“An absolute groundbreaker as a player”: His Telecaster mastery was the backbone of records by Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, and countless others – watch James Burton demonstrate his incredible chicken pickin’ technique

James Burton
(Image credit: Moody Hyadd/YouTube)

Though the name James Burton may not immediately ring a bell for everyone, you've almost certainly heard his playing. If, somehow, you haven't, you've definitely heard someone whose playing owes Burton a great debt. 

Burton's list of session credits – even among the titans of the Nashville electric guitar scene – is mind-boggling. Country greats spanning multiple generations (Brad Paisley and George Jones), R&B and soul legends (Ray Charles), Great American Songbook masters (Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin), and rockabilly pioneers (Ricky Nelson and Jerry Lee Lewis) have all utilized the Louisiana native's services. Oh and, of course, he served as Elvis Presley's live guitarist for eight years. 

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.