Celebrated Alligator Recording Artist Michael Burks Dead at 54

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Michael Burks
Michael Burks

Michael “Iron Man” Burks, the celebrated Arkansas blues master who’s attacking style was one of the most powerful in the industry, has passed. It was reported that Burks collapsed in the Atlanta airport on his way back from Italy. He was 54 years old.

Bruce Iglauer, owner of Alligator Records, just released the following statement: “Michael ‘Iron Man’ Burks, the great blues guitarist and singer, has died suddenly. He was returning from a successful tour of Europe and collapsed in customs at the Atlanta airport. He was rushed to the hospital but they were unable to revive him. Michael was a sweet man, hugely talented and deeply soulful. I was proud to have him call me his friend.”

Burks came up in the blues when his bluesman father, a former blues musician, opened a juke joint deep in Arkansas. From the incredibly early age of two, Burks was playing guitar and mastering riffs. His amazing fire and power on stage gained the artist an incredible reputation, and in 2001, he joined Alligator Records, releasing Make It Rain, a critically acclaimed masterpiece. The album was a celebrated gem, garnering the attention of many major magazines and publications.

In a chilling and gut-wrenching exchange on Facebook, Michael Burks left a message for his wife Bobbie Burks on Friday evening. “Miss my Wife”, said the big man. Her reply, “Your Wife misses you too! 35 hours and 30 minutes left. I’m excited! 3 1/2 weeks is too long without you!”

His on-stage presence could be described as locomotive in it’s style — world famous for his attacking, searing guitar prowess, Burks blew crowds away at some of the biggest blues festivals in the country.  His unique version of electrified, in every sense of the word, delta blues shocked and astounded audiences across the world.

Burks will be dearly missed by his many friends, fans, and family.