Charles Burton Blues Band: ‘San Diego’s Ambassador To the World”

Written by on July 26, 2012 in Interviews, July 26, 2012 - Comments Off on Charles Burton Blues Band: ‘San Diego’s Ambassador To the World”

Charles Burton Blues Band

Born in Los Angeles in 1958, Charles Burton plays with fire, and when he does, his articulation and phrasing are instantly recognizable. This tall drink of water has been playing Blues, Country, Rock, and Roots music for over forty years. He has played lead guitar in Country bands in Los Angeles (1970’s), Honolulu (1980’s), Tokyo (1990’s), and Fresno, California. He headlined the Fresno Blues Festival playing with the late great Hosea Leavy in 1995. As a blues guitarist and singer, he has released four CDs with the Charles Burton Blues Band, and has toured Europe headlining festivals, culture houses, and clubs twice a year since 2005. In 2007/2008 he toured Scandinavia with Maury “Hooter” Saslaff (Big Jack Johnson and the Oilers), playing over 200 gigs in seven months! In 2009 he won San Diego’s International Blues Challenge finals. That same year he took first place in San Diego’s King of the Blues competition. Widely regarded as the best blues guitarist in San Diego, Charles is San Diego’s Blues Ambassador to the world.
AAM (AAM) recently interviewed Charles (CB) via email while the band was still on tour in – where else? – Europe. Here’s how it went.
AAM: As of this writing your band is over touring in Europe, something many bands here in the U.S. wish they could do.  How have you been able to score so many gigs over there?

CB: Well, it all started when I was running a blues jam at a bar in Solana Beach, CA, called “The Kraken.”  A Swedish guy named Thomas Mikaelsson (who has become a very close friend) invited me to play at a blues festival in Sweden, which led to more gigs in Sweden and Norway.  At that festival I met Maury “Hooter” Saslaff, who used to book and play bass for the late Big Jack Johnson.  Hooter used to book a gig a day (sometimes two or even three) and bring American guitarist/singers like me over to tour for several months.  I did a total of seven months with him before he quit the business in 2008.  I made so many connections that I was able to start booking my own tours in Scandinavia.

AAM: While we’re on the subject of Europe, what are some of the differences and similarities about the live music scene there and here in the States?

CB: American audiences have a reputation for being jaded.  While I’m sure that’s not always true, I do find audiences here in Europe to be more respectful of the musician as an artist.  I think they give you a chance, rather than pigeonholing you before hearing a note.  I feel that the Europeans give you more credit for being up there on stage and trying your best.  And the Europeans respond to the feeling in your music, especially in blues – if they feel it, they let you know.  I also think Europeans audiences are more open to the spiritual side of musical performance.

AAM: There are so many great blues musicians both past and present that may have influenced your music. Who would be your top three?

Charles Burton Blues Band

CB:Albert King, Freddy King, and Johnny Winter.

AAM: Why did you choose to become a musician and try to make a living at it?

CB: It’s the only thing I’ve wanted to do since I was ten years old. Somewhere along the line I got hooked on the feeling of connecting with people on a very deep level through playing music.

AAM: Craziest gig you’ve ever played? Best gig ever played?

CB: I guess one of the craziest had to be when we tried to play in Sweden during the World Cup Soccer finals in 2008.  You could equate that to trying to play a gig at a sports bar during the Super Bowl. While it’s difficult to say which has been my best gig ever, I will say that I’ve learned you can never tell how good a gig will be until you actually play it.  My last few gigs at Mojo Blues Bar in Copenhagen have been really good.
AAM: Your latest album “Favorites” is a collection of  cool remakes. How did that idea come to be?

CB: I was finishing up the first tour that I had booked myself in Scandinavia, and I wanted to make a CD, so we decided to just go in and cut some of the material we’d been doing live.

AAM: If you weren’t playing music for a living, what profession do you think you’d be?

CB: Probably teaching music. I’m planning to get in to that if and when I get too old to tour.

AAM: What is your long-term plan for the Charles Burton Band?

CB: I’d really like to expand my touring area to include Germany and the Netherlands.  From what I’ve heard from other musicians, my style would go over well there.