James Burton Biography

James BurtonBorn: James Burton was born in Minden, LA.

Biggest Hit(s): His family moved to Shreveport where James became friends with Dale Hawkins who at the age of 15 was playing gigs in Bossier City. Dale and his band would ride to the gig on their bicycles, enter through the back of the club and put on a great show. The Airman at Barksdale AFB loved the way Dale’s band played blues and their own style of get down and get dirty rock n roll. James joined up with Hawkins and begin to add his guitar style of blues rock and roll that had not been heard before. Dale had been adding touches to a song he had written called Susie-Q, James begin to add a lead in riff to the song that gave it the sound that Hawkins had been looking for.

They went over KWKH in Shreveport and recording engineer Bob Sullivan recorded the session in 1956. The song was released in 1957 on Checker records out of Chicago and became a smash hit for Dale Hawkins. Burton’s solo on Susie-Q, Hawkins doing the vocal and Bob Sullivan getting the session down perfectly on tape was the recording that would become one of Rock n Rolls most famous songs and go on to be one of 500 songs that helped shape Rock ‘n Roll, with James Burton’s famous lead in riff most likely the most famous lead in riff in all of
Rock ‘n Roll.

After Susie-Q, Burton joined the Louisiana Hayride as a staff musician where he met Bob Luman. Luman, along with James Burton, James Kirkland, and Butch White formed The Shadows with Bob Luman doing the vocals. The band moved to Hollywood where they recorded some of the best Rock n Roll ever recorded on Imperial records with Bob Luman singing.

Rick Nelson heard the band doing a jam secession at Imperial records and signed them away from Bob Luman to be his band. James played guitar on all Rick Nelsons best Rocking songs; in addition, he played lead on Bobby Lee Trammel’s ” Shirley Lee ” . James stayed with Rick Nelson several years playing on “Hello Mary Lou,”"Traveling Man,” and developing the Rick Nelson style. Rick Nelson never had the good sounding recordings again once James Burton left to work for other artists.

James went on to work for Elvis till his passing in 1977.

Current Status: James lives in Shreveport, LA and still performs worldwide and is very much in demand as a session guitarist.
Inducted: James was inducted into The SHLOF in 2005 by Widmarc Clark.

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