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Charlie Burgin Rides Again!

Charlie Burgin performed at Rick's in Starkville in July. Behind Charlie L-R, Former Columbus Mayor Jeffrey Rupp, Guitarist Ben Farrell and friend, Scott Farrel

He was an area mainstay since the 60’s. Anyone who went to night clubs in Columbus, Northport, Tuscaloosa or other surrounding cities knew Charlie Burgin!
When you walked into the Straight 8 Jr. in the late 60’s, you’d likely see Charlie on the bandstand…singing the latest soul sounds.
In the 70’s, it was The Chism Trail (downtown where The Tennessee Williams Welcome Center now stands. RW), or the Del Camino Lounge (corner of Hwy 69 & 182), or The Stardust or The Red Ox in Northport, Al.!
In the 80’s, it was The Sharecropper (old J&H Restaurant attached, back then, to The Columbus Motel. RW), or The 45 Club (w/Freeway).
In the 90’s, it was the Playmore (182 near the Alabama line. RW) and on until around 2005.
Around that time, Charlie’s health took a turn for the worst.
The first time Charlie Burgin was to sing in a night club, he recalls, was in 1964…at the legendary Southernaire (located, then, on what we now call The Island! RW)
Patrons of area clubs will recall…when you walked into a club where Charlie was singing, you’d hear him doing all the soul classics…’Dark End Of The Street’, ‘Out Of Left Field’ or ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’. Percy Sledge made those songs big hits in the area in the late 60’s, but Charlie could sing a Percy-song better than Percy. (Vernon, Al. singer-songwriter Dan Penn wrote ‘Dark End of The Street’ and ‘Out of Left Field’. RW).
Not only was Charlie well respected by club-goers…but area musicians as well. Often because of Charlie, a musician could work a steady gig because Charlie would usually pack the house! And many musicians would want to work with Charlie…and many did.
When I first started singing in night clubs in 1973 (even before I turned 18. RW), Charlie Burgin was already a household name around the region. I started at the old Silver Spur on Old Macon Road when then-Country Store owner Freddie Fields took me to the Spur for an audition as a lead singer for the band. Hollis Roberts was running the Silver Spur at the time (as well as playing lead guitar) and the other band members were Frank Cannon (on keys), Mike Costilow (on bass) and Leland Sellers (called ‘Legs’ on drums). All several years older than me and seasoned musicians, they had played with Charlie previously (at the old Straight 8 Jr.) and other area clubs.
We left Hollis behind at the Spur and was hired by O.G. Coleman at the Del Camino Lounge (O.G. was running the Del Camino for owner Doyle Chism, who also owned The Chism Trail. RW). After our band took a detour to Jackson for a while, we ended up back in Columbus in late 74′ where Charlie was playing at the Del Camino. At the time, Charlie was trying to make a living for his family by working at Beneke (the toilet-seat factory. RW) through the week and singing at The Del Camino on weekends. Since he couldn’t sing through the week because of his Beneke-work obligations, i’d sing on weekday nights and Charlie would come in and sing on weekends. For a brief time, Charlie and I would sing together on weekends. We really enjoyed that.
Charlie Burgin later moved on to Northport (Stardust for a good while) as well as many other night clubs along the nightclub-row of Northport (Red Horse, Cross The River Club, Chaparral, Red Ox to name a few. RW). Northport and Tuscaloosa clubs would generally stay open all night in those days. Many musicians, including Charlie, would recall walking into a club to do a night’s gig while it was still daylight outside…and come out to daylight the next morning!
But Charlie could always be counted on to sing the local soul favorites of the time period. ‘If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right)’, ‘Disco Inferno’, Al Green’s ‘Sha La La’ and ‘Let’s Stay Together’ and who could forget the soulful anthem by Clarence Carter…’Strokin’!
During our interview Tuesday in his room at Starkville Manor (an assisted-living facility on Hospital Dr. in Starkville near the Oktibbeha County Hospital. RW), Charlie told me about his stay at another facility in Winona. It was there that Charlie decided to eat healthier and lose weight to get back on track to living better. He said his weight had ballooned to 426 lbs. But now in Starkville, his better eating habits has him down to 329 lbs. (and he’s still losing, he says, between a half-a-pound or more a day). His incentive to continue his weight loss? “A pretty girl told me she’d give me some sugar when I hit that 100 lb. loss mark” he chuckled.
He only has 3 more pounds to go to receive his “sugar”!
Charlie’s sister, Susan Thompson, called during our interview. “Charlie” she was to say…”I’m trying to get a hold of someone at The Packet to do a story on you!”
Charlie told her, “Ron Williams is here right now”…to her delight! (I’ve been planning on doing a profile on Charlie for some time now. RW)
Charlie said his sister has been a big help to him. As well as his daughter, Cassaundra.
Recently, Charlie’s health has improved so much over the past year…he’s felt like doing what he lives for…to sing!
About 3 weeks ago, Charlie performed a one-nighter (he said it was his first singing gig in about 6 years) at Rick’s in Starkville. He was backed by guitarist Ben Ferrell and keyboardist/sax player Bobby Shannon. Though he hadn’t sing in a while (and he is also on oxygen), he said his voice was strong (Ben Ferrell told me the same thing. RW). He really enjoyed that gig, he said. Many of his friends, who haven’t seen or heard Charlie in quite some time, stopped by. Scott Farrell (who runs EAG Management, a band-booking agency) stopped by as did former Columbus Mayor Jeffrey Rupp.
Charlie also told me that, while in Winona, he had a record that I had cut in early 1974. The record he was talking about was a recut of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ (originally by Procol Harum) and the flip-side was ‘The Way You Do The Things You Do’ (The Temptations). We had cut the demo in Tupelo at the recording studio ran by Big John Mihelic on the ‘Statue Records’ label. At the time, our band was called ‘The Honky Tonk Revue’. O.G. Coleman had payed for the demo recording to promote our band at The Del Camino. In addition to Frank Cannon (keys), Mike Costilow (bass) and Leland Sellers (drums), guitarist Dick Mallory added the funky guitar tracks on ‘The Way You Do The Things You Do’. “Be sure and tell them I have your record” Charlie told me. Because that’s the kind of guy Charlie Burgin is…a fabulous singer himself…he never forgets his friends! And he is looking forward to seeing his many fans (friends) on Friday, August 19th at Station 7. And, who knows…maybe even more gigs in the near-future!
If you would like to reach Charlie for a possible gig in the future, you can call him at 205-792-0234. He’d love to hear from you!

