Johnny Burgin | Listening For That PhraseMaybe you know him from his years as Rockin’ Johnny Burgin. Maybe you know him by his new handle, The Worldwide West Side Guitar Man. Performing up to 250 shows a year in Europe, Japan and coast to coast in the US, it’s possible you’ve heard him and don’t even know it yet. If that’s the case, you’re in for a treat. Rejoining me on the podcast for the first time since his appearance at end of 2017, Johnny’s been around the world a couple times since then. He’s here to tell us about his travels, what it’s like to rebrand his name and what songwriting on the road is like.

Johnny grew up in Starkville MS and Greenville SC where he got the chance to see touring blues bands like Guitar Jr, Gatemouth Brown and Eddie Clearwater. He learned the basics of the guitar from his folk musician father and while he initially thought he’d grow up to be a writer it was music that called the tune of his life. A mainstay of the Chicago blues festival and European tour circuit, Johnny has headlined festivals all over the US. Over the years he’s developed from a blues guitar slinger and local blues hero into a fully-fledged singer, harmonica player, a dynamic and engaging bandleader, as well as a mature, seasoned player.

Episode Highlights

We kick off this episode by going through Johnny’s last year of touring before diving into:

  • The best and worst parts of long tours
  • Rebranding
  • Rituals and mindset to keep writing on the road
  • Carving out time for risks on stage
  • The road ahead for 2020

Key Points

  • Find time in the ordinary to create space to risk for the extraordinary.
  • Keep yourself open to the creative impulse. Ritual and habit works, but the beginning of a song can come at you at any time.


“I keep my ears open. If I can get a good phrase then I’m halfway through a good song.”

—Johnny Burgin

“If they paid money, then that’s going against taking chances. You really owe them your very best stuff. But you gotta carve out a bit of risk taking within the performance so you have something for your brain to work on for going forward, so you’re not just doing the same performance all the time. Because they wanna see that too. They wanna see you take a chance.”

—Johnny Burgin

Mentioned in this Episode

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