  2. California Blues (2:36)
  3. For The Sake Of Days Gone By (4:34)
  4. Desert Blues (2:04)
  5. TB Blues (3:11)
  6. Old Pal (2:28)
  7. My Carolina Sunshine Girl (2:43)
  8. Jailhouse Blues (v. Maxine Rabinovitch) (2:27)
  9. Pistol Packin' Papa (3:09)
  10. In The Jailhouse Now (2:43)
  11. Never No Mo' Blues (3:17)
  12. My Old Pal (acoustic) (2:56)

Ian Buchanan 'The Pigmeat Blues Band'

Ian Buchanan 'The Pigmeat Blues Band'

Ian Buchanan, guitar and vocals
Marty Brennan, bass and vocals
Steve Winchell, drums and vocals
Kurt Braunstein, guitars
Buddy Lucas, harmonica
Richie Gotherer, Piano

  1. Pigmeat Theme (5:25)
  2. New Fort Worth Blues (3:15)
  3. Kind Hearted Woman (3:50)
  4. Like a Circle Round the Sun (3:05)
  5. Come Back (2:20)
  6. Desert Blues (Big Chief Buffalo Nickel) (2:00)
  7. Sweet, Sweet Marie (3:50)
  8. Don't You Lie to Me (3:10)
  9. Tombstone (3:25)
  10. Me and the Devil (2:30)
  11. Down the Highway (3:44)

Ian Buchanan 'The Pigmeat Blues Band'
Original CD Images

CD Cover
CD Back
CD Insert

Ian Buchanan - 'My Main Stuff'

My Main Stuff
  1. Bach/Bouree (2:11)
  2. Bad Feelin' Blues (2:33)
  3. Careless Love (4:19)
  4. Death Don't Have No Mercy (3:52)
  5. Furniture Man (2:15)
  6. Hellhound On My Trail (2:05)
  7. Hesitation Blues (3:11)
  8. Sail Away (1:54)
  9. Search My Heart (4:31)
  10. Silver City Bound (3:30)

Ian Buchanan 'My Main Stuff'
Original CD Images

CD Cover
CD Tray Card

Ian Buchanan - 'Blues 1973'

Blues 1973
  1. Freight Train
  2. Careless Love
  3. Bad Feelin Blues
  4. Silver City Bound
  5. Windin Boy
  6. Blues Fallin Down Like Hail
  7. No Education Blues
  8. Death Don't Have No Mercy
  9. Don't You Leave Me Here
  10. Blues Following Me
  11. Cocaine Blues
  12. That'll Never Happen No More
  13. How Long Blues
  14. You Don't Know My Mind
  15. Hesitation Blues
  16. Goin So Far

Ian Buchanan 'Blues 1973'
Original CD Images

CD Cover
CD Back
CD Label

Arrange To Purchase Boxed Set

This is a labor of love and not a commercial enterprise, so please email about purchasing this boxed set of CDs.

Memories of Ian Buchanan
Ed Nettleton

I was perhaps Ian's last guitar student. I was managing a shop in 1982 in Westbury, Long Island and my friend, Arnold Brown, who also worked there knew Ian through their shared interest in ham radio. Because Ian was at that point in a wheelchair, Arnold used to go to his apartment in Queens and help him with his ham gear, especially the antenna. In 1982 I was a Jorma Kaukonen and acoustic blues fan and was taking lessons in the city from Woody Mann. Sometimes I would bring my guitar to work and practice at lunch time. Arnold was interested and would listen and I would tell him about Jorma and the fingerstyle guitar playing. One day I mentioned that Jorma learned from a guy named Ian Buchanan and Arnold said "I know a guy named Ian Buchanan". I didn't think much of it at that time until Arnold came into work about a week later and said he was over at Ian's helping him with his ham gear and said "Ian plays guitar and knew Jorma a long time ago". Well, I was pretty flabbergasted! To me this was like living history in one of my major interests. Arnold gave me Ian's phone number, I called and asked if he was still giving lessons. Ian said he had not in a long time but would be happy to if I was interested. Interested?!?, You're Darn Tootin' (with the Fargo movie accent)! Well, I went over to Ian's apt in Queens, off the Jewel Ave exit, about 8 times I think, taking lessons on Saturday mornings. I asked him some about Jorma and learned as much guitar playing as I could. I remember Ian telling me about how he used to go over to Rev. Gary Davis's house in Harlem and that once Ian lost his car keys in the snow. He had to walk home in the snow and wait 3 days before it melted before he could find his keys again. The other thing I thought was funny at the time was I asked Ian how he played "That'll Never Happen No More", I showed him what I had of it and stated that I thought Jorma's beginning to the tune was different; Ian said "Jorma never learned how to play that song correctly!". I found that pretty funny at the time. Then Ian played the Blind Blake version perfectly.

