|Husky Burnette Invades Maryville, TN And The Daily Times Wrote About It|
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"Brian “Husky” Burnette tried his luck at a number of occupations when he was a younger man. He went to a vocational high school, and a couple of years after graduation, he joined a carpenter’s union. He went to college for a little bit. He even was grandfathered into a sheet metal workers’ union because of his family, but none of them fit quite as right as a guitar does in his hands.
“Music’s my trade,” he told The Daily Times this week. “I never thought, ‘OK, I’m gonna do this,’ even though it was something I definitely wanted to do. I just don’t know how to do anything else.” Burnette, who performs his particular brand of gut-bucket blues on Friday night at Brackins in downtown Maryville, comes from a musical family. Every member on his dad’s side did something with music, he said, up to and including Johnny Burnette’s Rock and Roll Trio, a rockabilly outfit from Memphis that pioneered the sound around the time that a certain cat named Elvis Presley was starting up. Growing up, Brian played in metal bands, but the blues was never far from his wheelhouse, he said.
“I remember sitting on my bed growing up, listening to blues records, and whenever I could get to a blues jam and had the confidence to play out, that’s what I did,” he said. “I remember one day I saw my buddy playing a metal-bodied resonator guitar at an open mic, and I thought, ‘If he can do it, I can too.’”
Those were wild days, he added, and the trouble he got into would provide fodder for his songs on down the road. Although he plays the blues — rough-and-tumble, like Scott H. Biram or the Black Diamond Heavies — he draws a lot of inspiration from singer-songwriters like Guy Clark and Roger Alan Wade, he said.
“I’m a big lyric guy, and it means more to me to hear a song that’s real and not made up,” he said. “There’s a couple of my songs that get maybe a little too detailed, and some people may think they’re made up, but they’re all real. I remember one time a guy with the Chattanooga Times (Free Press) asked if I needed to keep getting in trouble to write good songs, but the answer is no. I’ve got enough subject matter to keep writing about that time in my life until the day I die.”
That nickname, though — he’ll be the first to sheepishly admit it’s not exactly the stuff of bare-knuckled legend. It stems from the last band he was in, before he went solo, and he and the rest of the guys were keen to crown one another with unique monikers.
“My mom worked for JC Penney back in the day in the marketing department, and instead of hiring a bunch of kids to be in the newspaper to wear all these clothes, they got all the employees’ kids to model them — and I was the kid wearing the Husky pants!” he said with a laugh. “I was telling that story while we were drinking and talking about childhood nicknames, and the guys loved it. It’s nowhere near a cool story. If I was just a fat kid in class, that’d be a cooler story!”
The band — Polecat Boogie Revival — did some cool things, however, including touring with Hank 3; as a solo troubadour, Burnette has shared the stage with a number of greats, including Guy Clark, T-Model Ford, Emmylou Harris, Shooter Jennings, J.J. Grey & Mofro and the legendary Leon Russell, for whom he opened a show last summer at “The Shed” at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson in Maryville.
“Leon, for me, is one of my top three idols, and I didn’t even ask for that gig — it just happened,” he said. “When they let me know who I was opening for, I freaked out.”
Burnette, of course, held his own. Now a member of the Rusty Knuckles label stable, he’s still touring on his most recent album, “Tales From East End Blvd.,” riding the roads and playing wherever will have him — preferably in the sorts of sketchy, backwater places where the stage is set behind chicken wire, the floor boards sweat spilled beer and the women smell like cheap perfume and cigarettes, because that’s the sort of environment where his music seems most at home.
“Sometimes I just describe myself as a black man sitting on the porch,” he said. “He couldn’t tell you what chord he’s playing or nothing; he just does it, and it comes out right. I’m not saying that egotistically or anything; I just fell into this niche of finally finding my style and my sound and just went with it, and it’s working. I love it, and I love the realness of it.”