Chris Barber

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Chris Barber, 2014

Christopher Donald "Chris" Barber (* 17th April 1930 in Welwyn Garden City , Hertfordshire ) is a British trombonist , double bass player , singer and jazz - band leader , the trend-setting has influenced the development of an independent British jazz.


Barber studied trombone and double bass at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London . From 1949 he played the trombone in Humphrey Lyttelton's jazz band , before founding an amateur band himself in January 1950 under the name of Chris Barber's New Orleans Band. The professional Chris Barber's jazz band was formed in January 1953 through the dissolution of another band under the direction of Ken Colyer , which was recruited from the members Monty Sunshine (clarinet), Lonnie Donegan (banjo), Jim Bray (bass) and Ron Bowden (drums) .

As Ken Colyer's Jazzmen, her official debut took place on April 11, 1953 in Copenhagen , where 22 recordings were made for the new Danish record label Storyville Records by May 1953 . On September 2, 1953, the Ken Colyer's Jazzmen recorded the LP New Orleans To London with Barber in London . This also included the classic Isle of Capri , which was played by the BBC and made considerable sales as a single. Pat Halcox (trumpet) joined the band on May 31, 1954, replacing the music purist Colyer, who had left in a dispute over the band's style. The repertoire remained traditional American jazz in the style of New Orleans , as well as blues and folk pieces . Now Chris Barber became the namesake and leader of the band, which now had the typical traditional jazz line- up. On September 10, 1954, Storyville Records released the track Ice Cream (# A45000), a cover version of the original recorded in 1927 by Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians and recorded on August 5, 1944 by George Lewis . This song has been Barber's trademark ever since and has marked the end of his concerts for decades.

First recordings under the direction of Chris Barber

Chris Barber, 1972

On July 13, 1954, eight tracks were recorded for the LP New Orleans Joys in London. They called themselves Chris Barber's Jazz Band & Skiffle Group with the line-up Pat Halcox ( cornet ), Chris Barber (trombone and double bass), Monty Sunshine (clarinet), Lonnie Donegan (banjo, guitar and vocals), Jim Bray (bass), Ron Bowden (drums) and Beryl Bryden (washboard on the two skiffle songs). Two of the titles were Rock Island Line and John Henry of the Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group. On January 1, 1955, Ottilie Patterson , a talented British blues singer, joined the band, in which she sang regularly until 1963 (between 1959 and 1983 as Barber's wife).

This was followed by a series of trend-setting LPs, which further consolidated the popularity of "Trad Jazz", which originated in England. Some singles were released from the LPs, but they did not find their way into the British charts. The band concentrated on LPs, which included some live recordings. These LPs contain the entire range of specific New Orleans jazz and blues and some traditional. The atmospheric live recordings from concerts were particularly effective there. In this context, the recordings of a concert in the Royal Festival Hall on April 18, 1954, where a total of 17 titles were presented to an enthusiastic audience, were long lost. They are now available on CD. In April 1956 Donegan left the band to build the success of his hit Rock Island Line as the namesake of his own band . The guitarist and banjo player Dick Bishop came for him briefly, but only for three months. Long enough to be on the recording session for the LP Chris Barber Plays (Vol. 3) .

Million seller

Chris Barber - Petite Fleur (Great Britain)

For this LP, Barber also took up a composition by Sidney Bechet , originally from New Orleans , which he had recorded for the first time in Paris on January 21, 1952: Petite fleur , played in Bechet's original version with soprano saxophone. Barber recorded the instrumental title for the first time on September 3, 1955, another version from October 10, 1956 then appeared on the LP Chris Barber Plays (Vol. 3) . This will be Joe Meek as a sound engineer - responsible for balance - mentioned. Further versions followed, always with clarinetist Monty Sunshine's vibrator-rich solo, which ensures a smooth transition to Dick Bishop's zither-like guitar solo. The semi-jazz version, on which Barber himself cannot be heard, was released for the first time as a single from the LP Chris Barber Plays (Vol. 3) in 1958. The Bugle Boy Rag was only released in England as the B-side , otherwise the Wild Cat Blues worldwide .

Pye Records decided to re-release in January 1959 - with success. As Pye Nixa # NJ2026 she entered the British charts on February 13, 1959, where she climbed to third place. Released in parallel in the USA, it reached number five on the pop hit parade, developed into a million seller and became Barber's trademark. In Germany, too, the title moved up to second place after its publication in March 1959. In 1959, as a result of this hit, Barbers Band became the first British jazz band in the United States to perform live on the Ed Sullivan Show , and also the first British band to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival .

