Saturday, October 4, 2014

Be Happy, Attend a Festival!

Recently two professors from Harvard and the University of British Columbia announced that, based on their research analysis, five of the ten happiest cities in the country are in Louisiana.  Shreveport is one of them.  Articles based on this report went on to point out that many good times enjoyed by Louisiana residents revolve around food and music.  (Click here to read article from

Louisiana, and Shreveport, host a wide array of festivals that celebrate the rich musical and cultural heritage of the state.  Ricky and I are taking friends from Virginia to the Red River Revel today to give them a taste of our city.  In town on business, they have already been on several tours of interesting places in the city, and a festival should round out their experience.
If the Red River Revel is Shreveport’s ultimate fall festival, this past summer’s best musical festival has to have been the biennial (or whenever they can pull it together) James Burton International Guitar Festival held at the historic and refurbished Municipal Auditorium.  In August of this year Ricky, our friend Pam from Houston, and I attended this celebration of James Burton’s 75th birthday and 62nd year in the music business. 

James Burton, a world renowned musician who is known by many as Elvis Presley’s guitar player, resides in Shreveport when he isn’t touring or recording.  He and his family have established a foundation that provides guitars and musical training to children and young adults who might not otherwise have the opportunity.  The festival raises money for this endeavor.  The musicians, all friends of Burton and renowned performers in their right, volunteer their time for the event. 

On this occasion, the music started at 7:30 pm and continued without a break until after 11:00.  It was almost midnight when Ricky, Pam and I got home.  We were so hyped up from the show that we stayed up into the wee hours, sitting on the porch of the cottage, talking about the festival.

Each time we attend Burton, his family and music business friends come together to perform one of the best concerts you will ever see, and we agreed this one was the best we’ve attended so far.  Where else in one evening would you hear live on stage multiple Grammy Award winner, James Burton who is one of the best guitar pickers and most prolific session guitarists ever, plus: Gunnar Nelson, son of Ricky Nelson with whom James played from 1958—1967; David Letterman band leader Paul Shaffer; Lee Rocker from the band Stray Cats who made his double bass come alive on stage; Rick Vito, singer, guitar player and song writer, who played with Fleetwood Mac from 1987-1991; Richie Furray who was a founding member of Buffalo Springfield and Poco; Billy Burnette, guitarist and song writer, who also toured with Fleetwood Mac, 1987-1995; Merle Haggard’s son Noel Haggard, played and sang representing his family’s history with James Burton who played with Merle; blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan; Memphis pianist Rob Haynes who plays like Jerry Lee Lewis; and Bossier City’s Cole Vosbury, a Voice finalist, and his family band who display music chops in their own right (his grandmother who played with the family band on this night was once described by Les Paul as the “best female guitarist” he had ever seen). 

Representing country rock were Trace Adkins who is “one attractive tall drink of water” and a local boy; fiddle player Byron Berline who has played with about everyone from bluegrass musicians to The Band, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Elton John; and  Country Music Hall of Famer Vince Gill.  Also joining James Burton were his son Jeff Burton and other family members, in addition to guitarists Doyle Dykes and Lincoln Brewster; Priscilla Presley who talked about the years James played with Elvis; and Master of Ceremony Mike Wolfe from the TV show, Pickers.  All of this in addition to back-up by a fantastic house band, composed of local and out-of-town musicians.

Each of the above musicians boasts an extensive list of musical accomplishments, each represents an era of James Burton’s long career, and each is a virtuoso.  Now I ask, who in their right mind, wouldn’t be happy when they have a chance to experience this level of musical talent and exuberance every few years. 

The next project of the James Burton Foundation is the creation of a guitar and car museum in Shreveport to house Burton’s extensive personal collections.  Our next festival after the Revel will be the Louisiana Film Prize Festival.
Ian McNulty, author of Louisiana Rambles,  said "It's sort of a cliché but Louisiana is a place where people love to have a good time."  I know I’m smiling in anticipation of many good times to come! 

No comments:

Post a Comment