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Author Topic:  George Barnes Country Jazz Guitar
Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post  Posted 21 Oct 2009 4:24 am    
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In general, I'm not a big fan of blog sites that post currently available CD music depriving artists and record companies of their income. This is an exception. George Barnes "Country Jazz Guitar" is legendary in its influence on players from Danny Gatton to Chet Atkins. It's long out of print and rarer than hens teeth. It's never to my knowledge been reissued. The playing and arranging is really amazing and the rockabilly twang and tone is astounding given both the era and George's credentials as a mainstream jazzer. So when I blundered across this link to a high resolution FLAC download, I thought I'd pass it on. For educational purposes only,

http://jazzy62-jazzyblues.blogspot.com/2009/08/george-barnes-quartet-country-jazz-flac.html


Last edited by Andy Volk on 22 Oct 2009 6:25 am; edited 1 time in total
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Ron Whitfield


From:
Kaaawa, Hawaii, USA
Post  Posted 21 Oct 2009 9:49 am     Great site!
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There is a ton of awesome and hard to find REAL music to be had here. Thanx, Brad.
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post  Posted 21 Oct 2009 12:26 pm    
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You're welcome, Norm.
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Jussi Huhtakangas


From:
Helsinki, Finland
Post  Posted 21 Oct 2009 1:05 pm    
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I've had the album for some 15 years, it's great! Barnes could really belt out some mind blowin' rockabilly licks, as did Barney Kessel. First Barnes solos like that I heard were in the tender years of 13 when a friend found a double Lp of Janis Martin's complete RCA recordings, this was in the early 80's. Barnes' solos on Janis' "Ooby Dooby" are incredible. Janis said that on the sessions George was cool, smokin' a big cigar and really was like he cared about the music they were cutting, and it shows in his solos; very bluesy, down to earth, yet complex like only a NY jazz cat could do Cool
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post  Posted 21 Oct 2009 1:33 pm    
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Barnes is WAY under appreciated. He could play heartfelt, amazing country, blues and rockabilly as well as the most elegant, clarinet-inspired uptown jazz. He was quite a formidable arranger. His 1940s Chicago sides with GB Octet are mind boggling and pave the way for the above record. He also designed the first archtop without F holes, created a guitar tuning in F and played as a sideman under assumed names on slews of blues and country sides. I love his tone (lots of high end for a jazzer) unique vibrato, arrpeggios and sense of time. A master!
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Mitch Drumm


From:
Frostbite Falls, hard by Veronica Lake
Post  Posted 21 Oct 2009 1:48 pm    
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Yeah, it is surprising at times where a jazzer like George shows up on studio recordings. Check "Lipstick On Your Collar" by Connie Francis. I think that is George on Patsy Cline's "Too Many Secrets" and Jazz Gillum's "Reefer Head Woman".

That LP was reissued (unauthorized) on CD 10 years or so ago by a specialist dealer out of California. The original disc is difficult to find.

There is a cool 2 CD set by the George Barnes Octet (Soundies 4122) from 2000. The material was recorded between 1946 and 1951. Highly recommended. Here are the tracks:

Twinkle Twinkle
A Good Night For Murder
Hickory Dickory
London Bridgework
Concerto For Three Minutes
Man Riding Bicycle Down The Street Meets Fair Lady
Girl In a Picture Hat
Intricacies Of A Threshing Machine
Afternoon Of A Billy Goat
Parade Of The Wooden Easter Bunnies
Evening In London
Blondie Buys A Bonnet
Misty Morn
Sunday Drive
Private Life Of A Vulture
Fast And Fancy
Jumpin' Jack
Sunny Day In May
Children On A Picnic
Muskrat Ramble
My Blue Heaven
The One I Love Belongs To Someone Else
It Must Be True (You Are Mine, All Mine)
Jeepers Creepers
All Of Me
The Love Nest
Always
Ain't She Sweet
When I Take My Sugar To Tea
Aren't You Glad You're You
Kilroy Is Here
Chicago
Priority On A Moonbeam
I Can't Give You Anything But Love
Starlight Interlude
Zebra's Derby
Somebody Loves Me
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
South Side Blues
Suite For Octette (Part 1- "Allegro Moderato")
Suite For Octette (Part 2-"Andante")
Suite For Octette (Part 3-"Scherzo")
Suite For Octette (Part 4-"Allegro")
September In The Rain
Something To Remember You By
Imagination
Jazz Band Ball
Undecided
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Joachim Kettner


