James Burton – Guitar Legend Set To Play in the UK Soon!
The Master Of The Telecaster, one of the selected players who deserved a Fender signature guitar, is set to play at the International Guitar Festival at the Pacific Road Arts Centre in Birkenhead, Wirral, next week. Here’s a look at the life of this true legend.
Session-playing legend James Burtons’ professional career began at the age of just 14 after being reared on a musical diet of Chet Atkins, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. Burtons’ CV reads like a who’s who of rock legends, including Ricky Nelson, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. After a long career winning many awards, Burton was finally inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame by none other than Keith Richards in March 2001.
James Burton was voted #20 amongst the Best Guitarists Of All Time according to a Rolling Stone magazine poll, ahead of names such as George Harrison, Dick Dale or Budy Guy…quite a feat!
Born in Minden, the seat of Webster Parish, Burton moved to Shreveport, with his family in 1949. He is self-taught, and was playing guitar from his childhood.
By the time he was thirteen years old, Burton was playing guitar semi-professionally. A year later he was hired to be part of the staff band for the enormously popular Louisiana Hayride radio show in Shreveport. Burton left Shreveport for Los Angeles, California, while in his teens after joining Ricky Nelson’s band. In L.A., he made numerous recordings as a session musician. Burton moved back to Shreveport permanently in 1990.
Burton created and played the guitar solo on Dale Hawkins 1957 hit song “Susie Q,” a record that would become one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
Burton’s later career included work with Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons, and Emmylou Harris, among others. In 1988, he was a prominent part of the acclaimed Cinemax special, Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night.
Beginning with King of America (1986), Burton recorded and toured with Elvis Costello intermittently for about a decade.
In the Fall of 2004, Burton recorded Matt Lucas-Back in the Saddle Again -a sequel to the album The Chicago Sessions, by Matt Lucas. The album features rockabilly and country music, and was released in May 2006 under Ten-O-Nine records.
Burton formed the James Burton International Guitar Festival.
With Rick Nelson
Burton played lead guitar for most of Rick Nelson’s major hits between 1958 and 1965 after which Bob Dylan reportedly wanted to hire Burton for his first touring band, but Burton was under contract to the television program Shindig!
With Elvis Presley
James Burton was also a guitarist of Elvis Presley’s “TCB Band” from 1969 until Presley’s death in 1977, not missing even a single show. A hallmark of Elvis’ live shows in this period was his exhortation, “Play it, James,” as a cue for the guitarist’s solos.
Since 1998, Burton has played lead guitar in Elvis: The Concert which reunited some of Elvis’ former TCB bandmates, background singers and Elvis’ orchestral conductor (mostly from the “concert years” 1969-1977) live on stage with a state of the art video-projected Elvis.
With John Denver
James Burton began working with John Denver in 1977. The first album they recorded was ‘I Want To Live’. Just before Presley died, James was called to play on a John Denver television special. During the taping, Denver asked if Burton would consider going out on a European tour. He said he was working with Elvis, but if scheduling permitted, he would be glad to go. Shortly after Elvis’ death, Burton began a regular collaboration with Denver.
During the sessions, Burton and Denver talked about a band. Glenn D. Hardin and Jerry Scheff, two other Elvis Presley band members, joined the band too. Burton remained a member of Denver’s band until 1994. In the 16 years Burton worked with Denver, they recorded 12 albums and toured around the world. While touring with Denver, James carried several instruments, including backup Dobros and a spare late 1960s Pink Paisley Fender Telecaster he used as a touring guitarist with Elvis Presley during the 1970s.
The paisley Telecaster would later become the basis for an artist signature model in 1991, with Lace Sensor pickups and a TBX tone circuit (upgraded in 2006 with special-design blade pickups, no-load tone control and S-1 switching system), with a Mexican standard version based on his mid-1950s era Candy Apple Red Telecaster guitar (featuring two Fender Texas Special Tele single-coils and a vintage-style 6-saddle bridge) following 5 years later.
He rejoined Denver in 1995 for the Wildlife Concert, and when Denver died in 1997, Burton was a speaker at his memorial service in Aspen, Colorado.
In 2007 he went on tour in Sweden and the USA with Swedish band, The Cadillac band. http://www.tcband.se
He was also inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame on November 26, 2007 as a member of the L.A. session player group known as the “Wrecking Crew.”
Signature Fender Telecaster
Burton has been a Telecaster and Fender collaborator for almost his entire career. Fender is currently marketing two signature series Telecasters in Burton’s name. Burton also plays through a ’65 Twin Reverb vintage re-issue amplifier.
The James Burton Standard Telecaster is a lower priced model that is finished in candy apple red maple and fitted with a custom-shaped neck with satin finish vintage tint, a six-saddle bridge, two Texas Tele pickups and a three way switch.
The James Burton Telecaster Upgrade is a higher priced instrument with a lot more special features. The guitar is available in red or blue paisley flames. It has three specially designed James Burton pickups (mounted similar to the Stratocaster layout), a basswood body, a U-shaped 60’s neck, a five way switch, gold-plated Fender/Schaller tuners and gold hardware.
A James Burton International Guitar Festival is held annually in the Red River District in Shreveport. The town has a statue that celebrates his work with Elvis.
Burton plays at the International Guitar Festival at the Pacific Road Arts Centre in Birkenhead, Friday 7 November 2008, 20:00
Tickets: £ Normal 21.00 Concession 21.00