B. John Burns
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B. John Burns

Johnston, Iowa, United States | SELF

Johnston, Iowa, United States | SELF
Solo Pop

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"Interview with B John Burns After His Set At The Brew"

As we pulled up to The Brew we could hear B John Burns pouring his heart and soul into the streets of Manchester. When we stepped out of the car, I could feel the energy pulling us into the building.

After Mr Burns finished his song, he began telling some amazing stories about his experiences as a songwriter over the past few decades.

Each song had a great story to go along with it and he even mentioned that he could write books of stories about the 5,000 or so songs he has written during his adventures.

He mentioned a fantasy of coming down to Manchester and guys in T-shirts walking in during his set. He imagined these guys being Bonnaroo scouts… we didn’t mean to disappoint him, but we are with Middle Tennessee Music and we really felt the B John Burns experience.

The only negative part of his performance was the lack of people packing out The Brew to experience his story. - Middle Tennessee Music


"Heroes"

Conan the Barbarian by Robert Howard was on my bedside table when I first met my wife 31 years ago. My wife will tell you this with a small shake of her head as if still puzzling out whether she should return to her stylish-and-fun single life or stay with this obviously deluded, mildly insufferable man. Ignoring that she is still debating that issue, I do love a hero.

What am I talking about here? Remember Santiago from “Old Man and the Sea”? Hero. Tarzan? Hero. Anne Frank? Hero. The Firemen at 9/11. Heroes. My recent favorite hero is construction-worker Jason Oglesbee, caught in this Pulitzer Prize photo by Mary Chind for the Des Moines Register, as he and his partner rigged up a rescue of this woman from a sure death by undertow. Hero.



But most heroes are unnamed and unnoticed — tucked away under the brilliant disguise of ordinary life. They are so plain, in the Quaker sense, that we not only fail to notice them, but may even find them a bit lacking. Here’s the typical recipe for one hero-to-go: an ordinary person (usually portrayed as an orphan or step-sister or silent stranger), who faces a tremendous challenge (a dragon is a helpful image), and reluctantly accepts the challenge, not for fame or glory, but because it is required by his or her idea of being a good person. Winning is optional, and losing is even better. That’s it.

I spotted a hero early Saturday morning. He could be found between the Breakfast Burritos stand and the Breakfast Pizza stand at the Downtown Farmer’s Market in Des Moines. That’s him in the Johnny-Cash black:



I’ve known B. John since the mid-80's. . . . A mother would be proud. That is not why he’s a hero.

B. John writes and performs music. Alone these days. He has a long musical past that included belonging to several groups — my favorite is a stint with Baby Lester and the Buggybumpers. Before dawn every morning, B. John gets up and writes and practices his music until he has to go to his day job. Every morning. Then, once a week or so he packs his car full of equipment and hits the road. Last Saturday, I stumbled across him at the Des Moines Farmer’s Market.


People marched past snacking on a pizza or a burrito — and the amazing music B. John sang was lost in the raucous noise of the early morning market crowd. With his large Tupperware container and weighted carny tent, it is possible that the whole shtick is a parody. It’s not.

B. John has songs that will rip at your heart. B. John will beguile you with love, and loss, and the beauty of life. And his raspy vocals will cause you to sip a drink in relief. B. John sings and writes because that’s what he does. Sure, . . .he’s a writer; and sure, he’s a public speaker; but what does he really do? Music. But the public dragon he faces every week is the fiery breath of rejection. Few of us would have the gumption.

He performs at the Greenwood Lounge this Wednesday. When I asked him how that will go, he said: “It is an amazing experience. At one point the crowd will hate me. A few moments later a new crowd will really like my songs.” Really? That’s an amazing experience? This man is a nut . . . and courageous. And, notice the twinkle in his eyes? Most heroes have that.



Joe

- Joe Weeg, Joe's Neighborhood


"Scene Scribe: Veteran singer-songwriter plays opening of Cafè Diem"

By Michael Swanger michael@dmcityview.com

After 30 years of performing in rock bands and as a solo artist, Johnston singer-songwriter John Burns has seen just about everything and played nearly every joint in town.

