Chris Barber

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Chris Barber
Barber in 2010
Barber in 2010
Background information
Birth nameDonald Christopher Barber
Born (1930-04-17) 17 April 1930 (age 90)
Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, England
trad jazz
InstrumentsTrombone, Contrabass
Columbia (EMI)
Associated actsLonnie Donegan
Ken Colyer

Donald Christopher Barber OBE (born 17 April 1930) is an English jazz musician, best known as a bandleader and trombonist. As well as scoring a UK top twenty trad jazz hit, he helped the careers of many musicians, notably the blues singer Ottilie Patterson, who was at one time his wife, and Lonnie Donegan, whose appearances with Barber triggered the skiffle craze of the mid-1950s and who had his first transatlantic hit, "Rock Island Line", while with Chris Barber's band. His providing an audience for Donegan and, later, Alexis Korner makes Barber a significant figure in the British rhythm and blues and "beat boom" of the 1960s.


Early life[edit]

Barber was born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, the son of a statistician father and headmistress mother. He was educated at Hanley Castle Grammar School, Malvern, Worcestershire, to the age of 15, then St Paul's School in London and the Guildhall School of Music.[1]

Music career (1950s and 1960s)[edit]

Barber and Monty Sunshine (clarinet) formed a band in 1953, calling it Ken Colyer's Jazzmen to capitalise on their trumpeter's recent escapades in New Orleans: the group also included Donegan, Jim Bray (bass), Ron Bowden (drums) and Barber on trombone. In April 1953 the band made its debut in Copenhagen, Denmark. There Chris Albertson recorded several sides for the new Danish Storyville label, including some featuring only Sunshine (clarinet), Donegan (banjo) and Barber (bass) as the Monty Sunshine Trio.[2] The bands played Dixieland jazz, and later ragtime, swing, blues and R&B. Pat Halcox took over on trumpet in 1954 when Colyer moved on after musical differences and the band became "The Chris Barber Band".[citation needed]

In 1959, the band's October 1956 recording of Sidney Bechet's "Petite Fleur", a clarinet solo by Monty Sunshine with Dick Smith on bass, Ron Bowden on drums and Dick Bishop on guitar,[3] spent twenty-four weeks in the UK Singles Charts, making it to No. 3 and selling over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[4] After 1959 he toured the United States many times (where "Petite Fleur" charted at #5).

Barber performing in Hamburg, 1972

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Barber was mainly responsible for arranging the first UK tours of blues artists Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and Muddy Waters. This, with the encouragement of local enthusiasts such as Alexis Korner and John Mayall, sparked young musicians such as Peter Green, Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. British rhythm and blues powered the British invasion of the USA charts in the 1960s, yet Dixieland itself remained popular: in January 1963 the British music magazine, NME reported the biggest trad jazz event in Britain at Alexandra Palace. It included George Melly, Diz Disley, Acker Bilk, Alex Welsh, Kenny Ball, Ken Colyer, Sunshine, Bob Wallis, Bruce Turner, Mick Mulligan and Barber.[5]

Barber stunned traditionalists in 1964 by introducing blues guitarist John Slaughter into the line up who, apart from a break between April 1978 and August 1986, when Roger Hill took over the spot, played in the band until shortly before his death in 2010. Barber next added a second clarinet/saxophone and this line-up continued until 1999. Then Barber added fellow trombonist/arranger Bob Hunt and another clarinet and trumpet. This eleven-man "Big Chris Barber Band" offered a broader range of music while reserving a spot in the programme for the traditional six-man New Orleans line-up.[citation needed]

A recording of the Lennon–McCartney composition "Catswalk" can be heard, retitled "Cat Call", on The Songs Lennon and McCartney Gave Away. Written by Paul McCartney the song was recorded in late July 1967 and released as a single in the UK on 20 October 1967.[citation needed]

In 2014, Barber published his autobiography Jazz Me Blues with co-author Alyn Shipton.[6] On 12 August 2019, Chris Barber announced his decision to retire after some 70 years of performing. The band will continue under the musical direction of Bob Hunt.[7]

