Elvis Presley

James and Elvis

In 1968, James was working with Frank Sinatra when Elvis called him. Elvis wanted James to be part of his NBC show that would later be known as the ’68 Comeback Special. Because James was so busy with his studio work, he was unable to work with Elvis. A year later however, James got another call from the King and this time, James was available.

While on the phone, Elvis told James that he really loved his playing and that he used to watch the Ozzie and Harriet show just to see James play with Ricky Nelson at the end of each show. Elvis asked James if he could put together a band for the upcoming Las Vegas engagement. It would mean that James would have to give up some of his lucrative studio work, but James told Elvis he’d do it.

The first person he called was pianist Glen D. Hardin, a fellow Shindog, who turned him down. He then called Larry Muhoberac. James was also turned down by drummer Richie Frost a fellow Ricky Nelson band member. James had recently worked with bass player Jerry Scheff. Scheff didn’t want to do it, but he went to the auditions and was just blown away by Elvis’ performance.

John Wilkinson, the rhythm guitarist had agreed to do it. The only musician they needed was a drummer. James assumed it would be a session player called Gene Pello, but Muhoberac told James about Ronnie Tutt, with whom he had worked with in Dallas. Ronnie Tutt auditioned and got the job.

July 18, 1969: In James Burton’s recollection, “Right off the bat we probably learned 150 songs over six nights of work”. It was obvious that Elvis really admired James. During his ’69 performances, he always introduced James as his favourite guitar player.

One night, a little Asian girl came up to the stage, and Elvis asked her if she wanted a scarf or a kiss. She said no. Elvis than asked, “What do you want?” The girl said: “James Burton.” Elvis started to laugh, and then walked her over to James, who gave her a kiss. After that, she asked Elvis for a scarf and a kiss.

In 1975, Emmylou Harris had hired both James and Glen D. Hardin for her Hot Band. She would plan her tours around Elvis’, so she could have both men in her band as well. In 1976, Glen D. left Elvis to play for Emmylou, James chose Elvis and remained with him until Elvis’ untimely death in 1977.

James is the only band member to also record with Elvis in the studio on all recordings from 1970 on.

James didn’t only play his Pink Paisley guitar on stage with Elvis. He used at least 4 different guitars. His Maple Red Tele, which he used on Ricky Nelson’s records, the Pink Paisley, which was given to him by Fender in 1969, the carved Tele and a Blonde Telecaster.

The Maple Red Tele The Pink Paisley The carved Tele The blonde Tele
James and Elvis in the studio
Standing Left to Right: David Briggs, Norbert Putnam, Elvis, Al Pachuki, Jerry Carrigan
Below: Felton Jarvis, Chip Young, Charlie McCoy and James Burton after the sessions at RCA’s Studio B, Nashville Tennessee, June 1970.

  • Elvis: That’s the Way It Is (Two-Disc Special Edition) (1970)

    Elvis: That's the Way It Is (Two-Disc Special Edition) (1970)This 1970 concert documentary captures Elvis Presley midway through a fateful transition, seeking to reclaim his musical primacy after a decade of self-imposed exile from concert stages. Sidelined by his big-screen career, eclipsed by rock’s mid-’60s transformations, the King had begun his return two years earlier with the relatively lean attack of his fabled network television appearance, ’68 Comeback Special. Now the Memphis legend was poised to reposition his performing profile by pursuing the top rungs of headliner status in Las Vegas, a career choice that seems even more ephemeral in hindsight than it already did at the time.

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  • Elvis on Tour (1972)

    Elvis on Tour (1972) After the solid success of Elvis: That’s the Way It Is, and with his career as a movie actor having reached a standstill, Elvis Presley undertook a second concert documentary. Elvis on Tour trails after the King on a few concert dates in 1972, as he powers through a curious set list that downplays the classic hits in favor of the likes of “Polk Salad Annie” and “Proud Mary.” Rehearsal footage, preshow jitters, and after-hours sessions singing gospel with the gang are included; most revealing is a sequence that follows Elvis off stage and into his waiting limo, where he towels off in exhaustion, cracks a few jokes, and listens to the praise of the entourage.

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  • Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii (Deluxe Edition) (1973)

    Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii (Deluxe Edition) (1973)Two-disc set featuring all the performance material formally shot in conjunction with Elvis’s Aloha from Hawaii television special and the complete concert that was adapted for that special and the complete rehearsal concert performed two days before, with newly remastered sound and picture and in their complete, uncut form for the first time.

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  • Elvis Lives (2002)

    Elvis Lives (2002)The event was staged on the Pyramid Coliseum in Elvis Presley’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. Through the magic of modern technology, Elvis is reunited with his original TCB band, back-up singers and musical director for a unique concert special now available on this Elvis Lives DVD. The program features footage of Elvis from previous concerts along with his supporting musicians and singers live on stage together in Memphis. This one of a kind concert event has stirred audiences around the world and ignited a passion for the King in a whole new generation of music lovers.

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  • Elvis – The Lost Performances (1992)

    Elvis - The Lost Performances (1992)This video contains outtake footage from both That’s the Way it Is and Elvis On Tour. The first half consists of live performances of “The Wonder Of You”, “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Hound Dog”, “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Don’t Cry Daddy”. The second half contains outtakes from Elvis: On Tour, with performances of “Are You Lonesome Tonight” and “How Great Thou Art”.

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  • Albums

    1969 Elvis In Person At The International Hotel, LV Nevada
    1970 That’s the Way it Is
    1970 On Stage
    1971 Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas
    1971 Love Letters
    1971 Country
    1972 He Touched Me
    1972 Now
    1972 Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden
    1973 Raised on Rock/For Ol’ Times Sake
    1973 Elvis (Fool)
    1973 Aloha From Hawaii
    1974 Good Times
    1974 Elvis as Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis
    1975 Today
    1975 Promised Land
    1976 From Boulevard Memphis, Tennessee
    1977 Elvis in Concert
    1977 Moody Blue