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13 comments

  1. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    Whatever happened to Winton(Win) Beaver of the long-gone WRAG in Carrolton, Alabama?

    Win could read the “national news” like no other with his impersonation of the “Black Prairie” colloquial dialect. Just saying the word “Kruschev” could bring foot-stomping horselaughter at the frat houses over at State. At about 5:00 p.m. on weekdays, the frat guys would gather around the radios just to hear “Win” read the news back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Laughing with him, not at him.

    The fifty-four Ford car riders—Where are you?

  2. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    Not really a fan of RW’s “crossover music,” but to each his own. I cannot fathom a Marty Stuart doing John Lee Hooker’s Boogie Chillun.

    Crossover music has evolved into the “fusion” music of today, and it has been cranked out of Hollywood and Nashville since the 60s, appealing to broad masses of fans, but robbing it of its ethnicity.

    A born-again “Christian” Bob Dylan experimented with the country genre during his Jesus years(late 70s and early 80s);Kinky Friedman and his Texas Jewboys( a play on Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys) tried it and then ran for Governor of Texas. Failed at that, too. But Kinky does have a good sense of humor. He claimed to be the first full-blooded Jew to ever play the Grand Ole Opry. And Charlie Pride? What can you say without being branded a “fascist bigot.”

    But there is one “crossover” classical violinist/country fiddler/humorist–hardly ever mentioned– that would’ve claimed Kinky’s fame for being the first full-blooded Jew to make it to the Grand Ole Opry:Jack Benny and His Rocky Mountain Boys

    What might have been.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwYMWPoTnto

    • Ron

      I’ll look it up for you. It was actually late last year. It was never posted online. As soon as I find the issue, i’ll post it here and make it available at the Packet office.

  3. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    “…and alumni of Mississippi State and MSCW know a lot of Mack Banks stories….”

    That should read, “alumnae of MSCW.” MSCW was not co-ed at that time.

    I hope that Mrs. A.P. Miller, wherever she is, will forgive me.

  4. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    @Ron

    Next time you run into Jeffrey Rupp, would you ask him what role did Freeport MacMoRan CEO Richard Adkerson play in appointing General Foglesong as President of MSU.

  5. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    That’s Richard Adkersen who is “The Kingmaker” at Mississippi State.

    Mr. Kreig maybe is familiar with Mr. Adkersen who was a Kingmaker there, too, before he left New Orleans for Phoenix after Katrina.

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