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The weekend of August 21-22, I had the pleasure of attending the James Burton International Guitar Festival this year down in Shreveport LA. If you're unfamiliar, Burton is a living legend who played guitar for Rick Nelson, John Denver, Emmy Lou Harris and a kid from Mississippi named Elvis. Every year, James puts on a guitar festival to raise money for the James Burton Foundation, which buys guitars for and provides music lessons to underprivileged kids, veterans, and children’s hospitals.
This year’s festival featured an Elvis theme to commemorate the 40th anniversary of James’ work with the King. It was also a celebration of his 70th birthday. Highlights included the presentation of an orange Gretsch Brian Setzer Model 6120 from Artist Relations representative James Pennebaker to Burton and a world-record attempt for most simultaneous guitar players playing “That’s Alright Momma” and “Hound Dog.” The attempt fell short, but it was a great experience for the 900+ participants.
James always finishes out the day with the James Burton and Friends concert at the Memorial Auditorium. This theater is where it all began for James, Elvis, Conway Twitty and many, many others. This year’s lineup was amazing. Only James Burton could gather up such a diverse lineup of guitar players and have them mesh so well under one roof. The group consisted of: Nokie Edwards, Doyle Dykes, Junior Brown, Al Di Meola, David Grissom, Albert Lee, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jennifer Batten, and Steve Lukather.
I had the pleasure of hanging out backstage with this amazing lineup of players. Surprisingly, I learned that everyone came down at their own expense, eager to help this cause and support James Burton. The mood backstage was very light—you could see Steve Lukather, Albert Lee, and Junior Brown just hanging out, joking and teasing one another. There were no egos and all the performers hung out offstage to watch each other’s performances.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified James Pennebaker as the President of Fender. The President of Fender is Bill Mendello. We apologize for the error, and thank James for bringing it to our attention.
Click next for highlights from the show...