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Playing in a new place every day ‘keeps me going,’ guitarist says

Johnny Burgin knows that he won’t be home for 90 days.

And he’s fine with that.

In fact, on the road where the guitarist wants to be.

“There’s nothing like getting to perform in a new place each day,” he says during a recent phone interview from his California home. “That’s what keeps me going. I enjoy the interaction with the audience while I’m on stage.”

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Burgin grew up in Starkville, Miss., and Greenville S.C.

While he was still in high school, he got to see many touring blues bands, such as Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and Eddy Clearwater. His father, an actor and folk musician, taught him to play guitar. He went to University of Chicago with the intention of becoming a writer, but a different path opened and he fell headfirst into the Chicago blues scene.

After learning from the masters by touring with such artists as Pinetop Perkins and Howlin’ Wolf drummer Sam Lay, he put his own band together. Things started happening fast after The Rockin’ Johnny Band (with guest vocalist Jimmy Burns) took a Monday night residency at the Smoke Daddy in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood.

The band’s original, energetic approach made it a strong local draw week after week and year after year. The atmosphere the band generated was so electric that the prestigious local label Delmark Records offered the group a contract after hearing just one set.

Burgin built up quite a following, and he finds himself rebuilding his fan base after moving to California.

His show on Saturday, Feb. 4, will be his first in the Duke City.

He’s promoting his latest album, “Greetings from Greaseland,” and will perform some music from his coming album, “Neoprene Fedora.”

It will be released in March.

“I’m really excited to share some new music, though all of it will be new for the audience because I’ve never been there,” he says.

Burgin says “Neoprene Fedora” took him about two days to complete.

Writing for the album was done as soon as he would wake up.

“If I can sit down and write something early, that is when my mind is clear,” he says. “That’s the way I’ve trained my brain.”


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