Chris Barber: 70 years and still on the road

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Chris Barber, often regarded as the godfather of modern British popular music thanks to his introduction of US blues artists into the UK in the 1950s, is in his 70th year as a bandleader, defying his 89 years with over 20 dates for his Big Chris Barber Band scheduled into the autumn.

His journey began in 1949 when, inspired by the King Oliver Creole Jazz Band, Chris formed his New Orleans Jazz Band at the age of 19. Turning full-time musician in the early 50s after leaving his insurance office job, he led Chris Barber’s Jazz Band on its first professional date in December 1953. The band went on to become one of Europe’s most successful traditional jazz bands.

The Barber band’s first LP, the 1954 New Orleans Joys, included Rock Island Line, a skiffle piece sung by the band’s banjoist Lonnie Donegan which launched Donegan as a chart-topping singer and helped bring the Barber band to the USA, thus marking, as the Barber literature points out, a return of coals to Newcastle long before the Beatles took their vision of US popular music to the country a few years later.

The skiffle hit didn’t make Barber rich. He told this writer in 2003:  “We were on a straight fee. We got £75 for the album, or £9 a tune. Decca made a lot of money out of it though and Lonnie made his name”. Barber’s own success came through hard work and a distinctive and eclectic repertoire that nevertheless stays true to its first inspirations.

In the early 60s, reflecting the emerging British blues boom, the Barber band reformed as the Chris Barber Jazz and Blues Band, blending brass, reeds, and electric guitar. In 2010 the 10-piece Big Chris Barber Band arrived, the augmented lineup allowing the group to do full justice to Duke Ellington arrangements by band member Bob Hunt. It’s this band that continues to tour in 2019.

The Big Chris Barber Band plays:
Pavilion Theatre, Worthing (UK) Fri 28th June 19:30
Regent Theatre, Christchurch (UK) Sun 30th June 19:30
Cast in Doncaster, Doncaster (UK) Fri 5th July 19:30
Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham (UK) Wed 10th July 19:30
Edinburgh Jazz Festival, Edinburgh (UK) Wed 17th July 18:00
Playhouse, Whitley Bay (UK) Fri 26th July 19:30
The Brindley, Runcorn (UK) Sun 28th July 19:30
Amphitheater, Hanau (GER) Fri 30th August 20:00
Jazz in Fort L’Ecluse, Fort L’Ecluse (FR) Sat 31st August 20:30
The Mill, Sonning (UK) Sun 8th September 20:15
The Stables, Wavendon (UK) Tue 10th September 20:00
Buxton Opera House, Buxton (UK) Wed 11th September 19:30
Octagon Theatre, Yeovil (UK) Thu 12th September 19:30
Cadogan Hall, London (UK) Fri 13th September 19:30
St George, Bristol (UK) Sun 15th September 19:30
Teater Im Park, Bad Oeynhausen (GER) Fri 18th October 19:30
Laeiszhalle, Hamburg (GER) Sat 19th October 20:00
Die Glocke, Bremen (GER) Sun 20th October 18:00
Stadthalle, Eckernförde (GER) Tue 22nd October 19:00
Maritim Hotel, Nurnberg (GER) Thu 31st October 20:00
Prinzregententheater, Munchen (GER) Wed 27th Nov 20:00
Click here for more tour details