Eddie "Guitar" Burns

Eddie Burns, b. February 8, 1928 in Belzoni, MS, d. December 12, 2012 in Detroit, MI.

Burns was born in Belzoni, Mississippi, United States. His father was a sharecropper who performed as a singer in medicine shows, although Burns was mainly raised by his grandparents. He was self-taught in the harmonica and made his first guitar.

Initially influenced by exposure to the music of Sonny Boy Williamson I and Big Bill Broonzy, Burns relocated from the Mississippi delta via Waterloo, Iowa to Detroit in 1948. Originally Burns excelled playing the harmonica, and his debut single, "Notoriety Woman" (1948), featured this ability accompanied by the guitar playing of John T. Smith. Burns tells how he met John Lee Hooker here: "Well see, John T. and me was playing at a house party this particular Saturday night. We was in Detroit Black Bottom...so Hooker was on his way home from somewhere – I guess he was at some other party, house parties used to be real plentiful here. Hooker heard it, knocked at the door, and they let him in. He introduced himself and he sat down and played some with us. And then, he liked the way I was blowing harmonica...he had a session coming up on Tuesday, this was on a Saturday. And so then, he wanted to know if I wanted to do this session with him on Tuesday. And I told him, yes, naturally. So that's how John T. and me went down to cut for Hooker. When we got through the man wanted to know what I had. I had one song, "Notoriety Woman." And so he said I'd need two, and I sat there and made up "Papa's Boogie.""  However, by the following year Burns was playing guitar accompaniment on recordings by John Lee Hooker.

Billed at times as Big Daddy, Little Eddie, or Big Ed, Burns performed regularly in Detroit nightclubs, but had to supplement his earnings by working as a mechanic. In those early years Burns's own recording was not prolific with just a handful of tracks released on several labels. His output veered from Detroit blues to R&B as the 1960s progressed, when he issued a number of singles in that decade on Harvey Fuqua's Harvey Records label. Now permanently billed as Eddie "Guitar" Burns, he appeared on Hooker's album The Real Folk Blues (1966).

In 1972, Burns undertook a European tour and recorded his debut album, Bottle Up & Go in London, England. This was followed by an appearance at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival in 1973. Two years later Burns toured Europe again, this time as part of the billing of 'American Blues Legends', organised by Jim Simpson of Big Bear Records, who was the first to insert the epithet "guitar" into his name. Burns self penned track, "Orange Driver", was recorded by The J. Geils Band (Hotline, 1975). In August 1976, Burns performed his song "Bottle Up & Go" live on the British television program, So It Goes.

In 1989 Burns released an album titled Detroit on Blue Suit Records, where his ability on both guitar and harmonica were displayed. In February 1992, Burns appeared alongside Jack Owens, Bud Spires, and Lonnie Pitchford at the seventh annual New York Winter Blues Festival. By 1994, Burns had been granted the Michigan Heritage Award.

In 1998, the Detroit Blues Society presented Burns with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

His brother, Jimmy Burns, is a soul blues musician, who lives in Chicago, and played guitar on Burns 2002 album Snake Eyes. Burns final recorded offering was Second Degree Burns, released when he was 77 years of age.

In 2008, Little Sonny performed with Burns on the latter's final live performance at the Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival.

Burns died of heart failure aged 84 in December 2012.