Interviews

Published on June 22nd, 2022 | by Nature Humphries

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North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic Artist Interview: Garry Burnside

Garry Burnside will play the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic Saturday, June 25 at 5:30 pm.

What is your favorite thing about the Hill Country Picnic, and what makes it stand out from other festivals?

It’s more like family, more like home. You get to see a lot of people that you grew up playing with. Everybody’s doing their own thing [now], and you don’t hardly see them no more, so it’s like a family reunion. You get to see old friends and family together.

What does Hill Country Blues mean to you as an artist?

It means a lot to me because that’s how I make my living. I’ve been doing it for a long time, and I want to keep it going because it’s what my daddy was doing too. It’s the way I live. It’s how take care of my family. It’s how my daddy took care of me, [since] I was old enough to remember. It’s a job, and I love doing it. You’re like your own boss. It means security to me.

Old were you when you first started playing?

I started at nine years old playing drums. About 10 or 11, I started playing bass. Then around 12 or 13 I was playing bass for Junior Kimbrough. I’ve been doing it for a long time, and then I started playing lead guitar after Junior died.

How do you describe your own style? How do interpret Hill Country Blues as an artist in your own right?

I do put my own spin on it, but I try not to take the feeling away that from what the Hill Country means. When I started playing lead guitar in my own band, my show and my performance is not all Hill Country, because I watch other artists play that I admire besides my dad and Junior. It also has a lot to do with my crowd. I have more of a college crowd [in Oxford], and I have to play stuff that they know as well as my era of Hill Country. It’s a different generation than my dad’s, but it still has the feel of the Hill Country.

Who is in your band?

My drummer, we call him Buddy, but his name is Justin Rutherford. On bass, I have Eddie Norman, John Shaw on keyboard, Miss Taquetta Martin will sing vocals with me.

Are you working on any recording now, or do you have plans to in the future?

I’m in the studio right now, doing stuff and coming up with new stuff. I got a couple CDs at Boo Mitchell’s Studio in Memphis that I did already. I’m just waiting on them to get finished, so they’ll be coming out soon. I’ve been working on it about a year, but I always come up with singles, too. I have a studio down here in Ripley, Sun Bear Studio. I try to do singles every three months or so.

Garry Burnside with Gracey Williams at the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic June 26, 2021. Photo by Jean Frank.

Tell us about your student, Gracey Williams.

She just turned 11, and she’s a good student. I like passing it down to her, because children are the next generation to keep it going. I bring her out to shows with me. She will get up and do a song with me at the Hill Country Picnic this year, too. I’ll bring her up there and let people hear her play, so they can see that at this age you can do it if you if you got your heart in it—you can do it no matter your age. You just have to have the heart and a teacher that’s patient enough to show. She’s gonna be excellent. I’ve been teaching her for about two years now.

What kind of what kind of music do you enjoy listening to?

I like Joe Bonamassa. I like Josh Smith. I like Stevie ray Vaughn, Albert King, Muddy Waters, Johnny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shephard, Warren Haynes, I like all them guys’ playing. Even though they’re all excellent guitar players, they all have their own different styles and feel. I watch all those for different reasons. Like maybe that song for speed or the beat, another song for technique or stage presence. I try to have all that with me from the old to the new. I take that and tweak it, not to take away from it, but to enhance it.

Can you share any memories from picnics in the past that stand out?

It’s always special because it’s mostly family there. I like the way they represent those who have passed and used to be there. They’ll never be forgotten. They put all their names on the stage and keep their memories alive. That shows the love more than anything.

Do you have any other gigs coming up?

I’m doing the guitar workshop on the 23rd, I play at 5:30 pm on Saturday the 25th, and then I’ll be at Foxfire Ranch on Sunday the 26th, too, with Luther Dickinson.

I have my own club down here called Ripley Sports Grill, where we have bands every Friday. I also have my own festival I do October 1 in honor of my mom, Alice Mae Blues Festival, here in Ripley. I named it after her because I want people know my mom. She was a real soldier, too, because she had to stay and watch all of us while my dad traveled. Thirteen, fourteen kids are not easy to watch while he was out doing his thing. She supported him to the fullest. It’s at a place called First Monday. It’s going to be every year on the first Saturday in October. This is my third year doing it.

North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic Artist Interview: Eric Deaton
North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic Artist Interview: Shardé Thomas

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About the Author

Nature Humphries is Editor-in-Chief of The Local Voice. Nature is originally from Vicksburg, Mississippi, but moved to Oxford in 2004 after spending time in the United States Navy. She has also worked in the restaurant industry for many years as a server and a bartender. Nature graduated from Ole Miss in 2007 with a degree in English and Modern Languages.



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