From:
Germany
Post  Posted 21 Oct 2009 9:05 pm    
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There is also an album from 1975 by him and violin player Joe Venuti called GEMS. Very nice!
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 21 Oct 2009 9:12 pm    
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You must get the duet records with Carl Kress, Guitars Anyone? and Live At Town Hall. Also, another real good one with Bud Freeman and Carl Kress, Two Guitars And A Horn. Really some of his finest playing. I have tons of GB, even some of that octet stuff on 78 somewhere.
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Jussi Huhtakangas


From:
Helsinki, Finland
Post  Posted 21 Oct 2009 9:46 pm    
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Not to mention the 70's stuff with Ruby Braff! Here's Janis' Ooby dooby with George on lead:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWJWbLWLkRw


Last edited by Jussi Huhtakangas on 21 Oct 2009 9:58 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post  Posted 21 Oct 2009 9:50 pm    
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Great find - I've also been looking for that vinyl for years, thanks.

I agree, George is completely under-appreciated these days. Hard to figure, he was incredibly influential and prolific. He did literally thousands of studio sessions in NY - tons of those cool old rockabilly guitar sounds were George, and it seems that hardly anybody gets it. They moon on about this and that rock guitar player, but often it was George. Blues, jazz, country, pop, rock and roll, you name it - he did it.
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Mitch Drumm


From:
Frostbite Falls, hard by Veronica Lake
Post  Posted 21 Oct 2009 10:20 pm    
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Great lengthy article/biography of George here, with pictures:

http://classicjazzguitar.com/articles/article.jsp?article=61
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Roger Rettig


From:
Naples, FL
Post  Posted 22 Oct 2009 4:57 am    
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Great find!!!

If he'd only done that solo on 'Lipstick...' on the Connie Francis session he'd have deserved a place in history, but he was one of the very best ever in so many fields.

What knocks me out is his commitment to the music - whatever it happened to be. regardless of the genre, he 'got it'. An unsung hero, to be sure!
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J Fletcher


From:
London,Ont,Canada
Post  Posted 22 Oct 2009 3:28 pm    
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I love that record, and this is the first mention I've ever seen of it on the internet, or anywhere else!
I've got a scratchy old copy, that was scratchy and old when I got it 25 years ago. Worked some of that stuff out, way back then, still play some of those licks...Jerry
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Pete Finney


From:
Nashville Tn.
Post  Posted 22 Oct 2009 3:56 pm    
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I love George Barnes, thanks for posting this...!

He's great on all the many 70's records he did for Concord Jazz; several with Venuti like the one mentioned, several with Ruby Braff (there's a few more of those on other labels too) and I especially like the two live ones with his own quartet. The Quartet with Ruby Braff is also the band for the Tony Bennett "Sings Rodgers and Hart" album from that era which is great too. The first time I remember hearing Barnes was the duo album he did with Bucky Pizzarelli but the material's mostly not as good as the later Concord stuff and he doesn't get to stretch out that much...

I love that he's one of those guys with a real wit and humor about his playing, like Les Paul has...
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Ron Whitfield


From:
Kaaawa, Hawaii, USA
Post  Posted 22 Oct 2009 7:34 pm     I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles...
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...in the bathtub Winking - www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-ODGspyQAE
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Greg Cutshaw


From:
Corry, PA, USA
Post  Posted 23 Oct 2009 4:41 am    
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Thanks Andy for taking the time post this. Lot's of great and rare music. I'm a little slow, but I did eventually figure out how to get to the .rar, unpack it and and play the FLAC. The quality of the FLAC file is really awesome.

Greg
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Roger Rettig


From:
Naples, FL
Post  Posted 23 Oct 2009 7:03 am    
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Loads of great rockabilly guitar, driving rhythm-sections and fine vocals on "Janis Martin - The Female Elvis (Complete Recordings 1956-60)" available from Bear Family.

Some of it is done in New York (George is on most of those tracks, along with Shorty Long on piano, who also did Elvis' 1956 New York sessions) and some in Nashville with Chet and the 'A' team. ("Let's Elope, Baby" has some great Chet thumbstyle driving the take!)

Does anyone know what guitar George played back then? Presumably a Gibson arch-top, from which he manages to get a wonderful combination of 'bite' and fatness at the same time. Great hands!!!