The line up of the Big Chris Barber Band, which is carrying on with his full support (as of March 2020) is: Bob Hunt (trombone), Mike Henry and Gabriel Garrick (trumpets), Nick White, Trevor Whiting, and Ian Killoran (reeds), John Watson (drums), John Day (double bass), Joe Farler (banjo & guitar).[citation needed]

Long-term partnerships[edit]

Pat Halcox, trumpeter with the Chris Barber Band since 31 May 1954, retired after playing his last gig with the Big Chris Barber Band on 16 July 2008. Halcox and Barber were together in the band for 54 years – the longest continuous partnership in the history of jazz, exceeding even that of Duke Ellington and Harry Carney (48 years between 1926 and 1974).[8] Tony Carter (reeds) also left the band at this time.[9]

John Crocker (reeds) retired from the band in 2003 after a 30-year stint. Vic Pitt (double bass) retired in January 2007 after 30 years with the band. His feature duet with the drummers of the day – "Big Noise From Winnetka" was not only a feature of the Barber concerts, but also his time with the Kenny Ball band immediately before.

Select discography[edit]

Chris Barber, 1972
  • New Orleans Joys Chris Barber Jazz Band, with Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group, 1954
  • Bestsellers: Chris Barber & Papa Bue's Viking Jazzband, 1954
  • Original Copenhagen Concert, (live) 1954
  • Chris Barber in Concert, (live) 1956
  • Chris Barber Plays, Vol. 1, 1955
  • Chris Barber Plays, Vol. 2, 1956
  • Chris Barber Plays, Vol. 3, 1957
  • Chris Barber Plays, Vol. 4, 1957
  • Chris Barber in Concert, Vol. 2, (live) 1958
  • "Petite Fleur", 1958
  • Chris Barber American Jazz band, 1960
  • In Budapest, 1962
  • Louis Jordan Sings, 1962
  • Live in East Berlin, 1968
  • Chris Barber & Lonnie Donegan, 1973
  • Golden Hour of Chris Barber and his jazz Band featuring Vocals by Ottilie Patterson and Clarinet by Monty Sunshine , 1974
  • Echoes of Ellington, Vol. 1, 1976
  • Echoes of Ellington, Vol. 2, 1976
  • Echoes of Ellington, 1978
  • Take Me Back to New Orleans, 1980
  • Concert for the BBC, 1982
  • Copulatin' Jazz: The Music of Preservation Hall, 1993
  • Live at the BP Studienhaus, 1997
  • Cornbread, Peas & Black Molasses, (live) 1999
  • The Big Chris Barber Band with Special Guest Andy Fairweather Low: As We Like It, 2009
  • Chris Barber's Jazz Band, Chris Barber 1957–58, 2009
  • The Chris Barber Jazz & Blues Band, Barbican Blues, 2009
  • The Big Chris Barber Band, Barber At Blenheim, 2009
  • Chris Barber's Jazz Band with Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Sonny, Brownie & Chris, 2009
  • Chris Barber Memories Of My Trip, 2011


  1. ^ Jackson, Ed. "Photos and Article from a British Teen Magazine, 1962". Official website of Chris Barber. From the Archives. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  2. ^ "The Monty Sunshine Trio* / Ken Colyer's Jazzmen - Wild Cat Blues / If I Ever Cease To Love".
  3. ^ "Chris Barber's Jazz Band - Petite Fleur".
  4. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 110. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  5. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 116. CN 5585.
  6. ^ Chilton, Martin (17 April 2014). "Jazz Me Blues, by Chris Barber: review". Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  7. ^ "Important message provided by the management of Chris Barber",, 12 August 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019
  8. ^ "A tribute to Pat Halcox". Official website of Chris Barber. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  9. ^ "Chris Barber and The Big Chris Barber Band / Chris Barber Jazz & Blues Band". Retrieved 28 June 2014.

External links[edit]