Rockin' Johnny Burgin

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Johnny Burgin
Birth nameJohnny Burgin
Born (1969-07-17) July 17, 1969 (age 54)
Williamsport, Pennsylvania, United States
GenresChicago blues, electric blues
Occupation(s)Guitarist, singer, songwriter
Instrument(s)Guitar, harmonica, vocals
Years active1990s–present
Rockin' Johnny Burgin
Johnny Burgin at the 2017 Chicago Blues Festival Photo by Franky Bruneel

Johnny Burgin (born July 17, 1969) is an American blues guitarist and harmonica player. Since 1997, he has released ten recordings under his own name and has played on numerous other recordings as a sideman.


Johnny Burgin was a student and college radio DJ at the University of Chicago. In 1988 he encountered with fellow DJ/harp player David Waldman, who played and recorded with Tail Dragger Jones, Smokey Smothers and others, led to a trip to Chicago's West Side to meet and sit in with Jones.

Although Burgin had already been playing gigs since high school, his initial failure in an authentic blues club setting led him to throw away his guitar playing style and start from scratch. He focused on learning an authentic blues style and worked every Thursday night at Lilly's in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighbourhood with the Ice Cream Men. They were a blues band which including Steve Cushing (drums), Scott Dirks (harp), and Dave Waldman (guitar). The Ice Cream Men regularly backed traditional Chicago blues artists such as Golden "Big" Wheeler, Tail Dragger Jones, Jimmy Lee Robinson and Bonnie Lee.

Burgin was then hired by Tail Dragger Jones and began playing four nights a week on Chicago's West Side with seasoned blues performers such as Eddie Burks, Mary Lane, Johnny B. Moore, Lurrie Bell, Little Mack Simmons, Little Arthur Duncan, Jimmy Dawkins and Johnny Littlejohn, among others. He toured the Midwest with Pinetop Perkins, who often had Dave Meyers, a member of the Aces, on bass. Burgin toured nationally for two years with Sam Lay, drummer for Howlin' Wolf and Paul Butterfield.

In 1994, Burgin began a residency at Smoke Daddy, a venue in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood. The band featured Jimmy Burns on vocals and guitar, Martin Lang on harp, Sho Komiya on bass, and either Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith (son of Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, drummer for Muddy Waters) or Kelly Littleton (drummer for Lil’ Ed Williams). During the residency in 1996, Bob Koester, founder of Delmark Records, signed Jimmy Burns with Burgin's band after hearing one set.

Burgin recorded his debut CD (Straight Out of Chicago) as a band leader in 1997. Collaborations with numerous blues musicians, and European tours, followed.

In 2002, Burgin left the music business to raise his family, then returned in January 2009. In the June 1, 2015, edition of the Chicago Tribune, reporter Rick Kogan wrote, "There are few more passionate practitioners of [blues] music than Johnny Burgin.",

Burgin released seven CDs between 2010 and 2020 and increased his touring schedule to perform more than 250 nights a year. In 2016 he moved from Chicago to California and collaborated with West Coast players such as Aki Kumar, Kid Andersen, Alabama Mike, Nick Gravenites, Nancy Wright, and Andy Santana.

Personal life[edit]

Johnny Burgin was born July 17, 1969, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, but grew up mostly in Starkville, Mississippi, his father's hometown. Burgin's father was an actor and folk musician who taught Burgin how to play guitar. Burgin moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1988 to attend the University of Chicago.

He relocated from Chicago to Petaluma, California in 2016 and then New Orleans in 2021. He dropped the "Rockin'" from his name in 2019 and is now billed simply as Johnny Burgin.



No Border Blues Japan 2020 Delmmark The first American compilation of the underground Japanese Blues Scene. With Lee Kanehira, Minoru Maruyama, Kotez, Nacomi Tanaka, Yoshimi Hirata, Kaz Ohnogi,

Takagiman, Iper Onishi, Ataka Suzuki, Hironori Yanaga, Fumiko Maejima, Stephen Dougherty and Chris Matheos. Recorded at Fukada Studio, Osaka by Yoshikazu Madokoro. Mixed and mastered by Steve Wagner at Riverside Studio, Chicago.