On Saturday, Burns can add another venue to the long list of places he's played when he helps usher in the grand opening of Cafè Diem, located at 2005 S. Ankeny Blvd. in Ankeny, with a free performance at 7:30 p.m. The show not only celebrates the opening of a new live music venue in Central Iowa (replacing the former New Day Coffeehouse at the same location), but it also marks the 30th anniversary of Burns' professional debut, a gig he played in 1976 with his former band, Now and Then.

"I've traveled to a lot of places since then and written about 5,000 songs," he says.
In 1975, Burns headed to Nashville to pitch songs to Music Row. Magnum Gold Publishing Co., owned by Elvis Presley drummer DJ Fontana, offered to publish one of his tunes for a fee, but Burns declined. One week later, the Iowa musician was in New York City with an appointment to audition with none other than John Lennon, but the audition with the ex-Beatle didn't happen because Lennon took his wife Yoko to the hospital that day to give birth to their son, Sean.

Still determined to make a living playing music, Burns returned home. In 1976, he joined Now and Then, the house band at Payton Place Lounge, on Des Moines' North Side. Burns' tenure with the group, however, was short-lived. A few months after joining them, he was recruited by another band, Baby Lester and the Buggybumpers, a popular Omaha rock group. Burns would spend the next year touring the country with them.

After three years of touring, Burns stopped playing music in 1979, though he continued to write songs. A 1989 performance at Jazz in July marked his return to the local music scene, where he has continued to perform original material as a solo artist and with a number of rock bands including Goodnight Dallas and The Shirts.




- Business Publications -- Des Moines Cityview


"Music Man Celebrates 30 Years on Stage"

Johnston's John Burns celebrates 30 years of music with solo concert
Chartes Flesher

B. John Burns first walked on stage as a professional musician in January of 1976. This weekend, he will celebrate 30 years of playing live with a solo concert of original songs at the new Cafe Diem cof- feehouse in Ankeny. He has plenty of material to choose from.
Over the past 30 years, Burns has written somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 songs.

From country to pop, rock and even classical, he has written them all.

"Composing is the most creative thing about music," says Burns, who now lives in Johnston. "The idea of putting a story with an original line of music is the ultimate expression."

A keyboard and guitar player, Burns began writing songs as a sophomore at Dowling Catholic High School.

"For 13 years, I would write a song every day," he says.

After a short stint at the University of Iowa, Burns left school to pursue a musical career.

He eventually caught on as a keyboard player for the Omaha show band Baby Lester and the Buggybumpers.

The band spent a year touring the country playing bars and nightclubs.

"As a performer that was probably my heyday -- playing six days a week in 13 different states," he says. . .

It was the late 70s and nearly every hotel had a nightclub offerblg live music.

"It was just a wonderful time to be a musician," he says.

Burns eventually left the road and returned to Des Mobles. He worked for a short stint with record producer Leonard Shaw.

When his boss was arrested and sent to jail for securities fraud, Burns returned to the University of Iowa, soured on the music business. . .

"During that time I contbinued to write everyday, " says Burns. . .

He spent his days in class and his nights at the university's music building.

Burns stayed away from the stage for 10 years until an advertisement seeking musical acts for a new event called Jazz in July caught his eye.

"I really didn't listen to a lot of jazz," Burns says. "I had to sit down and write 90 minutes of what I thought jazz was."

That one gig in the summer of 1989 led to others and soon Burns was back on the music circuit.

"Ultimately I started to get back into what I wanted to do in the first place -- write pop and rock songs and perform them," he says.

Burns eventually served on the board of the Metro Arts Alliance -- a group that organizes musical events. He was also the chairman of the Jazz in July festival for six years.

For the past decade, Burns has performed off and on as a -- solo act and with groups like Goodnight Dallas and The Shirts.

He continues to write a song a week.
"Every year I'll record a CD of songs I think I'd like to keep," he says.

He recently began cataloging his massive collection of original works recorded over the last 30 years.

"I probably have around 1,000 songs recorded in some form," he says. "There are a lot of songs I've written that I'm fortunate I've forgotten. Then there are other things I hear and think this is as good as anything I'm writing right now."