Thanks, Jussi, for putting me on to this album a couple years ago.
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post  Posted 23 Oct 2009 7:28 am    
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Yes, it was a Gibson archtop. In 1962, he designed the Guild with no F holes that's pictured in the above link to "I'm forever blowing bubbles." Here's another way cool Barnes cut:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow-0O-IsUm4&feature=PlayList&p=7959A072D099EA5C&index=4

More Barnes info:

Early Electric Guitarist George Barnes Mixes It Up
by Kevin Whitehead

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 that the ringers on the release version — Barnes, pianist Dick Wellstood, bassist Gene Ramey, drummer Herbie Lovelle — sometimes worked in Dixie bands.

Still, the players weren’t so easy to stereotype. George Barnes had been impossible to pigeonhole — except as one of the very first electric guitarists, on record a year and half before his fan Charlie Christian. He was the white, teenage lead picker on hardcore black blues records by Big Bill Broonzy and others. But for the first session under his own name, he turned to vintage Broadway bubblegum. Then he put together a colorful octet to rival Raymond Scott for picturesque oddity. And that only gets him to age 25.

Barnes was born near Chicago in 1921 as the Jazz Age was taking off. When he was about nine, he picked up a guitar lying around the house; his father gave him pointers. Before long, an older brother built him a prototype pickup and amp, so George could solo with his fledgling band. In a 1975 Guitar Player interview that everyone who writes about him consults, Barnes claimed that was in 1931 — awfully early. Reference books duly repeat it, but in that same Q&A he does date some other early activities three years too early. (That interview and a partial sessionography are here. )

George Barnes was a “lead,” not rhythm, player from the first. He’d turned pro at 12, he reckoned later, and was mentored by the great jazz and blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson. Barnes played on dozens of blues sides, starting at age 16, around when he crossed paths with fellow electric pioneer Les Paul, and started playing on and arranging for NBC radio. Country picker Merle Travis and jazz’s Herb Ellis took up electric after hearing him on the air; young Chet Atkins copied his solos. (In the ’50s he and Barnes would swap licks on a few of Chet’s Country All Stars sides.)

Barnes’s 1938 blues records were a revelation to me when I recently sought them out. (They’ve never been collected, but see below for a CD-length virtual anthology drawn from eMusic’s vaults). The first disc he plays on — Broonzy’s “Sweetheart Land” and “It’s a Low Down Dirty Shame” — is practically a template for Chicago blues bands, only lacking drums. There’s booting tenor sax, rolling 4/4 rhythm and walking bass; Barnes’s bent-note stinging guitar is heard on line-ending answerbacks and one-chorus solos. He’s a real improviser; the same day, the band also cut the latter tune backing singer Curtis Jones: similar arrangement, different solo. His improvisations are orderly, one phrase giving rise to the next (on, say, Washboard Sam’s “The Gal I Love”). Jazz Gillum’s band is cruder, but Barnes doesn’t dial back the sophistication on “Boar Hog Blues.”

This was a moment when many strains in American music flowed together, before spinning apart. You can hear Barnes’s Hawaiian/slide influence on Washboard Sam’s “It’s Too Late Now,” country lope and twangy tone on Sam’s “Down at the Old Village Store.”

After all that bluesing, for his first solo sides in 1940, George Barnes cut the 1919 frolic “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.” He’d later downplay Django Reinhardt’s influence, but on the flipside, “I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love with Me,” his quick-vibrato single-string runs over chunky strummed rhythm make it hard to believe the Parisian didn’t have some impact.

He regrouped after World War II with a woodwinds-heavy octet that made transcription discs: short pieces licensed to radio stations to fill a few minutes where needed. Here he made another turnabout: pop songs and originals, frothy backgrounds, and a more sophisticated sense of line and harmony. They’re as delightful as his blues records, in a completely different way. Raymond Scott’s influence is obvious from whimsical titles like “Private Life of a Vulture,” “Intricacies of a Threshing Machine” and “London Bridgework.” The exacting, intricate arrangements, cheery and episodic, owe a lot to Scott too. The Hindsight label’s one-disc Barnes sampler focuses on familiar tunes, bypassing many of the oddball treasures on the two-disc Complete Standard Transcriptions.

