Walter Barnes

Walter Barnes (July 8, 1905 – April 23, 1940) was an American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist and bandleader.

Barnes was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, but grew up in Chicago and studied under Franz Schoepp in addition to attending the Chicago Musical College and the American Conservatory of Music.

He led his own bands from the early 1920s in addition to playing with Detroit Shannon and his Royal Creolians. After Shannon's retinue became dissatisfied with his leadership, Barnes took control of this group as well. He played mostly in Chicago, though the band did hold a residency at the Savoy Ballroom in New York City as well. His band recorded in 1928-29 for Brunswick Records.

He toured the American South in the 1930s to considerable success, touring there yearly; by 1938 his ensemble included 16 members. Around this time, Barnes also worked as a columnist for the Chicago Defender newspaper, a periodical popular with African-American audiences, and used his position to advertise his own tours and promote other entertainers on the same touring trail. Barnes is thus credited as an early originator of the so-called "Chitlin' Circuit"; a network of entertainment venues where it was safe and acceptable for African-American entertainers to perform.

Barnes was one of the victims of the Rhythm Club Fire in Natchez, Mississippi, on April 23, 1940. When the club caught fire, he had the group continued playing the song "Marie" in order to keep the crowd from stampeding out of the building. The band that took the stand at the 'Rhythm Club on April 23 consisted of Paul Stott (tpt); Calvin Roberts (tbn); James Cole, John Reed, Jesse Washington, John Henderson (sax); Clarence Porter (p); Harry Walker (9); Arthur Edwards (bs); Oscar Brown (d); Juanita Avery (vcl); Walter Barnes (sax, clt, Idr). All of the band's members except for drummer Walter Brown and bassist Arthur Edward were among the 201 victims of the fire. Barnes's death was repeatedly immortalized in song thereafter.

Jo Jones, drummer with the Count Basie Orchestra at the time, related in an interview how arrangements were made to hire one of Barnes' tenor saxophone players, to whom Jones only referred to by the nickname of "Pimpy," as a replacement for Herschel Evans, effective after completing one last tour with Barnes.

Birth and Death Data: Born July 8th, 1905 (Vicksburg), Died April 23rd, 1940 (Natchez)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1928 - 1929

Roles Represented in DAHR: leader

Recordings

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Brunswick C2609 10-in. 11/28/1928 Beau-Koo Jack Walter Barnes ; Royal Creolians Jazz/dance band leader  
Brunswick C2610 10-in. 11/28/1928 It’s tight like that Walter Barnes ; Royal Creolians Jazz/dance band leader  
Brunswick C2659 10-in. 12/14/1928 How long, how long blues Walter Barnes ; Royal Creolians Jazz/dance band leader  
Brunswick C2660 10-in. 12/14/1928 My kinda love (One way to paradise) Walter Barnes ; Royal Creolians Jazz/dance band leader  
Brunswick C2704 10-in. 12/24/1928 Beau-Koo Jack Walter Barnes ; Royal Creolians Jazz/dance band leader  
Brunswick C2705 10-in. 12/24/1928 It’s tight like that Walter Barnes ; Royal Creolians Jazz/dance band leader  
Brunswick C3009 10-in. 2/27/1929 Buffalo rhythm Walter Barnes ; Royal Creolians Jazz/dance band leader  
Brunswick C3010 10-in. 2/27/1929 Third rail Walter Barnes ; Royal Creolians Jazz/dance band leader  
Brunswick C3941 10-in. 7/25/1929 If you’re thinking of me (When I’m thinking of you) Walter Barnes ; Royal Creolians Jazz/dance band leader  
Brunswick C3942 10-in. 7/25/1929 Birmingham Bertha Walter Barnes ; Royal Creolians Jazz/dance band, with female vocal solo; without vocal (take G) leader  

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Barnes, Walter," accessed July 26, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/110461.

Barnes, Walter. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved July 26, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/110461.

"Barnes, Walter." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 26 July 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/110461

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