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James Burton to be Saluted as Nashville Cat July 23rd

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Guitar Sounds of James BurtonNashville, TN -- Renowned guitarist James Burton will be saluted on Saturday, July 23, as part of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's popular series Nashville Cats: A Celebration of Music City Musicians. The program, which will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Museum's Ford Theater, is included with Museum admission and free to Museum members. The program will be streamed live on

Hosted by Bill Lloyd, the program will include a brief performance and an in-depth, one-on-one interview illustrated with vintage recordings, photos and film clips from the Museum's Frist Library and Archive. Immediately following the program, Burton will sign autographs in the Museum Store.

With musical influences ranging from the blues and R&B to country, Burton's pioneering guitar licks helped shape popular music in the 1950s and 1960s. He performed on radio and TV shows like Louisiana Hayride, Town Hall Party, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet and Shindig. Burton popularized the "chicken picking" style of guitar playing and was instrumental in developing the "Bakersfield Sound." His iconic guitar licks can be heard on recordings by Dale Hawkins ("Susie-Q"), Merle Haggard ("Mama Tried"), Emmylou Harris ("Two More Bottles of Wine"), Jerry Lee Lewis ("Rockin' My Life Away") and Ricky Nelson ("Hello Mary Lou"). He also recorded and toured with artists like the Beach Boys, Elvis Costello, John Denver, the Everly Brothers, the Mamas & the Papas, Roy Orbison, Buck Owens, Gram Parsons, Elvis Presley and many others.

Born on August 22, 1939, in Dubberly, Louisiana, James Burton showed interest in the guitar at a young age, often pretending to play the guitar by beating on a broomstick. His parents bought him his first electric guitar, a Fender Telecaster, when he was 13, and Burton remained loyal to the brand and model throughout his career.

After winning a few talent competitions, the 14-year-old Burton began a year-long guitar gig on the Louisiana Hayride, where he played behind artists such as Roy Acuff, Johnny Horton, George Jones and Hank Williams.

Over the next few years, Burton's work on the Hayride and his sessions with local talent in Shreveport stirred interest in his music. However, his big break came when he co-wrote "Susie-Q" with Dale Hawkins in 1957. The song's signature guitar lick put Burton on the map.

While in Louisiana, Burton met and began performing with Bob Luman. As a member of Luman's band, the Shadows, Burton moved to California and regularly appeared on Town Hall Party. In Hollywood, Burton met Ricky Nelson and soon received an invitation to join the backing band for The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. While recording with Nelson, Burton honed his unique style of playing: He began to use lighter gauge guitar and banjo strings, which allowed him to stretch the strings and get more twang in his sound. He first recorded this new sound on Nelson's "Believe What You Say."

TV appearances and tours with Nelson gave Burton more exposure and made him a hot ticket for recording sessions. As a member of Los Angeles's Wrecking Crew—a group of first-call session musicians—he worked with the Beach Boys, Glen Campbell, Nat King Cole, the Mamas & the Papas, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. His string-bending, Telecaster twang recordings with Merle Haggard and Buck Owens helped define the "Bakersfield Sound."

In 1968, Burton turned down an offer to play Elvis's comeback special because he was booked with sessions, but Presley called him again a year later and asked him to play his International Hotel shows in Las Vegas. Burton recorded and toured with Presley until his death in 1977. During his tenure with Presley, Burton also recorded with Gram Parsons. After Parsons died in 1973, Burton joined Emmylou Harris's first Hot Band. Harris took great care in scheduling her tour dates around Presley's so Burton could play both gigs. Eventually, two tours and a rigorous recording schedule became too much for Burton and he stopped touring with Harris.

After Elvis's death, Burton toured with John Denver for 15 years. Beginning with King of America (1986), Burton recorded four albums with Elvis Costello over the course of a decade. Amid the tours and TV specials, Burton remained an in-demand session musician. In 2010, Burton released a solo album of gospel songs, The Spiritual Strings of James Burton.

In addition to his music career, Burton also created the James Burton Foundation, which provides musical instruments and scholarships to children and young adults. He also regularly hosts the James Burton Guitar Festival to raise money for the Foundation.

Burton was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Named one of Rolling Stone's Top 100 Guitarists of All Time, Burton is the winner of seven Country Music Association awards and a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance for Brad Paisley's "Cluster Pluck," a collaboration with Vince Gill, John Jorgenson, Albert Lee, Brent Mason, Paisley, Redd Volkaert and Steve Wariner.

Burton resides in Shreveport, Louisiana and continues to record.

Museum programs are made possible, in part, by grants from the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission and by an agreement between the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The Museum's mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture. With the same educational mission, the Foundation also operates CMF Records, the Museum's Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B, and Hatch Show Print®.

More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at or by calling (615) 416-2001.

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