The International Guitar Festival in Shreveport, Louisiana took place on August 21 and 22. Memorabilia and ticket sales in part will go to Burton’s charity that gives out guitars to children so they can enjoy music and learn to play for fun or go on to professional careers in the music world.
The music was special, as only Burton and buddies can produce. James Burton was Elvis Presley's guitar sidekick for a reason, because the sounds the man produces with his guitar are seriously good. This weekend Burton had a band of brothers and sisters, each with his/her own guitar, from stage through audience, playing together the tunes that made Elvis Presley great.
James Burton, the host of the International Guitar Festival, presented with his guitar friends and a throng of fans and friends, “A Tribute to Elvis” over two days of celebration. Burton is a native of Louisiana, born in 1939, who started his professional career in music at the age of 14. He started out early with the Louisiana Hayride, playing behind George Jones, Bill Walker and Johnny Horton. He also recorded with Dean Martin, Bobby Darin and the Everly Brothers. He became part of Elvis Presley’s band in 1969 and stayed with Presley until the King died in 1977. He went on to work with John Denver for 15 years, while playing along with Kenny Rogers, Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris. Burton was one of the first inductees into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee, has three Grammy Awards, and received Louisiana’s Lifetime Achievement award, among many honors for his guitar talent and contributions to music.
The audience cheered, laughed, jumped and cried as the people on stage with Burton romped with the music in a celebratory style that spilled over onto the very instruments musicians held.
Guitars were the centerpiece accented by singing, aided by drums, horns and keyboard, that took the auditorium over bringing the sounds of music made grand by many hands strumming together. Throngs of people sat on chairs, stood on stage, hung out near the edges of the platform in front and made music more than the usual fun.
From stage left and right, the pictures came, Burton up close, guitarists, young and old, some of whom are the best musicians in the world. Two-time Grammy Award winner, Albert Lee was front and center with a solo section. Lee, originally from England, was once a member of the Thunderbirds, known in the musical world of Great Britain as a top R & B band. He has played with Jerry Lee Lewis, toured with the Crickets, worked with Phil and Don Everly and also with Emmylou Harris. His most prominent spot was with Eric Clapton on tour. Lee is a guitar craftsman who has earned widespread respect with awards that includes the British Country Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award” as well as five Guitar Player Magazine Awards for “Best Country Guitarist.”
The Queen of Guitar, Jennifer Batten brought roaring applause from the crowd and smiles of appreciation from her fellow musicians, as someone who has made her mark on music. In 1993 she accompanied Michael Jackson at the Superbowl XXVII's half-time show. that got her one and a half billion viewers in 80 nations with the largest audience in history. Batten got started in the guitar underground circles, with guitar magazines picking up on her lusty talent and wide range of styles. From then it was on to greatness with the King of Pop's group, touring for a year and a half, then going on to create solo records showing her enormous musical range along with her blond good looks. She also has authored two books of music along with her records and CDs.
Nokie Edwards who has played with Buck Owens and Lefty Frezel, Doyle Dykes another guitar legend, David Grissom, who has played with the Dixie Chicks and Jon Mellencamp, Junior Brown, Mike Farris, and Al Di Meola were part of the entourage of guitar greats during the major evening performance. Burton’s sons James and Jeff as well as grandson Skylar James Blythe and granddaughter Taylor Burton rounded out the Burton package, with three generations of musical genius.
From Natchitoches, Louisiana Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs as well as Hardrick Rivers added their talents to the mix of great musicians.
In addition Andy Chrisman, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Steve Lukather, Kristen Capolino, and All Star Jam joined their superb talents to what was the best stir of guitars one could savor. Spongebob comedian Tom Kenny who imitates the voices of animated characters and has been a stand-up and stand-out comedian, joined the entertainers on stage as part master of ceremonies and an added attraction to what was already a full cast.
A major highlight came at the end of the afternoon jam on Saturday afternoon, when the audience, estimated well beyond 1500, played their guitars along with the professional musicians, joyfully, wonderfully, amazingly as the listeners stood and applauded long and loud. It was "That's All Right Mama" and "Hound Dog" for audience participation.
It was only right that the Tribute to Elvis took place in Shreveport, the place that birthed the best, that catapulted folks to fame at a time when the old city rocked with great sounds. This was the origin of the Louisiana Hayride that took the boys from the back and put them front and center in the world, boys from the country, from Tupelo, Mississippi, like Elvis Presley. It also took a young boy named James Burton from Dubberly, Louisiana who early on got noticed and went on to greatness later on to become the major guitarist for Elvis and a host of other performers.
The Mayor of Shreveport Cedric B. Glover was also on hand to play guitar with the group on stage and take a minute for a picture with DJ Forsloff.
A bit of a bite from the musical treat is here for those who want a taste of the best and couldn’t go to Shreveport or who want to remember the occasion itself.