Chris Barber, 2010

Eddie Smith replaced Bishop in time for Chris Barber's LP In Concert (recorded December 15, 1956 at the Royal Festival Hall). Smith also played on Chris Barber Plays (Vol. 4) , where he performed a rare banjo solo on When the Saints Go Marching In . Due to his musical roots, Barber brought many American interpreters to England from 1960, such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe (tour in November 1957), Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry (May 1958), Muddy Waters (October 1958) and Louis Jordan (December 1962) and enriched with these his LP recordings. In 1967 Chris Barber recorded the instrumental piece Catswalk , composed in 1960 by Paul McCartney and recorded by the Beatles in Liverpool in the same year, under the title Cat Call in an arrangement by George Martin (with McCartney as background singer) and released it as a single.

In the 1970s, Barber also incorporated rock elements into his music, touring with Wild Bill Davis (June 1976) and John Lewis (1978). From 1976 he presented the music of Duke Ellington . In April 1980 his was published in cooperation with Dr. John made LP Take Me Back to New Orleans , which brought him back to the roots of his success. In 1991 he was awarded the Order of Merit The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to music , in 2001 he founded an 11-member Big Chris Barber Band in addition to the standard format of his band. In June 2006 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Durham and in September 2013 he was awarded the annual “Blues Louis” at the Lahnstein Blues Festival for his services to popularizing the blues in Europe . In 2014 he was honored with the German Jazz Trophy for his life's work .

In August 2019, after falling, Barber announced that he would be retiring and not performing again; his band will continue to perform.

Cast of the band

Since Barber's resignation in 2019, the Big Chris Barber Band consists of:

When Amy Roberts started playing in the band in 2011, she was still studying at the Royal Northern College of Music and was therefore unable to keep all appointments. The Dutch saxophonist Bert Brandsma often helped out for them until he became a permanent member of the band in 2012.

Discography (selection)



  • Down by the Riverside / Ice Cream (# A45000) September 10, 1954
  • Bugle Boy March / Maryland, My Maryland (# A45002), 1955
  • Tiger Rag / Precious Lord, Lead Me on (# A45003), 1955
  • When The Saints Go Marching In / South (# A45006), 1955

Pye-Nixa (jazz label):

  • I Love My Baby / Kay-Cee Rider (# 15109) November 1957
  • Tuxedo Rag / Brown Skin Mama (# 2004), 1958
  • High Society / Papa-De-Da-Da (# 2007), 1958
  • Whistlin 'Rufus / Hushabye (# 2011), 1958
  • Beale Street Blues / Jail-House Blues (# 2015), 1958
  • Can't You Line 'em / Gipsy Dave (# 2017), 1958
  • Old Rugged Cross / Bye and Bye (# 2020), 1958
  • When the Saints Go Marchin 'In (Part 1 and Part 2) (# 2023), 1958
  • Petite fleur / Bugle Boy March (# 2026), 1958
  • Bourbon Street Parade / New Blues (# 5018), December 1958
  • Petite Fleur / Wildcat Blues (# 2026) January 1959
  • Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home / Wild Cat Blues (# 2030), 1959
  • Lonesome / Creole Song (Columbia # 4333), October 1959
  • Revival (Columbia # 2166), January 1962

LPs (in brackets: date of recording)

Ken Colyer's Jazzmen:

  • New Orleans To London (Decca LF 115): Goin 'Home, Isle of Capri, Harlem Rag, La Harpe Street, Stockyard Strut, Cataract Rag, Early Bours, Too Busy (September 2, 1953)

Chris Barber's jazz band:

  • New Orleans Joys (Decca LF 1152): Bobby Shaftoe, Chimes Blues , The Martinique, New Orleans Blues, Merrydown Rag, Stevedore Stomp; (as Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group): Rock Island Line and John Henry; (July 13, 1954)
  • The Lost Royal Festival Hall Tapes with songs by Ken Colyer's Jazzmen (2-9 and 16-18) and Ken Colyer's Skiffle Group with Lonnie Donegan (10-13), each with Chris Barber. 2–9: Put on Your Old Gray Bonnet, Lord Lord Lord You Sure Been Good To Me, Harlem Rag, Original Tuxedo Rag, Michigan Water Blues, At A Georgia Camp Meeting, Black And Tan Fantasy, Burbon Street Rag. 10-13: This Train, The Cotton Song, Casey Jones, Good Morning Blues. 14–18: Easter Parade, We Sure Do Need Him Now, Joplin's Sensation, Temple Blues, Bobby Shaftoe (April 18, 1954)
  • On A Christmas Day / White Christmas (September 27, 1954, Abbey Road Studios)
  • Chris Barber's Jazzband (Live at the Old Fellow Palais; Storyville SLP 100): Bugle Boy March, Down Home Rag, Makin 'Whoopee , Maryland My Maryland, Saint Georges Rag, Wabash Blues, South (October 10, 1954)
  • Royal Festival Hall : Bury My Body, Diggin 'My Potatoes (October 30, 1954); Barber in the Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group (Donegan: vocals / guitar, Pat Halcox (piano) and Chris Barber (double bass): Ice Cream (vocals: Halcox) and Oh, Didn't He Ramble (vocals: Monty Sunshine))
  • Chris Barber Plays The Music of Clarence And Spencer Williams (Nixa 500): You Don't Understand (March 3, 1955), Everybody Loves My Baby, Careless Love, Papa De-Da-Da (March 8, 1955), Tishomingo Blues , Wildcat Blues, Uggly Child (March 9, 1955), High Society (March 18, 1955)
  • Echoes of Harlem (Nixa NJL 1): Diga Diga Doo (January 13, 1955), Here Comes My Blackbird (September 1, 1955), Can't We Get Together (September 9, 1955), Doin 'The Crazy Walk, Baby , I Can't Give You Anything But Love (September 16, 1955), Magnolia's Wedding Day, Dixie Cinderella, New St. Louis Blues (September 25, 1955), Sweet Savannah Sue, Porgy (September 29, 1955)
  • Chris Barber Plays (Vol. 2) (Nixa NJT 502): Whistlin 'Rufus, Big House Blues, April Showers (March 20, 1956), One Sweet Letter From You, Hushabye (March 26, 1956), We Shall Walk Through The Valley (April 4, 1956)
  • Chris Barber Plays (Vol. 3) (Nixa NJT 505): Thriller Rag, Wabash Blues, Texas Moaner (October 9, 1956), Bugle Call Rag, Petite Fleur (October 10, 1956), Sweet Georgia Brown (October 15, 1956 )
  • Chris Barber Plays (Vol. 4) (Nixa NJT 508): Old Rugged Cross, When You And I Were Young (August 26, 1957), When The Saints Go Marching In, Bye And Bye, Olga, Pound of Blues, Just A Closer Walk With Thee (September 12, 1957)
  • Sonny, Brownie And Chris (Nixa NJT 515): (May 2, 1958)
  • Chris Barber Band Box (Vol 1) (Columbia 33SX 1158): Hot House Rag, Swanee River (Jan 16, 1959), Give Me Your Telephone Number, I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair (Jan 22, 1959 ), Elite Syncopation, The Favorite, The Entertainer, (January 25, 1960), Hiawatha Rag, Si Tu Vois Ma Mére, Darling Nellie Gray, Golden Striker (January 29, 1959), Squeeze Me (February 3, 1959)
  • Chris Barber Band Box (Vol 2) (Columbia 33SX 1245): Bohemia Rag, St. George's Rag, The Peach (January 12, 1960), Swipsy Cakewalk, Cole Smoak, Reindeer Rag, Georgia Cakewalk (February 4, 1960)
  • Chris Barber in Copenhagen (Live at the KB Hall) : Market Street Stomp, Soudan, Beautiful Dreamer, Going To Town, Blue Turning Gray Over You, Margie, Rent Party, High Society (March 1, 1960)
  • Best Yet (Columbia 33SX 1401): 'T'ain't What You Do (October 6, 1961), Lazy River, Slevedore Stomp, Moose March (October 13, 1961), Gonna Build A Mountain (October 27, 1961), We Shall Walk Through The Streets of The City, Basin Street Blues , Chiquita, Yvette, If You Can't Be Good Be Careful, I Can't Give You Anything But Love (January 9, 1962).
  • Chris Barber in Berlin , November 26, 1968
  • Chris Barber's Traveling Band: Get Rolling , Black Lion Records 1970
  • Echoes of Ellington, Vol. 1 , June 3, 1976
  • Echoes of Ellington, Vol. 2 , 1976
  • Echoes of Ellington , 1978
  • Take me back to New Orleans , April 1980
  • Creole Love Call , Timeless Records 1982
  • Barbican Blues , Black Lion Records April 20, 1982
  • Stardust , Timeless Records May 16, 1988
  • Get Yourself To Jackson Square (with Dr. John), Sonet Records 1989
  • Copulatin 'Jazz: The Music of Perseverance Hall , 1993
  • Live at the BP Studienhaus , November 28, 1997 (Recordings: September 27 and 29, 1997, Hamburg)
  • Cornbread, Peas & black Molasses, live , 1999
  • Chris Barber Memories of My Trip , 2011
  • Bert Brandsma with Chris Barber, Highlights , 2014

Individual evidence

  1. Chris Barber's Recordings: New Orleans Joys , accessed April 22, 2011
  2. ^ Günter Ehnert (Ed.): Hit balance sheet. German chart singles 1956–1980 . Hamburg: Taurus Press, 1990, p. 21.
  3. Barry Miles Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now 1998, p. 439 and Chris Ingham The Rough Guide to the Beatles 2006, p. 308
  4. ^ Retirement of Chris Barber Announced. London Jazz News, August 15, 2019, accessed August 17, 2019 .


  • Gerard Bielderman and Julian Purser: A Life in Music: The Chris Barber Discography 1949–2001 , December 2001
  • Chris Barber (with Alyn Shipton): Jazz Me Blues: The Autobiography of Chris Barber (Sheffield: Equinox, 2014)

Web links

Commons : Chris Barber  - Collection of images, videos and audio files