Rock 'n' roll legend James Burton donated 15 acoustic guitars Wednesday during what was called one of the greatest assemblies the Rutherford House has ever had. The guitars will help start a music program at the nonprofit residential treatment center for youth, continuing its arts programming.
"About four or five months ago we opened our arts lab," said Eliot Knowles, executive director of the Rutherford House. "Now we have a music program."
Arts teacher Micheal Snider approached the James Burton Foundation for the instruments. The donation makes Rutherford House the first group home to receive the guitars.
"Day in and day out, I see the creativity out of these (young) men," he said. "Here's hoping that in the future, one of these men come back to present to us more instruments."
The James Burton Foundation is funded by the James Burton International Guitar Festival. The money from the event goes toward purchasing guitars and providing music lessons for young musicians.
Since the foundation was formed in late 2005, about 1,800 guitars have been given to schools in Caddo and Bossier parishes, said Janie Landry, foundation and festival chairwoman.
Burton, who has played with musical icons such as Elvis Presley, said music programs in schools are important.
"What I want to do is give back, work with kids and keep music in the schools," Burton said. "It's great for your discipline. It's wonderful. I couldn't deal without it in my life."
On Wednesday, Knowles introduced Burton to a crowd that hadn't heard of him until that moment.
"Some of you might not have heard of James Burton but to me he's a legend," he said. "How many of you have heard of Elvis Presley?"
A majority of hands were raised.
"And Jerry Lee Lewis? "
More hands were raised.
"Well, James Burton has played with them and others," Knowles said.
The students were then treated to an impromptu jam session with Burton; Oration Criner, a former employee who plays guitar; and David Dooley a local musician who plays the violin.
"I can kinda end my career now," Criner said. "I know James Burton. He's a legend. I've got to have a tape of that."
Dooley also enjoyed the jam session for the students.
"Playing with someone like that makes the music make sense," he said.