Keni Lee Burgess

Musical styles: Mississippi delta blues, Roots, Folk, Americana

Handmade instrument played: cigar box guitar

He dabbled in guitar as a teenager, playing in a band and partying with friends. In his youth, artists like Led Zepplin, The Rolling Stones, and Jimi Hendrix opened his eyes to the blues. It was then that Keni Lee Burgess got hooked on the bottleneck slide.

Like so many beginner guitarists, Burgess cut his teeth with the likes of Happy Traum songbooks. Later he learned from listening to newfound heroes, such as Robert Johnson, Sonny House, and Fred McDowell.

As with anyone seeking to master a given craft, Burgess took to the art of diligent practice. He studied with internationally renowned guitarists like Bob Brozman and Woody Mann. And as he puts it, “I have studied with some fine players, but it is really the time you spend alone working on skills and songs that brings the lessons into performance.”

Burgess’s deep dive into his studies led him to cigar box guitars. The Foxfire series of books introduced him to cake tin banjos. From there Burgess had a cigar box guitar built for him by a luthier friend. As Burgess recollects, “It is more of a miniature guitar than a simple stick through a box.”

His love for playing the blues led Burgess to busking. Videos of his performances, ripe with soul and skill, can be found on YouTube. After posting some of his videos there, viewers began asking for lessons.

Burgess then created a series of videos on how to play bottleneck slide guitar. The response was so good that he continued producing lessons, ultimately creating a DVD series that includes how to play 3 and 4 string cigar box guitars.

A love for the Mississippi Delta blues and the likes of Blind Willie Johnson, Charlie Patton, and Muddy Waters continues to fuel Burgess’s love for performing music. He has released 3 CDs in addition to his instructional DVD series, and continues to play live, delighting the public with his bottleneck blues.

Find Keni Lee Burgess on Facebook and Cigar Box Nation.