Johnny Burgin
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Interview Johnny Burgin
Friday 1st April 2016
Salaise Blues Festival

(c) Johnny Burgin (c) Salaise Blues Festival (c) Youtube
Medley "Salaise Blues Festival"

Welcome on Johnny.
Where are you from?

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I live in Chicago. I've been there since 1988. All my family is from Mississippi. I went to school, college in Chicago and I've never left!

Why and how did you become a musician?

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My father taught me how to play guitar. He was an actor and he liked to play folk music. I always wanted to play but never thought I would be able to do it. Then my mother gave me a Rickenbacker guitar. I started playing a lot, after school, I came home and played until it was time to go to bed.

What does the Blues mean to you?

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The Blues is a feeling. You can have the blues sitting by yourself in a room, but the Blues is like a community of people that love the Blues and are feeling it together.

What is your favourite guitar?

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It is a tough one. I quit music for about 8 or 9 years. When I came back in 2009 I bought an Epiphone Sheraton. That guitar has served me very well, it sounds, plays, looks great. I put a tremolo arm, some people call it a vibrola arm. I get a lot of expression out of that. I just love that guitar.

AM : Do you collect them?

Johnny : You know there are a few guitars I want. I don't really collect them. I have a lot of amplifiers. I try to avoid collecting things because, sometimes it can be a vice and I am afraid to require another vice! I also have a Rickenbacker. My old one was stolen. I was very well-known for that guitar. I recently got one just like the old one, so now I have this very light small guitar and the very big heavy one.

Let's speak about your latest album called...

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Johnny : Greetings from Greaseland.

AM : When was it released?

Johnny : In March 2015. I guess it is about a year ago.

AM : Yes, a record is like a book, timeless.

Johnny : I have always recorded everything in Chicago all the years. This is my sixth CD. This time, I wanted to go to California to play with californian musicians. I don't know if you remember a hamonica player named Paul deLay, he was very good. He died a few years back. He was from the Pacific Northwest of the United States. He decided to do a record in Chicago called deLay does Chicago and I played on it. That record really helps his career and it helps me too. I still run into people that say, I love that record. So it was always in my mind that I should go somewhere else to make a record, because there are different styles of Blues in California than there is in Chicago. When two worlds contact each others, interesting things can happen. My album is called Greetings from Greaseland, because I recorded it at Greaseland, Kid Andersen's studio, in San Jose. He is a fine young guitar player. It is funny because in California if they say something is greasy they mean it sounds like good Blues, for instance, man that guitar solo was so greasy, it is a compliment. But in Chicago, if someone calls you greasy, it is a kind of insult. They are very far apart. Anyway, I think my next CD should be called worldwide Blues. I should do sessions in every place, like a couple of songs in Finland, Brazil, Mineapolis, Minnesota, and so on. Stay tuned!

Do you have bandmates?

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Yes, in Chicago and California, because I work a lot in California too. I have people that I often play with, relationships. Usually, I have Rick Kreher on guitar when I am in Chicago. He was in Muddy Waters last band. In Chicago, I've always worked with people older than me, who taught me things. There are many mentors in Blues. Now, I can work with people ten, fifteen years younger than me, and I can teach them too. I am in a nice position, they are both good to be in.

Tonight you are in France, for the Salaise Blues Festival, my little finger tells me that you don't have any setlist?

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Johnny : I don't like setlists.

AM : Why?

Johnny : I don't know what I want to do, until I look at the audience. Sometimes they are listening very carefully, sometimes they want to party and have fun. I play a lot of the same songs, but putting together in the order, the right material, for the right people is part of the art. I wouldn't just play on my guitar solo now for some solo order, you've got to make it on the spot, so I make the set on the spot. Some people wish they had a setlist, but I just don't like it. Every time I saw guys in Chicago, Bobby Smith, Phil Guy, L.V. Banks, Tail Dragger, real solid Blues men, they never had setlists.

AM : I agree with you.

Johnny : Musicians must be used to work with a setlist, but they can play without it.

AM : Do you want to add something to this interview?

Johnny : My website is You can get my CD Greetings from Greaseland and also another one I did called Now's The Time, on Thank you so much for coming here and talking with me Anne-Marie and Bernard.

AM : Thank you very much for your time too Johnny, have a great show tonight.

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(c) Johnny Burgin (c) Salaise Blues Festival