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A Conversation with Johnny Burgin



Johnny Burgin is an American blues guitarist and harmonica player who learned his craft from the masters of Chicago blues on the city's South and West sides. Since 1997, he has released nine recordings under his own name and played on numerous other recordings as a sideman to many blues legends.


Johnny earns his name as The Worldwide West Side Guitar Man by performing up to 250 shows a year in Europe, Japan and coast to coast in the US.  Johnny started his career in the rough and tumble neighbourhood blues joints on Chicago’s West Side with Howlin’ Wolf disciple Tail Dragger, and went on to tour and record with blues legends such as Pinetop Perkins, Sam Lay and Billy Boy Arnold.  He’s been praised by the Cascade Blues Association for his “stunning guitar playing– the pure Chicago styled sound”, and his fans love Johnny’s take on the intense, stripped-down “West Side sound” of Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Buddy Guy.  Johnny is a Delmark and Vizztone recording artist with 10 CDs to his credit.  He was nominated for a BMA for Best Traditional Blues CD of 2017 for “Howlin’ at Greaseland”, a Howlin’ Wolf tribute, and his “Johnny Burgin Live” was nominated for a Blues Blast Best Live Recording Award for 2019.



Ken Wallis chats with Johnny about his new album


Ken Wallis

Thanks for joining us Johnny


Johnny Burgin

Hello. Great to be here Ken. Thanks for having me.


Ken Wallis

What a great album. This is a live album and boy does it feature some high powered guest artists.


Johnny Burgin

Sure does. Charlie Musselwhite did me a huge favour. It was very generous of him to come down and join us and we got ready for it. I mean, I went to Charlie's and we practiced it. And, you know, he's like, I won't be there. I'll be, I'll be ready. I got it. You know, so he was really excited about it. And then Nancy Wright is, she's just a little, a little pack of dynamite, you know? I mean, everything she plays is just perfect. It's so powerful and jus the right thing. So I love playing with Nancy and then Kid Anderson They’ve played my last several records. You know, they're my San Jose buddies.

Ken Wallis

So when you're recording a live album, do you approach your performance any different than you would normally do for a live performance?


Johnny Burgin

Not really, I want to, I want it to feel like a gig. You know, for the people who can't be there, who would love to be there, I want them to have that experience. Like from the beginning to the middle to the end. I forgot to mention Rae Gordon, she's from the northwest, she's got a lot of fans down on the bay area and a lot of people just came out just to see Rae on that show. And I just love working with her. She's so like, funny and spontaneous. And such a natural voice.


Ken Wallis

And how do you go about selecting the tracks because obviously, in a live performance, you're playing a lot more than ends up on the actual CD, it's gonna be tough deciding which ones to put in.


Johnny Burgin

I had a list of songs I was going to do and a lot of those were new songs that I had a sort of vehicle for, a song was the vehicle for this person or vehicle for that person. There were new songs we didn't play a lot with, like my guests. We don't get to play a lot together. So we just did. We did the whole record once. And then we took a break and did the whole record again. And then then all we had to do was pick the strongest take of each. And that became what we have.

Ken Wallis

And what is really exciting about this album is that it's up for an award. So tell us all about that.


Johnny Burgin

Yeah, there's a magazine that's from Central Illinois, in the states called Blues Blast. I'm sure some of your readers are familiar with them. And they have it up for best live recording of the year. So I'm very grateful. That's actually my first nomination from Blues Blast for an American blues award. So it's a thrill. They have a bunch of people in the industry who nominate, who's up for it. They nominate the nominees, and then everybody votes on it. So hey, I can use your vote.


Ken Wallis

And how do people go about voting?

Johnny Burgin

You can just vote on the Blues Blast website. It's actually like two clicks and you're there. And it's an easy process and all you need is an email address to vote.


Ken Wallis

Okay, and I encourage our readers to get out there and vote because there's a whole whack of awards out there that they can vote on, which is terrific. And obviously your live album certainly is deserving. But let's switch just a little bit here right now. You have another exciting album that I'm really interested in. And it is called No Border Blues and tell us all about that one.


Johnny Burgin

Okay, well my, my blues partner Stephanie Tice was traveling with me in Japan on my second to last tour. And she said, you know, these guys are so great. You should come back here and make a record. I was happy just to go there and tour in these tiny little clubs about the size of a shoe box …these places that you can get 20 or 30 people in there. And that's about it. I've been going there since 96. That's the first time I ever went there. And then I started going again in recent years. So I had a lot of long term relationships there. They really have something to say. The whole scene is very selfless. Like there's no blues awards. There's no big gigs. There's no real competition. It's like, they play the blues with their friends. They just happen, in my opinion, they just happen to be really great. And I wanted to just, you know, I want to make the blues a little bigger. That was Stephanie's idea that they really deserve some recognition. It shouldn't just be a one-way street.


Ken Wallis

You got some great tunes on both albums, and we're going to be featuring a lot of your cuts over the next few weeks.

Johnny Burgin

You're my hero thanks for doing what you do.


Ken Wallis

I love what I do, and I know that guys like you, love playing the blues. And unfortunately, I can't play them but I can sure spin them. So that's what I keep trying to do. And again, the two albums are Johnny Burgin Live and No Border Blues, and they're great albums and where can our listeners get a hold of them?


Johnny Burgin

You can get hold of them on my website, which is Johnnyburgin.com. That has links to where you can buy them, or on the Delmark website delmark.com., That's a little mom and pop label from Chicago. They're under new ownership, but it's still kind of a mom and pop label. It's like the oldest, one of the oldest independent blues labels in the country. If not, I think it is the oldest. And it's an honour to be on Delmark, it has a lot of great blues classics. So my website or the Delmark website would be the best way also on Spotify, or hook up with me on Twitter or on my Johnny Burgin live Facebook page. That'd be great.


Ken Wallis

And again, let's get people out and vote for Johnny Burgin Live, for a Blues Blast award. Johnny, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it. And we'll keep in touch and I hope one of these days we get to see you live somewhere.


Johnny Burgin

I'd love that. I'm looking forward to coming back to Canada. There's a lot of great blues fans up there, and great blues artists,


Ken Wallis

Johnny, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.


Johnny Burgin

Okay Ken Have a great one. Take care.



Website: rockinjohnnyburgin.com



 

 

 

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