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.
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.
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?