Making a Scene Presents an Interview with Johnny Burgin
Johnny Burgin earns his name as The Worldwide West Side Guitar Man by performing up to 250 shows a year in Europe, Japan and coast to coast in the US. Johnny started his career in the rough and tumble neighborhood blues joints on Chicago’s West Side with Howlin’ Wolf disciple Tail Dragger, and went on to tour and record with blues legends such as Pinetop Perkins, Sam Lay and Billy Boy Arnold. He’s been praised by the Cascade Blues Association for his “stunning guitar playing– the pure Chicago styled sound”, and his fans love Johnny’s take on the intense, stripped-down “West Side sound” of Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Buddy Guy. Johnny is a Delmark and Vizztone recording artist with 8 CDs to his credit. He was nominated for a BMA for Best Traditional Blues CD of 2017 for “Howlin’ at Greaseland”, a Howlin’ Wolf tribute.
Johnny Burgin grew up in Starkville MS and Greenville SC, and while he was still in high school, he got to see many touring blues bands such as Guitar Jr, Gatemouth Brown and Eddie Clearwater. His father was an actor and folk musician and taught him the basics on guitar. He went to University of Chicago with the intention of becoming a writer, but a different path unfolded and he fell headfirst into the Chicago blues scene. Things started happening fast after Johnny (at that time featuring guest vocalist Jimmy Burns) took a Monday night residency at the Smoke Daddy in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. They soon became a strong draw, and the atmosphere they generated was so electric that Bob Koester of Delmark Records offered them a contract after hearing just one set.
Since those days, Johnny played the Chicago blues festival many times, toured Europe regularly, and has headlined festivals all over the US. Over the years, he has developed from a blues guitar slinger and local blues hero into a fully fledged singer, harmonica player, a dynamic and engaging bandleader, and a mature, seasoned guitarist. One look at Johnny’s tour schedule confirms his status as an in-demand blues performer. Rockin Johnny also plays solo and duo performances and does guitar and blues workshops worldwide. He puts on the kind of satisfying and exciting show that only years of touring can develop. Elmore magazine remarked on Johnny’s “commanding vocals and stinging guitar”, but Elvin Bishop may have said it best: “his guitar style is raw and rude and real—on the vocal side, a nice original style–he’s damn good!”