After decades in the spotlight, Billy Burnette has become the guitar slinger of choice for rock legends
by Chris Neal
Playing Tuesday, July 25 at Starwood with John Fogerty
Since making his recording debut in 1960 at age 7, Billy Burnette has led many musical lives. He’s been a member of Fleetwood Mac, an ACM Award-nominated country artist, half of the duo Bekka & Billy, and a Nashville songwriter whose tunes have been cut by Faith Hill, Alan Jackson and Josh Turner, among others. As the son of the Rock and Roll Trio’s Dorsey Burnette, the Music City resident is also rockabilly royalty—roots he reclaims on his raucous new live album, Memphis in Manhattan.
But with his stint playing guitar for Bob Dylan in the 1990s, Burnette added another title to his résumé: sideman to the gods. He’ll be playing in John Fogerty’s band when the former Creedence Clearwater Revival leader comes to Starwood Amphitheatre on Tuesday, July 25.
Scene: When did you start playing guitar?
Burnette: I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was 13 or 14. They were around the house all the time, and finally I picked one up one day. I just got the bug, and I’ve been doing that ever since.
Scene: Did you ever contemplate doing anything besides music for a living?
Burnette: Never. I had a deal with Columbia Records a week out of high school, so I started cutting records and writing down in Memphis, with Chips Moman producing. He had just produced all the Elvis stuff, a lot of great records. It was a great education. And it’s taken me all the way up to now. I’m still doing the same thing.
Scene: How did you come to join Fleetwood Mac?
Burnette: I met Mick at a Dick Clark 25-year anniversary dinner. He happened to be sitting at the table. A friend of mine had given him one of my records, and he liked it. They were right in the middle of production on the Tango in the Night tour when, I guess, Lindsay [Buckingham] got into it with Stevie [Nicks], and that was it.
Scene: What’s it like playing guitar for Bob Dylan?
Burnette: It’s incredible. I must have learned five songs a night, 20 minutes before the set. I think I learned 120 songs in a couple of months. I got a little carpal tunnel on that tour from playing so much. It’s hard to describe what he’s all about. Being onstage with him, he’s coming from somewhere else than a lot of artists.
Scene: How did you hook up with Fogerty?
Burnette: Management called me one day and said, “John Fogerty wants you to come out and play some guitar for him.” It was a huge thrill. God, Creedence Clearwater was one of my favorite bands in the world. He’s one of the guys, you know, that molded this whole thing. So I went out to L.A. and got the gig. I’ve been with ’em for about a year-and-a-half now. Playing with John, it’s just hit after hit. It’s amazing.
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