James Burton

The Early Years: 1957-1969

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James Burton has made some solo records, but he will always primarily be known as a top session guitarist. While this 28-track compilation does have about a dozen tracks on which he's the featured artist, part of a duo, or part of a group, the emphasis is on records credited to others that feature his axework. Ranging from big hits and superstars to rarities that will surprise even early rock & roll collectors, it's a testament both to his brilliant licks and his versatility. Rockabilly-pop of the late '50s and early '60s is the main fare, leading off with Dale Hawkins' 1957 hit "Susie-Q," and including four standout lesser-known tracks by Ricky Nelson, the singer with whom Burton is most strongly associated. Also good, however, are the rockabilly tunes by Bob Luman (especially "Red Hot") and Bobby Lee Trammell, whose smoking "Shirley Lee" would be covered by Nelson (with Burton again on guitar). These are the most exciting performances, but elsewhere Burton acquits himself well on country swing (a live TV performance of "Cannonball Rag"); novelties showcasing his Dobro playing, credited to Jimmy Dobro; and relatively obscure items by Lee Hazlewood, Merle Haggard, and the Everly Brothers. The material from the mid- to late '60s usually doesn't bear as strong of a stamp, but shows him adapting to the changing times with fuzztone on the 1965 solo single "Jimmy's Blues"; country-rock Dobro on Buffalo Springfield's "A Child's Claim to Fame"; and derivative but enjoyable imitation British Invasion music on a 1965 single by the Shindogs, the group he belonged to that served as the house band for the TV show Shindig. You still need a Ricky Nelson greatest-hits collection to get a full picture of Burton's finest and most influential work. But this is a pretty enjoyable listen in its own right, whether you're specifically interested in Burton or up for a consistently good anthology of rockabilly-pop-country-rock from the period.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
feat: Dale Hawkins
02:20
2
feat: Bob Luman
02:03
3 01:48
4
feat: Rick Nelson
02:35
5 02:54
6
feat: Rick Nelson
02:29
7
feat: The Shadows
01:41
8
feat: Rick Nelson
02:35
9
feat: Jimmy Dobro
02:02
10
feat: Bob Luman
02:29
11
feat: Jim & Joe
02:18
12
feat: Rick Nelson
02:15
13 02:29
14
feat: Jim & Joe
02:01
15
feat: Jimmy Dobro
01:56
16
feat: Buddy Cagle
02:49
17
feat: Jimmy Burton
02:29
18 02:15
19 02:12
20
feat: Jimmy Burton
02:24
21 02:13
22 02:16
23
feat: Ralph Mooney
02:00
24
feat: Ralph Mooney
01:47
25
feat: The Shindogs
02:07
26
feat: The Shindogs
02:17
27 02:11
28
feat: David & Lee
02:20
blue highlight denotes track pick