Burns says he has about 60 songs he keeps in his head for live performances.

It is those 60 songs he will draw from when he plays at Cafe Diem. The coffeehouse opened last week at 2005 S. Ankeny Blvd. Burns will be only the second act to play the venue. Cafe Diem plans to offer live music on weekends.

Burns will play from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday; Jan. 7. There is no cover charge.
- Johnston Press Citizen


"Music Man Celebrates 30 Years on Stage"

Johnston's John Burns celebrates 30 years of music with solo concert
Chartes Flesher

B. John Burns first walked on stage as a professional musician in January of 1976. This weekend, he will celebrate 30 years of playing live with a solo concert of original songs at the new Cafe Diem cof- feehouse in Ankeny. He has plenty of material to choose from.
Over the past 30 years, Burns has written somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 songs.

From country to pop, rock and even classical, he has written them all.

"Composing is the most creative thing about music," says Burns, who now lives in Johnston. "The idea of putting a story with an original line of music is the ultimate expression."

A keyboard and guitar player, Burns began writing songs as a sophomore at Dowling Catholic High School.

"For 13 years, I would write a song every day," he says.

After a short stint at the University of Iowa, Burns left school to pursue a musical career.

He eventually caught on as a keyboard player for the Omaha show band Baby Lester and the Buggybumpers.

The band spent a year touring the country playing bars and nightclubs.

"As a performer that was probably my heyday -- playing six days a week in 13 different states," he says. . .

It was the late 70s and nearly every hotel had a nightclub offerblg live music.

"It was just a wonderful time to be a musician," he says.

Burns eventually left the road and returned to Des Mobles. He worked for a short stint with record producer Leonard Shaw.

When his boss was arrested and sent to jail for securities fraud, Burns returned to the University of Iowa, soured on the music business. . .

"During that time I contbinued to write everyday, " says Burns. . .

He spent his days in class and his nights at the university's music building.

Burns stayed away from the stage for 10 years until an advertisement seeking musical acts for a new event called Jazz in July caught his eye.

"I really didn't listen to a lot of jazz," Burns says. "I had to sit down and write 90 minutes of what I thought jazz was."

That one gig in the summer of 1989 led to others and soon Burns was back on the music circuit.

"Ultimately I started to get back into what I wanted to do in the first place -- write pop and rock songs and perform them," he says.

Burns eventually served on the board of the Metro Arts Alliance -- a group that organizes musical events. He was also the chairman of the Jazz in July festival for six years.

For the past decade, Burns has performed off and on as a -- solo act and with groups like Goodnight Dallas and The Shirts.

He continues to write a song a week.
"Every year I'll record a CD of songs I think I'd like to keep," he says.

He recently began cataloging his massive collection of original works recorded over the last 30 years.

"I probably have around 1,000 songs recorded in some form," he says. "There are a lot of songs I've written that I'm fortunate I've forgotten. Then there are other things I hear and think this is as good as anything I'm writing right now."

Burns says he has about 60 songs he keeps in his head for live performances.

It is those 60 songs he will draw from when he plays at Cafe Diem. The coffeehouse opened last week at 2005 S. Ankeny Blvd. Burns will be only the second act to play the venue. Cafe Diem plans to offer live music on weekends.

Burns will play from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday; Jan. 7. There is no cover charge.
- Johnston Press Citizen


Discography

John Burns wrote, "The Other Side of Your Heart," released by Lisa Gossett on Network Records in 1978. His song "Five Small Towns" is featured on the White Pole Road self-guided tour CD. In the opening ceremonies of the 23rd Annual Linda Vista Multicultural Fair, John performed his song, "3000 Houses in 300 Days", which chronicles the origins of the Linda Vista neighborhood in San Diego.

Photos

Bio

John Burns wrote his first song in the fall of 1972. In the mid-70s he toured the United States with Baby Lester and the Buggybumpers. In the 80s and 90s he played keyboards in bands such as Goodnight Dallas and The Shirts. Today, however, he plays all John Burns originals, influenced by everyone from Chopin to the Beatles to Willie Nelson.

Band Members