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George Barnes

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  • Born: Chicago Heights, IL
  • Died: Concord, CA
  • Years Active: 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s

Albums

Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

A major player who has always been underrated, George Barnes was one of the first to record on electric guitar (accompanying blues singers) and was a top studio guitarist during much of his career. His style was very much based in the 1930s, and his single-note lines predated Charlie Christian, although he had much less of an impact. A professional by the time he was 13, Barnes was working on the staff of NBC by 1938. Based in Chicago, he recorded with Big Bill Broonzy, Washboard Sam, and other blues performers. After a stint in the military during World War II, Barnes resumed his studio work and recorded radio transcriptions with his unusual octet. Although he performed in many types of settings in the 1950s, Barnes did not gain much recognition until he teamed up with fellow guitarist Carl Kress (whose sophisticated chord voicings perfectly complemented Barnes' solos) in the early '60s. After Kress' death in 1965, Barnes often collaborated with the younger guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, but it was his period as co-leader of a quartet with cornetist Ruby Braff (1973-1975) that gave Barnes his greatest fame, shortly before his death. He recorded as a leader for OKeh (two numbers in 1940); Wolf; and Keynote (with his octet on a posthumously released Hindsight LP); commercial sides for Decca and Mercury; with Kress (and in one instance Bud Freeman) for Stash, United Artists, and Audiophile; with Pizzarelli for Columbia and A&R; and in the 1970s for Famous Door and Concord.

eMusic Features

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Music in a Hurry: Standard Transcriptions

By Kevin Whitehead, Contributor

When the Roots signed on as Jimmy Fallon's Late Night house band, there was a curious catch: NBC wouldn't be paying for the rights to any music, not even the band's own. Consequently. the Roots had to compose dozens of new pieces for on-air use. The upside: those pieces needed only be long enough to play the show in and out of commercials, or to accompany guests from the wings to the desk. Everything old becomes… more »

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Outre Limits (And Then some)

By Lenny Kaye, Contributor

The Concept Album, enshrined in such epic meisterworks as Tommy and The Wall, not to mention Styx's Kilroy Was Here, is often given short (about the only thing short about them) shrift in the instant d-load of a favored track. But ever since the invention of Long Playing discs allowed rock musicians the same four dimensions enjoyed by classical symphonists and operatic composers and jazz improvisers, there will be artists who think on a scale… more »

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Early Electric Guitarist George Barnes Mixes It Up

By Kevin Whitehead, Contributor

So who was the first electric guitarist on a Bob Dylan single? Well, duh, you can read a headline — not Mike Bloomfield, not Robbie Robertson, but George Barnes, in 1962. The record was Mixed-Up Confusion, the band skiffling like Bill Black's combo behind Elvis. Producer John Hammond's idle comment about cutting the tune, that they even tried it with a Dixieland band, sent collectors scurrying for a lost take. But Hammond may have meant… more »