James Burton praises Elvis
Tim Ryan (Starbulletin, Hawaii. Aug 2004)
soft-spoken Louisiana guitar picker with a sugary drawl
is visiting "my momma" in Shreveport as he's about to
embark on another Elvis Presley world tour.
always come to stay with momma before I go on tour," says
Rock 'n Roll Hall Fame guitar player James Burton on the phone.
very close." Burton, who will perform Sunday night in the
"Elvis -- The Concert" extravaganza at the Blaisdell Arena,
played lead guitar for Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley and a host
of other legendary musicians. The concert reunites former
Elvis band-mates live on stage with a state-of-the-art video
projector system, complete with a singing Elvis.
1998, "Elvis -- The Concert" was designated a Guinness World
Record holder as the first live tour headlined by a performer
who is no longer living. (Presley died Aug. 16, 1997.)
show's concept is to present an authentic as possible an Elvis
Presley concert. Producers edited together a collection of
Elvis' finest concert performances that exist on film and
video and removed virtually all sound from the footage except
for the man's vocal. Besides Burton, other original tour-mates
of Elvis in the show include musical director and conductor
Joe Guercio, Burton's mates in the Takin' Care of Business
Band, pianist Glen D. Hardin, bassist Jerry Scheff and drummer
Ronnie Tutt, and from backup vocal groups the Sweet Inspirations
and the Stamps Quartet, Estelle Brown, Myrna Smith, Ed Enoch
and Ed Hill.
principal orchestra members include Ron Feuer on keyboards
and Walt Johnson on trumpet. BURTON, 65, got his first job
at age 14 as a member of the house band on the popular radio
show "Louisiana Hayride," which Elvis performed on early in
was on the radio show where Burton met Dale Hawkins, whose
1957 hit, "Suzie Q," was the first in a string of hits to
feature the young Burton's guitar work. On a trip to Los Angeles,
Burton was in a recording studio where Ricky Nelson was also
working. The singer heard Burton's playing and stopped by
to meet him. "We were both 16, so we had that and music in
common," said Burton, who had hoped himself to be a singer.
introduced Burton to his father Ozzie, who invited the youngster
to perform on "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet" TV show.
That gig led to a six-year stint, 1958 to '64, recording and
touring in Nelson's band and several cameos on the TV show
whenever Ricky's music was showcased.
when I started working with Ricky, his dad Ozzie wanted me
to smile, so I always had this dumb look on my face and I
haven't been able to break it," he said, laughing. "My momma
was mad when I went to work with Ricky because she was worried
about me all the way out in L.A.," he said. "I had just turned
the Nelsons stepped up to the plate and let Burton live
in their home for two years. Anyone who saw either Nelson
or Elvis perform in concert couldn't miss Burton.
was always either standing to the left of Nelson or
to the right of Elvis. Because of his brilliant guitar
playing -- Burton perfected a style he calls "chicken
pickin' " -- his skills were in demand, and has since
played on countless recording sessions since he first
played lead on that Hawkins' classic.
I was working for everybody at one time it seemed," he said.
"I was a side musician for the Buffalo Springfield, Monkees,
Elvis from 1969 until he died in 1977, Gram Parsons, Joni
Mitchell, Judy Collins, John Denver, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash
and Merle Haggard. "I've played for two Elvises, Presley and
Costello," he said.
just recorded some songs with Keith Richards, who's a good
friend. Keith was the one who inducted me in that Hall of
Fame. "The recognition of getting into the Hall of Fame was
surprising," Burton said. "I didn't know anything about it
until my friend (producer) Andy Paley called me after hearing
the news on television. The Hall of Fame called to congratulate
me a little later. I felt like I won an Oscar or something."
Burton played a major role in popularizing a twangy Telecaster
electric guitar sound that remains an integral part of country
music to this day.
was a very sweet, nice man," Burton said. "He treated us like
family, real family. He was always asking how we were doing,
how our families were doing and if we needed anything, anything,
he would take care of it and sometimes we had no idea he was
"Maybe he gave too much of himself to everyone. "Elvis touched
people's lives all over the world. He sang with passion and
he loved, just loved, pleasing his fans.”
James Burton opens up to EIN