At some point I skipped a Saturday lesson and went to Maine on vacation with my wife. When I next came into work Arnold told me that Ian had died. I was scheduled for another lesson the coming Saturday. It was a big shock. I felt I had become friends with Ian. We would talk about various things and he was always very nice and friendly. I was aware of Ian's "issues" but whenever I was there I never experienced anything but a nice guy with a lot of patience. Ian said he Areally didn't play out any more because people do not want to see a guy in a wheelchair playing blues". Ian was playing more jazz at the time (on a Gibson ES175 I think). We had been talking about maybe going into the city to see some music and stuff and he seemed to have a pretty positive outlook on things. A few days later Arnold told me Ian's brother was over at his apartment and was selling his "stuff" and did I want to go over and get something? I did not because I felt somehow I would be like a vulture. Ian had a Crown R2R, the Gibson and some other things. I am now sorry I did not go over solely for the memory aspect of it. It would have been nice to have something of Ian's as a memento.

It turns out I have the best memory of Ian of all though: I recorded all the guitar lessons and condensed them down to 2 CDRs. I periodically go back and listen to them and relearn things I have forgotten or mixed up. Some years ago I gave Jorma a copy of my Ian lessons. Jorma said he liked the lessons best because he could hear Ian's voice again. I have been to Fur Peace Ranch about 10 times; the second time was to take lessons from John Hammond. I spent some time with John and Jorma talking about Ian, especially the playing at the bakery story. John Hammond had nice things to say about Ian also. Between Jorma and John Hammond, Ian had significant influence on music that would come along in later years, especially through Jorma. The first acoustic Hot Tuna album (New Orleans Coffee House one) is basically everything Ian first taught Jorma, which Jorma later said in liner notes should have been dedicated to Ian initially. This first Hot Tuna album exposed fingerstyle blues to thousands of kids, and it is Ian that was the initial influence. Ian gave Jorma the basic tools which enabled Jorma to make some of the best music ever and bring the acoustic guitar to the popular forefront more than anyone else, long before the "Unplugged" craze of a few years ago.

Richie Jenkins

My career as an electric bass player began when I was nineteen with my association with Ian Buchanan, a white man who also happened to be a great blues singer… maybe the best I've ever heard. His voice had a high, wailing, painful purity that was a story all by itself. Ian sang and played lead guitar and supervised the arrangements for our band, "The Traditional Blues Quartet." Traditional because we played the old tunes by the wise old masters of the blues: Blind Blake, Lonnie Johnson and the legendary Jimmie Rodgers, to name a few. And traditional also, because we played simply, sparsely, with a touch of push, but just a touch. Our sound held in place and supervised by our leader. And I, for one, needed some supervision. I came in playing bass like a runaway guitar man: busy and out on my own. Ian let me have it:
"Jenkin, you can't keep on doing like that. Play it just like I show you now."
And he'd show me the part, sparse and simple yet pain-stakingly difficult for me to settle into. My urge was to fill up the holes, to pack the spaces with sound… not good. I learned a lot about the music needing to breathe, and how the bass creates a foundation. Thanks to Ian and The Traditional Blues Quartet, I discovered the bliss in staying at home and doing my part.

Ian Buchanan (lead guitar and vocals), Marty Brennan (rhythm guitar), Steve (“Motown”) Cohen (drums), and myself (bass guitar) appearing five nights a week at the Café Bizarre on 3rd Street in Greenwich Village for an extended stay. They paid us twenty-five dollars a night for the band. Some nights nobody came. Some nights it was a few of our friends and a couple of sailors. Everyone else was down at the Café Wha? where The Lovin' Spoonful were just getting started. But listen when I tell you, The Traditional Blues Quartet was so beautiful. It had to be the purest, most gut-wrenching blues sound in the city.

Our front man was a living master. Pale soft white skin on a thin frame, a stoic demeanor laced with sour sarcasm, and the true blues coming out of the side of his mouth. Ian's music was sparse, notes chosen the old-fashioned way: by earning them over time. He would let each tune run through him over and over until it came out clean and clear. And that's what he sang, and that's what he made sure we all played. Ian lived the life and we backed him up. A taste of the ragtime, a taste of the ancient wisdom and the greatest white blues singer in the world. But you'll have to take my word for it now. Ian's gone and he's been gone for a long time.

Three steps down and through the black swinging doors and you're inside the Café Bizarre. It's dark down here, and you can see the place goes back deep underground, under big old New York Buildings. Immediately to your left is a long shiny bar but keep walking straight ahead (you've got to feel your way) to reach the tables and chairs up front.

