Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Chris Barber and Bunny Wailer RIP

Two towering figures in music have died in the last day or so. Chris Barber's love of jazz made him one of the key figures in the development of music in the UK from the time he bought his first trombone in the late forties. His New Orleans style band had enormous success and started the trad boom, as well as enjoying success both in the UK and the US with 'Petite Fleur'. But he also led the way to the the emergence of rock and roll in the UK with his encouragement and support of Lonnie Donegan, the banjo player in his band, who personified the rise of skiffle. Chris made sure that skiffle featured heavily in the band's sets and played bass with Lonnie on his early hits such as 'Rock Island Line' and 'Lost John'. It was Chris who arranged for blues artists such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Muddy Waters and Memphis Slim to visit the UK, which led to the R and B boom in the sixties. Chris's love of New Orleans music led to him recording with Dr John and I remember him playing trombone in Dr John's band on my first visit to JazzFest in 1989. His death at the age of 90 brings an end to a story that has been central to the UK music scene for over seven decades. His career is well documented in Pete Frame's excellent book 'The Restless Generation'. May be Rest In Peace.
The second music great to have passed on at the young age of 73 is Bunny Wailer (Livingstone), an original member of the Wailers along with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Bunny's father lived with Bob Marley's mother in Trench Town so they were close from an early age. When they met up with Peter Tosh via reggae pioneer Joe Higgs to form the Wailers they went on to become the first global reggae band, beginning with their debut album 'The Wailing Wailers' in 1965. They signed with Johnny Nash's JAD label and Bunny sang lead on occasions showing off his roots reggae vocal style but was mostly in the background on their recordings. After recording 'Burnin' for Chris Blackwell's Island label, on which he sang lead on two numbers, he left the Wailers in 1973, along with Peter Tosh, and began a solo career. He had success with 'Blackheart Man' and formed his own Solomonic label, recording albums such as 'Protest', 'Struggle', 'Rock n Groove' and 'Roots, Radics, Rockers, Reggae'. He went on to win three Grammy Awards for albums recorded in the nineties.


At 1:00 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Garth Cartwright commented on FB: Chris was - arguably - the most influential British musician of the 20th C: helped fire up the trad jazz movement, launched skiffle, promoted blues and gospel and NO music to European audiences who had little knowledge - or access - to such, imported huge amounts of shellac and vinyl (of which Rock On and Dobells got to sell to happy collectors), co-founded the Marquee and Reading festival... I mean, who else in British music has a list of achievements like these? and I've not even mentioned how without CB the likes of Ken Colyer, Lonnie Donegan, Monty Sunshine and Ottilie Patterson are unlikely to have enjoyed the kind of success they did? I got to interview him via phone about 8 years ago and he was a really decent guy. RIP. Re Bunny - I do own a bunch of his solo stuff but oddly was never that keen on Blackheart Man (which many now proclaim a "mastepiece").


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