James Burton, Has Given Us 50 Years of Country Guitar Playing Fit For A King!



James Burton was born in Dubberly,Louisiana, USA in 1939.

James Burton and Fender Telecaster seem to be a natural fit together,you can't say one without adding the other. And this man is “one hell of a guitar player.”

He is probably most famous for being the lead guitarist with Elvis Presley. But let me toss a few more names in the ring...Roy Orbison,Ricky Nelson,Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton,Bruce Springsteen,Merle Haggard,John Denver, these are just a few of the artists that he has worked with.

I personally love the guitar playing of James Burton. He is known primarily as a country/rock/rockabilly player. And if you've ever heard him in concert he plays these amazing open string guitar licks in his solos,that seem to come from the A-list licks guitar academy. And of course he's also a great old fashioned Rock n Roll guitarist.

I'll always remember the jaw dropping looks of Bruce Springsteen and Roy Orbison, as they listened to and watched JB during his guitar solos on the TV special “Roy Orbison and Friends.” He has that effect on a lot of musicians.

Although he's not as famous as some of the modern guitar rock stars. The legendary James Burton Telecaster is well known in the music and guitar world. He is also known as the Master of Telecaster. JB is undoubtedly one of the most famous Telecaster Players in the world.

JB is one of those pioneer rock n roll 1950's guitarists along with guys like Carl Perkins,Duane Eddy,etc..and he played guitar for Ricky Nelson on the “Ozzie And Harriet” TV show in the 1950's and also played on records and tours with teen idol “Ricky Nelson.”

Burton also created the guitar lick and played the solo on the Rock n Roll classic hit song“Susie Q” by Dale Hawkins. You younger guitarists can listen to that song to get an idea of JB's playing style.

JB knows every country/rock lick and trick in the book. That includes chicken picking,doublestops,string sweeping,open string licks,harmonics,etc..he probably invented a lot of his own too.

For you guitarists out there who haven't heard him play listen to any of the “Elvis songs from 1969-1977 that's all James Burton. Now just think about it....Elvis Presley could have had any guitar player in the world in his band and he chose JB,that tells you how high a calibre of player he is. And Elvis personally asked him to play in his band several times earlier before Burton finally joined. It was because JB was so busy with other recording sessions as a studio guitarist. He was part of the A-list group of studio musicians known as the“Wrecking Crew,” and was so busy that sometimes he would do 4-5 different sessions in a day.

The 1st time that I heard JB play was on the Ricky Nelson song “Hello Mary Lou.” James has a great feel and musical groove in that song,and also plays a great country guitar solo....check it out and see what I mean.

Luckily for us guitar players JB has a guitar instruction video out and you can see parts of it on youtube. I haven't seen the whole video myself just bits and pieces. But it's nice that you can get a sampling of the legendary guitar of James Burton from the man himself.

Watching him notice how he throws in those great sounding open string country licks all over the place, usually in the open string guitar chords of E,G,C,D,A, but it seems like he can fit them in over any chord changes. JB also makes extensive use of chicken picking and double stops in his guitar playing which is all part of his style.

After Elvis died James Burton played guitar in the John Denver band for 16 years. As did some other former members from the Elvis band. So JB has worked with all the biggies including Jerry Lee Lewis and Emmylou Harris, just to name a few. Funny thing how all these big name musicians want to have the best country guitar player playing in their band.

James Burton has seen and done it all and is an influence to some of the best Country guitar players in the business,names like Brent Mason,Albert Lee, Red Volkaert, Danny Gatton,etc...if you don't know who these country guitar players are and haven't heard them play...go to youtube you're in for a treat.

There's also this guy called “Keith Richards” who used to buy Ricky Nelson records because James Burton played guitar on them...sounds like a good reason to me. Mr Burton is also inducted in the “Rock n Roll Hall of Fame” in the sideman category. And he also runs the “James Burton Guitar Foundation” which gives guitars free to underprivileged kids.

OK... so to end this James Burton guitar discussion off I'm going to give you a short open string guitar lick in the key of E Major,similar to the JB style.

Hit the C# note 1st string 9th fret 3rd finger,then the B note 1st string 7th fret 1st finger, then the Ab note 2nd string 9th fret 3rd finger, then the open E or 1st string. Then the F# note 2nd string 7th fret 3rd finger,then the open E or 1st string. Then the C# note 3rd string 6th fret 2nd finger,then the open B or 2nd string,then the open E or 1st string. Then the C# note 1st string 9th fret 4th finger,then the open E or 1st string. Then the Ab note 1st string 4th fret 1st finger,then the E note 2nd string 5th fret 2nd finger. Then the C# note 3rd string 6th fret 3rd finger, then the open B note or 2nd string. Then the open E note or 1st string,followed by the open E note on the 6th string.

When playing this exercise make sure to let the open strings ring as long as possible before hitting the next note. Return From James Burton To .electric-guitar-junkie.