In the 1950s he went into the New York studios, cut a jillion sessions with everyone from Louis Armstrong to King Curtis to Homer & Jethro; later he’d boast of having the New York musicians union’s fattest contract file. In the ’60s he performed in duos with fellow guitarists Carl Kress and Bucky Pizzarelli. Then in the early ’70s he and the lyrical, juicy-toned cornetist Ruby Braff helped revive each other’s careers with a drumless quartet; Barnes shines on the live The Ruby Braff/George Barnes Quartet Plays Gershwin. They backed Tony Bennett on his 1973 The Rodgers and Hart Songbook; the following year they cut one of their own.

The guitarist’s last, live recording before dying at age 56 was 1977’s George Barnes Plays So Good. Can’t argue with the title. Yet the late-period stuff doesn’t have anything like the impact of his the pre-1950 sides. Time and the competition he’d helped inspire had caught up to a picker once way ahead of the pack.

A selection of 1938 George Barnes (in chronological order)

1) Big Bill Broonzy, “Sweetheart Land”
2) Big Bill Broonzy, “It’s a Low Down Dirty Shame”
[both on 1937-1940 Part 2: Chicago 1937, 1938 CD B]
3) Curtis Jones, “"It’s a Low Down Dirty Shame"
4) Washboard Sam, “It’s Too Late Now”
5) Washboard Sam, “Down at the Old Village Store”
6) Washboard Sam, “The Gal I Love”
[all on Washboard Sam Vol. 3 (1938)]
7) Jazz Gillum, “Just Like Jesse James”
Cool Jazz Gillum, “Reefer Headed Woman”
9) Jazz Gillum, “Gillum’s Windy Blues”
10) Jazz Gillum, “New ‘Sail on, Little Girl’”
11) Jazz Gillum, “Boar Hog Blues”
[all on: Jazz Gillum Vol. 1 1936-1938]
12) Louis Powell, "Mushmouth Blues"
13) Blind John Davis, “Jersey Cow Blues”
14) Merline Johnson, “Love Shows Weakness”
15) Merline Johnson, “Squeeze Me Tight”
16) Merline Johnson, “Jelly Bean Blues”
17) Merline Johnson, “My Man Is Gone”
[all on The Yas Yas Girl (Merline Johnson) Vol. 1 1937-1938]
1Cool Big Bill Broonzy, “I’ll Do Anything for You”
19) Big Bill Broonzy, “Sad Pencil Blues”
20) Big Bill Broonzy, “New Shake-Em On Down”
21) Big Bill Broonzy, “Night Time Is the Right Time No. 2”
[all on 1937-1940 Part 2: Chicago 1937, 1938 CD B]
22) Blind John Davis, “Got the Blues So Bad”
23) Merline Johnson, “Ol’ Man Mose” [explicit language advisory]
24) Merline Johnson, “Separation Blues”
[both on The Yas Yas Girl (Merline Johnson) Vol. 1 1937-1938]

Guitar Player Interview (1975):

George Barnes Interview - Guitar Player Magazine February 1975
by Bob Yelin

The words "jazz guitarist" describe George Barnes - but he is also much more. His fantastic versatility has enabled him to play almost any kind of music, and has led to recording dates with such greats as Dinah Washington, Lena Horne, Billy Eckstine, Johnny Mathis, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra. During the Sixties, Barnes formed the first full-time jazz guitar duo, with Carl Kress, and Barnes' guitar came into its own as a solo instrument.

- Editor

When and where were you born?

I was born July 17, 1921 in a Chicago suburb. However, I was raised in Chicago. I come from a family of professional musicians. My father was a guitarist and taught me to play the guitar when I was 9.

Did your father's playing of the guitar make you want to take it up also?

No, not really. At age 6, I began to play the piano and I knew that was the instrument for me. But when the depression came, we lost our piano as well as our house. All that was left for me to play was a little Sears Roebuck Silvertone guitar with action about an inch high. I worked hard at it and when I was 12, I joined the union.

What kind of music were you playing then?

When I was 11, I heard some Bix Beiderbecke records featuring Joe Venuti. I knew then that I wanted to be a jazz musician.

Did any guitarist influence the way you played?

No, there were few guitarists then who soloed. I didn't want to play rhythm; I wanted to play melody. I heard many records by Django (Reinhardt), but I couldn't relate to his playing because he sounded foreign to me. The musicians who influenced my playing the most were the horn and reedmen I played with while I was growing up in Chicago. This was at the time that the Chicago sound in jazz was being formed and was strongly felt in the music world. I was very fortunate to be a part of it. My single greatest influence was a famous Chicago clarinetist, Jimmy Noone. He also greatly influenced Benny Goodman. I was playing with Jimmy Noone when I was 16. His playing gave me a strong direction. Another strong influence was Louis Armstrong.