Ian's seated on a stool center stage, leaning into the mic, singing it like I already told you. It just chills you down. Marty and I are back a few feet on either side providing the space, the rhythmic environment for Ian to work. Below us off the stage to the left is "Motown" Cohen looking up at Ian, checking off on the beat, keeping it straight like Ian wants it.

The place is a sea of emptiness. Two friends standing by the bar, one sitting alone down in front on the right. A man and woman come down the stairs (Are they lost?) and find seats half-way back. Ian sings:
(A slow blues played sparingly)
"It's rainin' and stormin' on the sea,
And the waves are dark at night,
It's rainin' and stormin' on the sea,
And the waves are dark at night,
Captain says, ‘Boys forget the sails,
Cause we won't see home tonight.'" This is one of the tunes where I'm hardly playing. A big low note here and there, played right on the center of the beat and that's all.
Ian looks over and gives me one of his raised eyebrows to keep me honest.
All is well. The plan is in place. The music flows from the plan so that Ian can lay down the truth of the blues.
"Uncle Sam's ship is sailing,
Painted out in red, white and blue,
Uncle Sam's ship is sailing,
Painted out in red, white and blue,
I say we live in New York City,
Red white and blue brothers all the way thru."

Remembering Ian
Spencer Lambert

I took guitar lessons from Ian in the '60s when he was living in Kew Gardens, Queens. He and Marty Brennan had gone partners in a little coffee house beside the Long Island Railroad tracks with an enigmatic woman I knew only as Mud. Collectively, they had the vague idea that they might get a cabaret license and hang out there forever. It didn't happen. (This coffee house, by the way, had been known earlier as The Interlude. I worked there as a busboy for a summer or two. It was right across the tracks from where Kitty Genovese was killed in 1964.) I met Ian through a friend, RIchie Jenkin, who played bass in one of Ian's bands. I used to watch the band rehearse... and I was completely hypnotized by everything Ian did... from the way he led the band, to the repertoire he selected, to the incredibly affecting way he had of singing and playing. I wanted to be able to play everything he could play... and sing just like him, which of course, was impossible. Ian taught me Winding Boy, Candyman, Bad Feelin' Blues, Walking Blues, That'll Never Happen No More, and a few other songs. As I recall, the lessons were entirely by memory... no paper ever changed hands. Once Ian paid me the highest compliment when I played the previous week's lesson for him. "You've been practicing," was all he said. He was a fascinating man, and an absolutely incredible musician and performer. He had the most impeccable taste in music, and came out of that early American  tradition that blended different forms, where white and black players were trading licks and lyrics. He also seemed to have a visionary sense of where music was headed. Some of his students went on to herald a new age in music, where our deepest downhome traditions re-asserted themselves into new generations of popular music. Now Ian has become a legend. It was truly a privilege to know him and experience his music firsthand.

Ira Greene

Ian Buchanan, musician, was a joy to the heart. I probably was at fifty of his sessions or concerts over a period of fifteen years or so. I met him and Marty Brennan through a young man I chanced to speak to one evening on Lefferts Boulevard in Kew Gardens. He was Mark Aubel, a teenager whose friends were all in their mid-twenties. He was Ian's and Marty's acolyte and often sat in with them playing the French Harp. Mark has been my friend for more than 40 years. With his wife, Terri, he now runs a K-8 accredited private school "Once Upon A time," in Richmond Hill, Queens that centers upon the performing arts. My meeting with Mark led me into a musical journey that opened a world of knowledge. I remain Ian's fan even now. I recall seeing Ian stride solo onto a theatre stage carrying a three-legged stool just after a raucous blues band had played for a highly demonstrative East Village audience. The contrast to the preceding act was remarkable. The audience grew silent as Ian entered. Who was this slim strange figure who dared to come on stage without an instrument? People asked in whispers. "Who is this cat?" Suddenly, Ian sat on the stool, and a capella, did an electrfying performance of "Jack of Diamonds." He received a standing ovation! He then brought out his guitar and played a great set of accompanied numbers. It was a classic Ian performance! After he was confined to the wheelchair, my wife, Mieko, would visit him at his 108th Street apartment. We would talk for hours, and sometimes he'd play for her. A year or so older than me, he always encouraged me to focus on my own musical education. When I think of a great talent like Ian in light of the popularity of banal and untalented "artists" in our land today, I recall Mayall's lyric on J.B. Lenoir "playing unappreciated Blues in vain." Perhaps only a few folks remember Ian and his work, but those of us fortunate to have known him as a friend as well as a musician will never forget his genius.


