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James Burton: Play It, James!

Colin Escott, 'Tattooed on their Tongues' (Schirmer), 1996

JAMES BURTON CRADLES a dark red 1953 Telecaster. The finish is cracked in a few places and the fretboard is worn, but it's got the look. You know that history just has to be bound up in that instrument. If you were driving by a pawnshop window and saw it, you'd pull across three lanes of traffic and back up just to look at it. Burton plays a few trademark runs, then says, "Man, I wish I had a cent for every copy of every record this guitar was on." It would probably clear the national debt.

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