Did anyone influence the way you played the blues?

When I was young, I hung around with Lonnie Johnson, and he taught me how to play the blues. He played the first 12-string guitar I ever heard. He used to tune it down a whole tone to make it easier to play. George Van Eps does the same thing with his 7-string guitar.

As a teenager, did you mainly sit in with groups or did you work gigs?

At 14, 1 formed my first quartet, the George Barnes Quartet. We did a lot of work. At 16, I made my first record under my group's own name. We recorded "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" and "I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me," for Okeh records: Many guitar players who read Guitar Player magazine have written me that they have that record.

Didn't you start doing a lot of studio work after your first record?

Yes, at 17 I joined the NBC staff in Chicago. There, I became the youngest conductor and arranger they ever had. I stayed with them for nearly five years, until I got drafted in 1942.

Didn't you do a lot of recording dates in Chicago, besides radio work?

Good heavens, I did a ton of recording dates! In 1935, I started recording with the top black blues artists of that time. I made over one hundred blues records with fellows like Big Bill Broonzy, Blind John Davis, and a host of other bluesmen. I was the only white musician on these dates. Hughes Panassie, the French author of the jazz book, Le Jazz Hot, came out with a discography which included me as "the great Negro blues guitar player from Chicago." I did all kinds of recording dates. But I got even more involved with recordings when I moved to New York in 1951.

What made you leave Chicago?

I was working on the Dave Garroway show in Chicago, and he told me that television work was booming in New York and would pay better than the work I was doing. When I first arrived in New York, I immediately got a contract with Decca records. With them, I did just about everything: Conducting, arranging, vocal backgrounds, my own albums, and record dates. Probably the only thing I didn't do was sweep the floors!

Did you ever get a chance to leave the studios and play in jazz clubs?

The first gig I got when I arrived in New York was playing at the Embers opposite Tal Farlow, who I love dearly. Tal is my favorite guitarist to listen to. I used to call him the "Spider," because he has such long fingers. He amazes me when he solos in harmonics. I've always regretted his not staying active in clubs or on records.

Do you have any idea how many recording dates you have played on?

Between 1951 and now, I have recorded 23 albums under my own name. From 1953 to 1961, I recorded 61 albums with the Three Suns alone. From 1961 to the present, I have recorded with practically every bigname singing star from Frank Sinatra to Bing Crosby, Patti Page, and loads more. It would be very difficult to find a singing star I haven't recorded with. They tell me down at the union, that I have recorded more than any other person in their contract file. I don't know how many recording dates I've done, but one day I intend to add them up. I know the number is well into the thousands.

Why do you think there is such a great demand for your playing?

It is probably because I am totally involved with all aspects of music. Not only am I a guitarist, but an arranger, conductor, and recording engineer, with years of knowledge and experience behind me. I've also developed ways of accompanying artists that enhances and enriches their music. You have to know how a singer phrases so your accompaniment does not conflict. As an arranger, I have a whole different set of ears from someone who is just a guitarist. I have a better knowledge of what to play and what not to play.

You have been part of two wellknown guitar duos, one with Carl Kress and one with Bucky Pizzarelli. How did your first one, with Carl, come about?

Carl Kress and I met in 1951, on the Garry Moore show. I was seated in the audience and Carl was working the show. Garry introduced me to the audience and suggested that Carl and I play a duet. We got together, at a later time, and played on his show. But Carl and I had a hard time finding time to play because he was busy with CBS, and my time was locked into Decca. Finally, ten years later, in 1961, we decided to work together. We were the first guitar duo to play steadily. All the others, Carl Kress-Eddie Lang, Eddie Lang-Lonnie Johnson, and their work with Dick McDonough were only for record dates. Carl and I were together for five years, until his passing in 1966, right after we returned from a concert tour of Japan with Mitch Miller. We played concerts all over the world. Carl was my closest friend. We really loved each other. We hung out together all the time, whether it be playing chess, drinking, or going to hear other musicians. He was always a gentleman with a relaxed manner, and a lot of fun to be with. He was also a fantastic musician. His style of playing was totally unique. Playing rhythm was his forte. He used a special tuning to give his chords a full, rich sound. His 6th string was tuned to Bb the 5th to F, the 4th and 3rd had the regular tunings of D and G, the 2nd was tuned to A and the 1st to D. With this lower tuning, he could play more and fuller bass lines. However, this tuning was not very good for playing solo. He rarely soloed in single notes; instead, he soloed in chords. It was his unique tuning that brought about the development of the 7-string guitar. George Van Eps, who studied with Carl, was warned by his father not to study with him, because he used an unusual tuning. We made four albums together, one of which was a live recording we did at a town hall concert. I truly miss him.

