And that's the way it was until a fishing injury brought him back.
In 2008, Burns, an avid fly fisherman, slipped and fell while fishing and broke his pinky finger in several places.
"I asked the doctor, 'Will I ever play the fiddle again?' He said, 'Well, you probably won't be able to use that finger.' And that was kind of a challenge to me," Burns said. "And I just started playing again."
He gathered some like-minded friends. Mary Sue dusted off her banjo. And Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters were reborn.
They practice once a week and play in the area on weekends. Friday night, they've been invited to play in concert for the Vandalia Gathering. The event will take place in the Culture Center theater following a 7 p.m. awards ceremony.
Burns, who grew up with music and played regularly in the bluegrass and string band circuit, is making his first visit back as a musician in more than 30 years.
"I went to the first three Vandalias," he said.
Burns said time - and the time off - have changed his playing.
"I think I play better now than when I laid it down," he said. "For one thing, I play every day now."
The other thing is Burns and fellow band members are a bit seasoned and pretty laid back.
"That's the thing - we all get along. A lot of bands have friction. We have no problems at all.
"We have fun. We're not the greatest musicians in the world, but we have fun. We enjoy each other's company."
Rounding out the band are Jay "Pluto" Lockman on fiddle, so nicknamed because he's the lead scientist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Greenbank; Wayne "Handyman" Walton on the doghouse bass; John "Rev. Sleepy John" Sparks on guitar; and Terry "Double Dog" Richardson on guitar. Burns' wife, Mary Sue, has a nickname, too - Lulu.
The band plays lots of local gigs and especially for square dances, mixing Appalachian string band tunes with a bit of gospel.
"It's more fun this time around than when I was younger," Burns said. "You always had to be competitive then."
Contact writer Monica Orosz at mon...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4830.
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