Meet the Man Who Almost Replaced Bon Scott in AC/DC
After the 1980 death of Bon Scott, AC/DC were on the hunt for a new singer. One man, Steve "Burtie" Burton, an unassuming roadie from Birmingham, England, decided to toss his name into the ring after being recommended by Terry Lee and Keith Evans, two fellow roadies who were working for AC/DC at the time.
In a new interview with Rock Candy, Burton recalled the experience.
“I went down to London to audition for the band,” he said. “I got along fine with everyone and thought I did well, but for whatever reason, I didn’t get the gig and it went to Brian Johnson, of course. But I must have made an impression on the band, because soon afterwards, I got a call asking if I’d be interested in working with Angus and Malcolm Young’s nephew, Stevie. He was putting a new band together in Birmingham, and Malcolm had told him he should get hold of me.”
That new group would became known as Starfighters, who maintained their AC/DC connection and served as the supporting act for the U.K. leg of AC/DC’s Back in Black tour. Impressed with the new band's chops, Malcolm Young even headed into the studio with Starfighters to record a few songs, "Alley Cat Blues" and "Rock ’Em Dead." The tracks landed the band a deal with Jive Records; they recorded two albums, a self-titled one in 1981 and In-Flight Movie in 1983, but the partnership then fizzled.
"The band fell apart after the tour through Jive Records," Burton said to Pete Feenstra on the Get Ready to Rock! radio show. "They kept messing us about, held us to a contract, wouldn't let us work. You know, they were trying to turn us into something we weren't. And we didn't want that." Suddenly, Burton was back to square one.
“I’d given up everything for the band,” he said. “Because you know how it is. You’re on your way to stardom, you’re going to settle in America, all that stuff. I ended up working in my mate’s caff in Birmingham for two years flipping burgers!”
Stevie Young would go on to replace his Uncle Malcolm in 2014. Still, Burton doesn't harbor any ill feelings for the breakup of Starfighters or the lost AC/DC job.
"Brian got the gig because he's got a cracking voice," he said, "He fits really well, and he's done a great job over the years."
As for Burton himself, he's continued to make music and sing in various bands, most recently fronting a blues-rock group called Vincent Flatts Final Drive and releasing an album with them in 2020. “I’ve never been jealous of anyone’s success,” he said. “Whatever happens in life, you’ve got to carry on, whether it be playing in a band or shoveling shit all day.”