How and when did you and Bucky [see GP, June '74] get together?

In 1969, Bucky came up to my studio to try out his new 7-string guitar. We did some experimental recordings with it and we knew, right away, that we had a good sound. He had a marvelous facility for playing that instrument. I think the credit should be given to him for the development of the accompanist style on the 7-string guitar. (Van Eps is the supreme master of solo style playing on the 7-string.) Bucky and I worked a heavy schedule together for three years. We made two albums. One, on the A&R label [Guitars Pure And Honest], was our own record, and we were part of a package of guitarists for a Town Hall concert on Columbia Records [The Guitar Album, KG 31045]. Bucky and I knew from the beginning that he wouldn't be satisfied to be my accompanist for the rest of his life. He is too good a musician for that. We split up when he went to do concerts in Europe with Benny Goodman. But we had a marvelous three years together.

You're currently co-leading the Ruby Braff-George Barnes Quartet. How did you and cornetist Ruby Braff get together?

George Wein, the promoter for the Newport Jazz Festival, hired both of us to play there as part of an all-star band. Both Ruby and I were disenchanted with that playing format. Each person in that kind of band just solos briefly. Each brief solo is followed by another brief solo. It's an atmosphere where both Ruby and I feel cramped. So we decided that we'd form our own group and play our own music. We called George Wein, before the festival, and told him that we wanted to work together. "Don't give us any more money," we told him. "We'll hire our own men and put our group together." We've now been together for over a year, have played the major jazz festivals all over the world, and we've made several albums.

How do you and Wayne Wright, the rhythm guitarist in your group, manage not to get in each other's way when Ruby is soloing?

We have no drummer, the fourth piece being bassist, Mike Moore, so Wayne plays strict time. When Ruby plays, I only play accenting lines or chords to his statements. Wayne's a former student of mine. He's had years of meat experience; he worked with Peggy Lee for seven years, and on numerous broadway shows.

You've been quite involved with the development of better sound and range for the electric guitar. When did you start to play electric guitar?

In 1931, my older brother, who is an electronic genius, built me a pickup and an amplifier before they were even out on the market. He did this for me, because he knew I wanted to play solo lines which could be heard in a band. The first electric guitar came out the following year. National Dobro made them and one of those was my first real electric guitar. Nobody knows who had the first electric guitar; maybe I did. I knew, the first time I played one, that that instrument was going to take me through my career for the rest of my life.

For years, you've been playing a Guild arch-top guitar with no f-holes. How did the development of that guitar come about?

I designed that guitar back in 1961. When I first saw it, it was a piece of wood from Norway. My guitar is made from the finest woods. The pickups are suspended and the sound comes out of the body from the cut-out area of the top around the pickups. The guitar's sound works much the same way as a round-hole's, except my sound comes out of two enlarged triangular holes around the pickups. I knew that if I had a live top with suspended pickups, I'd get a better sound. I realized a long time ago that f-holes cause feedback. Both George Van Eps and I discovered that about the same time. We did a concert together in Aspen, Colorado and we both started laughing when we saw each other's guitar. He had put foam rubber in his f-holes to cut out the feedback, and I had taped mine over.

With Guild, you also developed the George Barnes guitar in F. What was the reason for that?

I made an album called Guitars Galore and I wanted the guitars to play the role of a big band. However, the guitar doesn't have the range for that. So I used the 6-string bass guitar to cover the baritone range, the regular guitar to cover the tenor saxophone range and developed the guitar in F to play the alto saxophone range. The guitar was tuned so if you played a C chord in the first position, it came out as an F barre chord in the first (fifth!) position of a regular - guitar. The instrument was tuned in the following way: the 6th string was A, the 5th D, the 4th G, the 3rd C, the 2nd E and the 1 st A. Because of the high tuning, you had to use light gauge strings. The guitar had twenty frets but the scale was shorter than the standard guitar.

Is it true that you only down-pick your single-string playing?