Johnny Burgin Live 2019 Delmark With special guests Charlie Musselwhite, Rae Gordon, Nancy Wright, Aki Kumar and Kid Andersen. Recorded and mixed by Kid Anderson, mastered by Steve Wagner.
Rockin' Johnny and Quique Gomez 2019 Vizztone Label Group Features Greg Izor, Josh Fulero, Christian Dozzler. Recorded in Toledo, Spain at Casa Madera and Austin Texas at Alnico Studio.
Neoprene Fedora 2017 West Tone Features Kid Andersen, Nancy Wright, Aki Kumar and Alabama Mike
Greetings from Greaseland 2015 West Coast Records Features Kid Andersen (guitar) and Aki Kumar (harp)
Grim Reaper 2012 Delmark Reached No. 7 on the Living Blues Radio charts
Now's the Time 2010 5105 Music
More Real Folk Blues 2000 Midwest Artists Out of print
Man's Temptation 1998 Delmark
Straight Out of Chicago 1997 Delmark


Chicago: The Blues Legends: Today! Mary Lane, Little Jerry Jones, Milwaukee Slim, Mike Mettalia. 2019 West Tone
Tony Holiday's Porch Sessions 2019 Vizztone
Howlin' At Greaseland John Blues Boyd, Tail Dragger Jones, Terry Hanck, Lee Donald and Alabama Mike 2018 West Tone Nominated for a BMA for Best Tradiotinal Blues CD. An all-star cast of Chicago and California musicians pay tribute to the music of Howlin' Wolf
Chicago Blues Harp Sessions     Martin Lang 2015 Random Chance
'Straight Blues' Peter Struijk 2015 Blueshine Records (Netherlands)
Cell Phone Man Willie Buck 2014 Delmark
  • Reached No. 1 on the Living Blues radio charts
  • Johnny Burgin played guitar and acoustic guitar and served as producer
  • Barrelhouse Chuck made a guest appearance
  • Scott Dirks wrote the liner notes
Tail Dragger

Live at Rooster's Lounge

Tail Dragger Jones Delmark (DVD)
  • Features Jimmy Dawkins, Johnny Burgin, Kevin Shanahan, Martin Lang, Rob Lorenz and Todd Fackler
  • Johnny Burgin wrote the liner notes
Chicago Jump Jimmy Lee Robinson 2004 Random Chance
Killer Diller Shirley Johnson 2002 Delmark
Alive in the City The Mighty Blue Kings 2001
deLay Does Chicago Paul deLay 1999 Evidence
  • Features Johnny Burgin Band (courtesy of Delmark Records)
  • Special guests included Jimmy Dawkins (courtesy of Ichiban Records) and Zora Young
Singin' With the Sun Little Arthur Duncan 1999 Delmark
  • Johnny Burgin wrote the liner notes, was a producer and played guitar on this recording
  • Also on this recording: Billy Flynn, Martin Lang, Eddie Taylor Jr. and Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith
American People Tail Dragger Jones 1999 Delmark
Chicago Blues:

Rockin' After Midnight

Various Artists 1998 St. George
  • Johnny Burgin backed up Andre Williams and Paul Jones (of Manfred Mann) 
Rib Tips Live Little Arthur Duncan 1997 Random Chance
Blues Before Sunrise:

Live Vol. 1

John Brim, Billy Boy Arnold,

Big Wheeler, Jimmy Burns

1997 Delmark A Benefit for Steve Cushing's Radio Show
Leaving Here Walking Jimmy Burns 1996 Delmark
Crawlin' Kingsnake Tail Dragger Jones and his Chicago Blues Band 1995 St. George
Lonely Traveler Jimmy Lee Robinson 1993 Delmark
Big Wheeler's Bone Orchard

with the Ice Cream Men

Golden "Big" Wheeler 1992 Delmark


  • Kogan, Rick (June 1, 2015). "Rockin' Johnny Burgin is glad to be playing the blues again". Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 19, 2018.

External links[edit]