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Danny Barker

A humorous personality as important for his storytelling and teaching as for his playing, Danny Barker had a long and colorful career. He played with the Boozan Kings early on in New Orleans and toured Mississippi with Little Brother Montgomery. In 1930, he moved to New York, switching from banjo to guitar and working with Dave Nelson, Sidney Bechet, Fess Williams, Albert Nicholas, James P. Johnson, Lucky Millinder (1937-1938), Benny Carter (1938), and Cab Calloway (1939-1946). He wrote "Don't You Feel My Leg" for his wife Blue Lu Barker (with whom he recorded frequently) and also had a hit with "Save the Bones for Henry Jones" (recorded by Nat King Cole). By 1947, Barker was fully involved in the Dixieland revival (he never cared for bebop), appearing on the This Is Jazz radio series, recording with Bunk Johnson, and returning to the banjo. He performed at Ryan's throughout the 1950s (often with Conrad Janis or Wilbur DeParis) and then returned to New Orleans in 1965 where he worked as the assistant curator of the New Orleans Jazz Museum (1965-1975), led the Onward Brass Band, encouraged younger players, and wrote about his experiences. Danny Barker, who appeared at the 1993 Monterey Jazz Festival with Milt Hinton, penned his memoirs (A Life in Jazz) in 1986 and was active in keeping New Orleans jazz alive up until to the end. His definitive recording is a solo set for Orleans; Barker can also be heard late in life on records by Wynton Marsalis and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. ~ Scott Yanow
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