Memories of Ian Buchanan
Rudolph Scherreiks
Munich, Germany
January 2010

Ian Buchanan, Ronnie Nealy and I were an inseparable trio for quite a few years B probably between1958 and 1961. I first met Ian at Peggy O’Leary’s house not far from the Buchanan house in Forest Hills. Up until that time I had heard of Ian as being "a young angry intellectual". My first knowledge of Ian "the guitar player" stemmed from my friends Donald Lev and Charley Barton. I was told that Charley and Ian had been friends, before my time. Charley and Ian had a fateful argument concerning altruism and whether or not Homo Sapiens is fundamentally capable of being purely unselfish. This ended their friendship and all the surrounding friends, including myself, at a still later date, were unable to mend the schism between these two strong personalities.

Anyway, at the O’Leary’s house when I first met Ian, Ian played guitar and was getting into a heated discussion about social-political things with the elders of the O’Leary household. Peggy, who was desperately, but to no avail, in love with Ian, was delighted. Ian knew that I was a friend of Charley’s so that at first we kept distance from one another. Ian was a year older than I and much more sophisticated and educated. I admired his guitar playing enormously. At that time I was taking lessons from Charley with whom Ian had played guitar before their fateful argument. Ian and I did not at first hit it off together too well, but the ice was broken and in the following days we saw one another a few times and got to be friends. I was interested in the same stuff as Ian and spent a lot of time being handy and keeping him company in his driveway, garage and radio-room upstairs in his house. In return I got to hear Ian play and sing and received free guitar lessons. At that time, Ian admired Charley Barton’s three finger picking especially of "Freight Train", which Charley had shown to me. I could hardly do it as well as Charley, but a short passage was especially interesting for Ian, which I had to show him a number of times. Whether this was worked into his rendition I do not know. I do know, however, with that session I learned how to do two-finger picking and what syncopation means. One night, Ian needed help installing a short wave antenna on his roof. We both climbed out of the attic window onto the roof into the dark night. As we straddled the roof, stretching the antenna wire as taught as possible, we had to be quiet not to arouse any neighbors, who were continuously claiming that their TV reception was being disturbed by Ian s ham radio operation. One neighbor even claimed that he saw Ian on TV talking into a microphone. It was a very culturally conservative area, but we managed the installation and Ian was able to reach Australia that night. Later, Ian took me along with him to visit the Reverend Gary Davis, who at that time lived in a small house in the Bronx. I suppose the drive up to the Bronx was too boring for Ian and I kept him company. My rewards were lessons for free and peach pie and coffee too.

At other times, when Ian did a gig in the Village we often all went along, Ronnie Nealy, Marty Brennan, Donald Lev and me. Ian and Dave Von Ronk sometimes shared evenings at Cafe Wha or some other coffee house or night club. Otherwise we met Ian later at a Village party after going to Gerde’s Folk City where we got well acquainted with Bob Dylan, way before he got famous. On Saturday nights in the Autumn we went to hoots at Yale, often without Ian because he would be at Antioch.

An especially vivid memory I still have of Ian at one of the Yale hoots concerns me playing guitar together with Ian. Ian was unusually nervous about playing at Yale. I can imagine a few reasons why, but they are only subjective. His fame in New York and Antioch had reached Yale and perhaps he was afraid he would not live up to their expectations. Anyway, Ian asked me if I would back him up with my guitar and support the base runs in "That Will Never Happen No More". Using capos, I was told to play in C while Ian played in G. I said: "Ian, I can hardly play that at all." Ian said: "It will be easy, you know how to play Keep On Truckin," and he quickly showed me what to do and we both went out front when the time came. Ian’s nervousness disappeared and I completely absorbed his nervousness. Somehow, I managed to get through it all without too many mistakes, which Ian ingeniously covered up. The audience applauded and cheered like they seldom did at those hoots. Then I left the stage, got a round of applause, and left Ian to himself to do some of his best songs. He surpassed the fame that he had already had that night. I might add, Charley Barton had been a graduate of Yale and had played at many hoots. Ian was one of those unusual performers at Yale hoots that got great applause. It is a tragedy that Ian and Charley did not remain friends. This was the first and only time I saw Ian being nervous.

When Ian was home from Antioch, he, Ronnie Nealy, and I had lots of fun watching junk-TV together, making our comments and just kidding around. I think Ian sometimes needed some anti-intellectual amusement to ease his mind. When Ian was away at college in Ohio, Ronnie Nealy, Marty Brennan and I filled the vacuum by riding our motorcycles. I slowly finished college. Those were good years together and Ian was a very important part of my life. Ian was a very serious, highly intelligent personality, with a good sense of humour, in spite of the fact that he appeared to be without humour for many who did not have the good fortune to know him. We called him the great stone face.