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.