James Burton was born in Dubberly, Lousiana on August 21, 1939. He first picked up the guitar at age 13. By the time he was 15, he was recording with Dale Hawkins. He also got a job as the lead guitar player on the Louisiana Hayride, backing artists like George Jones and Johnny Horton. By 18, Burton moved to California to work with Ricky Nelson. With Ricky, he recorded Hello, Mary Lou and other classics.
James became very in demand as a session player and before long he was the most in demand guitarist on the west coast. Johnny Cash asked him to be on a television show called Shindig. Again, James would be on tv every week. His session work allowed him to work with everybody in the business: from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Jan and Dean and the Mamas and the Papas.