100 Greatest Guitarists

19

James Burton

james burton
David Redfern/Redferns

James Burton's trademark "chicken pickin'" style – bright, crisp and concise –l is one of the most unique sounds in country music, and a huge influence on rock guitar as well. Burton got his start when he was 14, writing "Susie Q," for Dale Hawkins, and became a teenage star when he joined Ricky Nelson's band in 1957. With Nelson, Burton created his distinct technique: He used a fingerpick and a flatpick, and replaced the four highest strings on his Telecaster with banjo strings, so that his guitar snapped, popped and stuttered. "I never bought a Ricky Nelson record," Keith Richards said. "I bought a James Burton record." In the late Sixties and Seventies, he convened Elvis' TCB band and became a go-to guy on country-minded records by Joni Mitchell and Gram Parsons, and still tours today. "He was just a mysterious guy: 'Who is this guy and why is he on all these records I like?'" says Joe Walsh. "His technique was allimportant."

Key Tracks: "Hello Mary Lou,""Susie Q," "Believe What You Say"

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