Posted by T.J. on February 16, 1999 at 17:26:11:
Sorry about the caps and exclamation marks, but since Burton's playing with Haggard is my all-time favourite Burton stuff, I felt like I had to speak out on this after reading about the confusion there still is on the Burton vs. Nichols thing.
The whole Fugitive album is all James. Roy who had up until that point done all the Haggard sessions except the first one for Tally records and the Swingin' Doors session (which has Phil Baugh on guitar), went back to Las Vegas to play with Wynn Stewart again.
I read a post on Phil a few posts down. He was amazing and one of the unsung Bakersfield guitar originators. Ralph Mooney played steel on pretty much everything. The Strangers with the Roy Nichols/Norm Hamlett tandem didn't really originate until quite a while later.
Anyway, the first session Burton did was the session that produced The Bottle Let Me Down. It must also be noted that all the trademarks of the Haggard era style up until the turning point of, say, Okie, didn't showcase at all until Baugh BUT especially Burton entered the field. I'm of course referring to the chicken' pickin' and bending stuff. Not to take anything away from Roy, but Burton made the blueprint.
James did the whole "Fugitive" album including such staples as The Fugitive, Skid Row, All Of Me, and so on. Roy re-entered the picture shortly after the album was released and from then on, up until the early '70s, Roy and James shared the guitar duties, with Burton often playing Dobro. Roy plays the lead electric guitar on Mama Tried, Branded Man, and others. Burton still did quite a bit of the electric stuff too.
On some tracks they both play electric, and that means PARTY TIME! Best example is the outrageous I'm Bringing Home Good News. Burton stayed on board pretty much until the early '70s. Yes, he DID play on Workin' Man Blues, and in fact played the same solo as he did on Ricky Nelson's version of Milkcow Blues, some ten years earlier.
Roy Nichols has never denied this or had any ego problems about it. When Burton asked Haggard why Nichols let him play that much, Haggard just said: "Man, cause he just loves to watch you play!" I think it's a classic case of INNOVATIVE behaviour that only the truly greatest musicians like Roy are capable of. Although both veterans, Roy was clearly the senior and I think him allowing Burton to develop that much made him a big contributor and co-developer of that style. It's a classic case of young energy guided by true, if you like nurturing, veterans. These people needed each other. Something special was going on and you don't mess with magic!
I think you also have to take into account that Roy by that time already didn't have to prove himself that much anymore. He was already a veteran more than having done his share to have earned his credibility, having played with many of the greats, like for instance Lefty Frizzell. When Roy's playing really blossomed with the Strangers in the early 70s he much more played in the amazing Country-Jazz style that he had helped pioneer and master in the Late '40s when playing with the Maddox Bros. and Rose and the Trading Post Band. It's also interesting to note that with them, he already played like Scotty Moore, some 6 years before Scotty did! BTW, his Jazz playing is as good as Bryant's.
And for what it's worth, Roy's chicken' pickin' wasn't any less than Burton's. I personally even prefer Roy live version of the guitar break from Workin' Man Blues, and James is my IDOL! Anyway, so there it is, if anybody believes otherwise that's fine by me, this is just what I have made out of it reading books and interviews with all those guys. BTW, Burton also played on some Buck Owens stuff like Open Up Your Heart. Same story really.
I don't think this takes away anything from Nichols, he's still an incredible player and proved himself on more than a million other records to be every bit as talented as Burton. Just not those couple of records. For instance check out Nichols' playing on the live albums Fighting Side Of Me, Okie From Muskogee and I Love the Dixie Blues. It's mindblowing! His sound is much bigger and far less tinny than Burton's. I in fact prefer it, and it also shows where Buchanan got some of his tricks. Burton used his out of phase setting quite a lot too, on the aforementioned sides. Oh well. Hope this helps.