James Burton
James Burton
@james-burton
 

James Burton and James Kirkland as The Shadows.

James Burton has had an illustrious career, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, as guitarist for such notable and varied artists as Elvis Presley, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, John Denver, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, Ricky Nelson and Gram Parsons.

Born on August 21, 1939, James Burton began his career at the age of 14 at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana, near his gulf hometown of Dubbberly, Louisiana. At the Louisiana Hayride, he backed Bob Luman, Burton followed Luman to Los Angeles where they both recorded for Fabor Robison at Abbott, Fabor and Radio Records. Burton played on Luman’s Abbott recordings, “That’s All Right With Me” and “No Use Lying.” He also backed Bobby Lee Trammell on Trammell’s recording of “Shirley Lee.”

Fabor Robison also cut James Burton, James Kirkland and John S. (Butch) White as the Shadows. With James Kirkland on bass, Butch White on drums, and James Burton on guitar, The Shadows’ Abbott recordings constituted the earliest and some of the few instrumental releases that James Burton ever had, among thousands of studio and live performances he clocked into his career over more than half a century."The Creep" and "Shadow Rock" were in the film, Carnival Rock, that also featured Bob Luman.

From the Abbott studios, James Burton joined Ricky Nelson’s band. Because Nelson was a regular performer on his parents “The Ozzie and Harriet Show,” a staple of 1950s television and a progenitor of family situation comedies (except this was a real family, like “The Lucy Show,” but unlike follow-ups like “Father Knows Best” and “Leave It To Beaver”), James Burton gained early national exposure that only increased with his close association with Elvis (Presley).

The television show also propelled Ricky Nelson’s singing career. Among the songs Ricky Nelson recorded was “Shirly Lee,” perhaps at Burton’s suggestion. From there, James Burton branched out to the myriad artists he recorded and performed with and was later looked back on as one of the seminal influences on rock and roll and rock music. He later settled back in Shreveport, where it all began, where he hosted an annual music festival and opened the Rock and Roll Café.

 

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