James’ career is continuing on at full tilt in the new millenium, and he says he’s “so busy” now. He’s just finished recording an album with Pat Boone..and has another recording project on the go. He also plans another guitar album. James has been a participant in the Elvis The Concert productions and will be in Europe again with this show next spring. He says he’d love to bring it to Canada again and encourages fans to “send those emails in.” He’s also planning a 3-day Guitar Festival in Shreveport next August with some very well-known guest artists!

This month (October), he will be in Shreveport, Louisiana with fellow TCB Band members, Terry Mike Jeffrey, the Jordanaires, and DJ Fontana..to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Elvis’ first appearance on the Louisiana Hayride.

And on October 30, James Burton along with Jerry Scheff, Glen Hardin, Terry Mike Jeffrey, the Imperials, The Sweet Inspirations, DJ Fontana and Charlie Hodge will be performing in a legendary concert as part of the ElvisExpo2004 weekend at Sam’s Town Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In closing, James eloquently tells us, “It’s been a wonderful life. I love my music and I’ll do it till the end of time.”

Many thanks to James Burton for this wonderful interview. As LLM/ETAR’s Joanna Johnson states, “It’s an honor and a privilege.”


Live interview conducted by Joanna Johnson
Foreword written by Carol Hunter

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This month’s live interview is with the legendary James Burton, guitarist and band leader of Elvis Presley’s TCB Band from l969-l977 -- who, after 45 years in the recording industry, was most deservedly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

In this interview, James Burton tells us about his early days. Born in l939, he picked up a guitar at about age 11, started playing seriously by age 13, and was playing professionally as part of the staff band at the Louisiana Hayride in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana at age 14!

James tells us that he was influenced by country music and by rhythm and blues..he names his guitar heroes, and tells us about his early guitars, including the Fender Telecaster he started using in the early ‘50's.

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In l957, James played on Dale Hawkins hit song “Suzie Q,” for which he also composed the music, and began to become a defining element in rock and roll and country rock music. As James says, he just loved music and playing his guitar and didn’t know where it was going to lead.

James worked with rockabilly artist Bob Luman for a while. In l958, he became Ricky Nelson’s lead guitarist, working with Ricky on TV (Ozzie and Harriet), on records, and touring with him. His first record with Ricky Nelson was “Believe What You Say” -- also the first record on which he replaced several guitar strings with banjo strings. He continued working with Ricky until l965.

Known for his “chicken pickin’” style, James discusses how this evolved and how he worked to make the notes “sharper, brighter...with more clarity.”

By this time, James had become very highly regarded in the music industry, and in l968, after also working for a while on the TV show “Shindig,” he was asked by Elvis to perform in the ‘68 Comeback Special (Elvis had tuned in to the Ozzie and Harriet show every week to see James play!). James had other commitments at that time, but in l969 Elvis called again, they talked for 3 hours, and James was recruited to build the TCB Band and worked as Elvis lead guitarist from that time until Elvis’ death in l977. He tells a great story about the pink paisley Fender he acquired in l969 and how it took him two weeks to get the nerve up to play it during an Elvis concert as he wasn’t sure how Elvis would react...as it turned out, Elvis thought it was “sharp...and sounds great.” He and Elvis became very close during these year, says James...”like family.”

During the ‘70's, James continued to do session work and he occasionally toured with EmmyLou Harris’ band when time permitted. After Elvis’ death, James worked with John Denver for a number of years, as his bandleader and guitarist.

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James discusses his guitar playing, and how he plays with respect to the artist -- the guitar never got in the way and the song came first. As he says, “less is more.” He says, “It’s not how fast you play or how much you play, it’s what you play and where you play it.” When asked how he defines himself as a guitarist, he replied that he“loves what he’s doing and it’s a great inner feeling to be able to play.” Offering more insight, he says that “a good musician will listen to what is going on around him (her) and rather than jumping on something which might confuse someone else, might just do the opposite of what they’re doing...whatever you do with the group you have to make it work and fit in with what’s going on.....don’t jump on someone else’s part.....you want to add, but not get in the way of anything else that is going on.” He says that’s the “professional way to play.”

For James, it’s also “not about money.” He believes that if you perform something good and great, the financial situation will eventually take care of itself.

James says it’s hard to pick out his favourite recording project as he’s worked on thousands and thousands of sessions with many, many entertainers.. For example, not only Bob Luman , Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, EmmyLou Harris and John Denver.. but also Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Burl Ives, Frankie Lane, the Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, Judy Collins, Gram Parsons, Sonny & Cher, the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis.......and many more!

When asked about Elvis tribute artists, James says that he feels it’s wonderful, and an honour to Elvis, that so many tribute artists love Elvis so much that they want to carry on his music and his legacy. And he says that he knows Elvis’ music “will live forever.”

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photo copyright James V. Roy

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Details: www.james-burton.net