Watch the Q's Blues online guitar lesson by Joe Deloro from Blues Rock Road Trip 2
James Burton’s signature telecaster riff on Dale Hawkin’s, Suzie-Q is the focus of this example. Released in 1957, (Chess Records) it broke into the top 30 on the charts and brought the teen-aged native of Shrevesport, LA’s guitar style to national attention.
Although covered many times, the 1968 version of SQ by John Fogerty with Creedence Clearwater Revival is probably the most successful and best known. It has a different rhythmic approach though than the original. That is, the eighth notes are played “straight" (evenly) instead of lightly shuffled. Like Creedence’s version, this example is also based on a straight-eighth feel. However, experimenting with both feels is definitely the way to go.
Whether you call it hybrid picking or “chicken pickin” as James and many other players do, the fundamentals are the same: a bass line and lead part are played together independently, or for single-note lines the pick alternates with the fingers.
Generally, the bass is played with a pick (and often palm muted) and the lead part with fingers (James uses a fingerpick). The style evolved through Burton’s interest in pedal steel guitar sounds with Country and Rock and Roll music. Although founded in Rockabilly and Country styles, this guitar technique is very versatile and has yielded hit sounds as diverse as the Intros to Funk #49 by Joe Walsh and Stairway To Heaven by Jimmy Page. It’s equally useful in Blues-Rock as the following examples illustrate.
James moved to Los Angeles in 1958 and to record and tour as a member of Ricky Nelson’s band and later with Elvis Presley’s “TCB” band. From there, the list of Burton's musical accomplishments goes on and on.
The backing track is based on E7.