Sir Brian May has invited 11-year-old Britain’s Got Talent contestant Harry Churchill to play at a tribute concert to James Burton at the London Palladium on Sunday.
The Queen guitarist, 75, was full of praise when he surprised the schoolboy on a Zoom call, explaining how it was his intonation that impressed him the most on the ITV talent show, alongside his confidence and style.
The young musician, from Devon, auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent playing a medley of Queen’s greatest hits, including We Will Rock You during which he played the guitar behind his back, and caught the attention of Sir Brian.
His semi-final performance was a nod to Back To The Future, dressing as character Marty McFly and performing Johnny B Goode from the classic 80s film, but he did not secure a place in the grand final.
Surprising the boy on Zoom, Sir Brian said: “I’ve been watching you and I’ve really enjoyed your performances, you did brilliant in the show. I was gutted that you didn’t get to go through, I dread to think what you felt like.
“I was wondering what we could do because the show is one thing and it’s not all of what’s out there, I had this crazy idea, I’m doing a tribute show to my hero James Burton.
“He was one of the first people to actually bend strings like we do, so he’s an influence to all of us. I thought you might like to come and I also thought you might like to play.”
Sir Brian said he was hoping Harry would come on stage and “jam around” alongside other stars including Van Morrison.
He said: “You’re totally up to it, I can’t believe you’re 11 years old.”
Speaking about the show, Sir Brian continued: “It means a lot to us, James Burton was the beginning of the river of rock and roll, which has been flowing and we all influence each other, and you are the future.
“You’re the end of the river and it would be great and really meaningful to have you on there at the end…James is going to be really thrilled I know.
“First time I ever heard Hello Mary Lou, which is a song by Ricky Nelson, I heard this incredible, wiry guitar sound and he wasn’t just hitting strings, he was bending them, making the notes change, making the guitar talk.
“I’d never heard that before and to me that changed my life and thought that’s what I want to do. And so I was heavily influenced by him, and a lot of people have been influenced by me subsequently so the river flows and you went on there (BGT) and paid a great compliment to me by playing my stuff and you’re the end of the line.
“James Burton on one end and you on the other end, I think it will be a perfect end to the evening.”
The one-night-only James Burton And Friends UK show on June 4 will also feature Albert Lee and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter with tickets available from LWtheatres.co.uk and Ticketmaster.co.uk.
Proceeds from the show will go to The James Burton Foundation that supports music education for those in need through guitar donations and music instructions.
The Britain’s Got Talent live grand-finale airs on Sunday at 7.30pm on ITV1 and ITVX.