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Published on July 16th, 2012 | by Sam


Chicken Pickin’ with James Burton

James Burton is one of the fathers of Chicken Pickin’-and you could easily make the argument that he is the father. His work with numerous artists is absolutely amazing and his influence can be felt in all kinds of country and rockabilly music after the early 1960s.

We’ll look at a Merle Haggard tune called “All of Me Belongs to All of You”. The tune is in C, and has both F and G sections.


The first few fills we’ll look at are from the second time through the song. The first one is over a C7 chord. The key to this lick is to play the A and G staccato. That’s really the essence to chicken pickin’ in general-the staccato notes. He also ghosts the C in the last bar of the example.

The second fill we’ll look at is also during a C7 chord. This time he is highlighting the tritone between the 6th (or 13th) and the b3. Both times, he pulls the b3 up to the natural third.

The last fill from this verse comes over an F7 chord. He starts by jumping from the third to the 7th. Then resolves it to the 5th. Again, pay attention to the staccato note Eb.

Solo Break

James gets a very short, 2 bar solo in the middle of the tune. He plays a classic chicken pickin’ line by bending the A up to a C, then using staccato right hand damping, releases the bend. The end of this lick has more staccato notes.


The last fill we’ll look at comes over a G7 chord. This time he bends the b3rd up to the natural third, then plays deadened triplets. The triplet is a classic chicken pickin sound, especially when using deadened notes.

Ending Fill

James ends the tune with a slick lick highlighting the b3rd again. He jumps from the high E down to the Eb-which is a big jump. But he resolves it really well by getting to the C note.

These licks are all great ones as is. Try taking any of these concepts and creating your own versions of these licks. Also try to play them in different keys and in different parts of the neck.

What are some of your favorite James Burton tunes?

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2 Responses to Chicken Pickin’ with James Burton

  1. Mila says:

    I just read through what you wrote, thank you, but for me it is like a chineese literacy. I am sure it is wonderful. I bought a guitar for my daughter she now has 3 of them, playing a little, my husband learned 3 chords and we sing songs in the evenings. I also tried to learn, I can sing, I’ve got a musical ear but a big bear stepped on my husband’s ear so I think our neighbours are not happy when we feel like playng and singing. I just wrote to you to say that I adore talented people but I am sure that success is 10 % talent and 90 % hard work.

  2. Pingback: 19 Chicken Pickin’ Lessons

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