H. B. Barnum
After winning a nationwide talent contest at the age of four and starring in the motion picture Valley of the Sun Marches On, he continued his acting career on TV in the Amos 'n Andy Shows, the Jack Benny Show, and others, making his first solo recording as Pee Wee Barnum in 1950.
He then joined doo-wop groups The Dootones and, in 1956, The Robins (later The Coasters), for whom he played piano. In 1960, under the pseudonym "Dudley" he recorded the radio hit "El Pizza," a parody of Marty Robbins' "El Paso". In 1961 he had the only hit under his own name, the instrumental "Lost Love", and in the same year recorded the first version of "Nut Rocker", credited to Jack B. Nimble and the Quicks. He also recorded three albums as a singer-pianist during the 1960s.
In 1962, Barnum, in collaboration with Bill Aken and Lan-Cet Records did the big band arrangement for the 1962 gubernatorial campaign recording to tie in with Goodwin "Goody" Knight's bid for re-election as Governor of California. Johnny Mercer gave the o.k. for using Aken's re-written lyrics to his old standard of "Goody Goody." In spite of the fact that it was done for a political campaign, the band's final recording was a superlative work of musical genius on the part of Barnum and Aken. Goodwin Knight subsequently pulled out of the campaign and copies of the record are very rare and hard to find.
Since that time he has become most widely known as an arranger, for a very wide range of performers including Lou Rawls, Count Basie, O.C. Smith, Frank Sinatra, The Supremes, Aretha Franklin, Little Richard, Gladys Knight, Al Wilson, and the Pump Girls. Barnum also produced, along with Johnnie Walls of JWP Productions which distributed the record, the 1985 hip-hop comedy song "Rappin' Duke." In addition, he also produced "The Fish Song", a rare song by The New Creation, released on Salaam Records.
H.B. Barnum had an album recorded by the Novells, a Los Angeles area band, titled, That Did It! in 1968. The album which never was properly promoted surprisingly re-emerged as an import some 40-years later when it was released in the United Kingdom in July 2005 and again in December 2007 by Radioactive Records.
H. B. Barnum is the older brother of backup singer Billie Barnum.