You get a better sound from the guitar by using only down-strokes. Your leverage just isn't as good when you up-pick. Therefore, I use as many downstrokes as possible. I developed a technique of quick picking, using only down-strokes. But sometimes, for very rapid phrasing, I have to use alternating up and down-strokes. I also hold the pick in an unusual manner-with my thumb, index, and middle finger. By picking this way, all I do to change the dynamics and volume is tighten or loosen my grip on the pick. I don't have to pick harder and my wrist remains loose.

With your vast experience in music, is there something you'd like to do that you haven't done yet in the music world?

I've often said that there aren't enough lifetimes for me to do all the musical things I want to do. I recorded some classical tunes in the Sixties. I'd like to do more of that. But, right now, I'm happier, musically, than at any other time in my life.

Why is that?

I'm doing exactly what I want to do. I'm not doing any commercial music, with people telling me how to play. I'm playing the tunes I like, the way I want to play them, and I'm performing with guys I love to work with. We don't listen to or copy anyone's work. We are totally doing our own thing. Also, we play concerts, which give us more bread in one night's work than if we performed in a club for three weeks. It's also beautiful to play concerts because people are more attentive to our music than in a club.

Do you have any advice about how to achieve success in the guitar world?

The best advice I can give is to work hard. Never settle for anything less than excellence. A musician should never just play for money alone. There are more rewards to music than money. Also, keep your musical ideas fresh by looking at each performance as a new experience.
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post  Posted 23 Oct 2009 7:39 am    
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This has gotta be Barnes ....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UNt6uyQ38M
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Ron Whitfield


From:
Kaaawa, Hawaii, USA
Post  Posted 23 Oct 2009 10:41 am     Great post, Andy.
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I've wanted to read that interview again ever since it came out.

Andy Volk wrote:
I've often said that there aren't enough lifetimes for me to do all the musical things I want to do. I recorded some classical tunes in the Sixties. I'd like to do more of that. But, right now, I'm happier, musically, than at any other time in my life. I'm doing exactly what I want to do. I'm not doing any commercial music, with people telling me how to play. I'm playing the tunes I like, the way I want to play them, and I'm performing with guys I love to work with. We don't listen to or copy anyone's work. We are totally doing our own thing.
And then shortly, at the young age of 56, he was gone.
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Michael Haselman


From:
St. Paul
Post  Posted 23 Oct 2009 10:44 am    
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Sorry for my ignorance, but what do I have to do to get this to play? No experience with FLAC. Would really appreciate it since he's got some wonderful stuff on here.
_________________
Mullen RP D10, Peavey NV112, Hilton volume. Hound Dog reso. Piles of other stuff.
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post  Posted 23 Oct 2009 10:57 am    
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I convert FLAC files on my Mac using either STUFFIT or THE UNARCHIVER, a free application. For Windows, there's avs4you.com and other free utilities.
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Michael Haselman


From:
St. Paul
Post  Posted 23 Oct 2009 11:16 am    
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Thanks, Andy. I guess my main question is where is the file on the website? Should I be able to hit a link and a program opens up? Again, sorry for my ignorance.
_________________
Mullen RP D10, Peavey NV112, Hilton volume. Hound Dog reso. Piles of other stuff.
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post  Posted 23 Oct 2009 11:49 am    
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Scroll down to the comments and you'll see two rapidshare.com links. Cut and paste into your browser and follow the prompts. Rapidshare makes you wait unless you get one of their packages.
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Jussi Huhtakangas


From:
Helsinki, Finland
Post  Posted 23 Oct 2009 1:45 pm    
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Roger Rettig wrote:
Loads of great rockabilly guitar, driving rhythm-sections and fine vocals on "Janis Martin - The Female Elvis (Complete Recordings 1956-60)" available from Bear Family.

Some of it is done in New York (George is on most of those tracks, along with Shorty Long on piano, who also did Elvis' 1956 New York sessions) and some in Nashville with Chet and the 'A' team. ("Let's Elope, Baby" has some great Chet thumbstyle driving the take!)

Does anyone know what guitar George played back then? Presumably a Gibson arch-top, from which he manages to get a wonderful combination of 'bite' and fatness at the same time. Great hands!!!

Thanks, Jussi, for putting me on to this album a couple years ago.

You're welcome Roger, Janis was a sweet, sweet person and a real hoot, and her recordings deserve a lot more attention she ever did.
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