George Barnes

oldsoutholdsouth New
edited April 2013 in Archtop Eddy's Corner Posts: 52
I've been digging on George Barnes lately. Man, what a forgotten legacy - for the uninitiated, I'd describe his playing as somewhere between Eldon Shamblin and Charlie Christian. I've collected several of his albums, but have found his books to be mostly out of print - man, I would love to collect those ... or maybe find them in the store as ebooks.... just a thought. If you love George Barnes, lets discuss!

Speaking of country influenced jazzers, I remember reading once that Les Paul was heavily influenced by a local western swing guitarist who only cut a few sides and may have done mainly medicine shows... anyone know who that could be?


  • oldsoutholdsouth New
    Posts: 52
    I found it - it was Slim Bryant! Check out the article here: A Life in tune: The real Slim's heyday ... 11fnp4.asp

    Some old 78s can be heard here: Western Swing on 78: Clayton Mcmichen's Georgia Wildcats ... dcats.html
  • wimwim ChicagoModerator Barault #503 replica
    Posts: 1,457
    A guy called Caley here in melbourne got me onto george barnes a while ago ... good shit !!
  • MarkAMarkA Vermont✭✭✭ Holo Epiphany, Gibson L-5
    Posts: 108
    I always enjoy hearing George Barnes, especially his work with Carl Kress and with the Ruby Braff/George Barnes Quartet. The latter included rhythm guitarist Wayne Wright, a terrific rhythm player.
  • CuimeanCuimean Los AngelesProdigy
    Posts: 271
    I love his octet. It's not really jazz...more like densely composed little symphonies. Very Raymond Scott. Barnes' guitar tone on those recordings is one of my favorites. It's very mid-heavy and bubbly, and it carves out its own little spot amidst all the acoustic instruments.
  • Archtop EddyArchtop Eddy Manitou Springs, ColoradoModerator
    Posts: 589
    My favorite George Barnes LP was his last live one, Plays So Good. I've Found A New Baby is a great track. Barnes played a unique Guild called the George Barnes Acousti-Lectric which lacked f-holes and had the pickups sitting in enlarged pickup holes. The pickups were mounted on a stick or platform that ran lengthwise in the middle of the guitar from the bottom of the neck to the tailpiece. Barnes allegedly held a pick with his thumb and middle finger. He had a great unique tone and a fun and melodic way of playing. Howard Alden is a big George Barnes fan and has a great set of live radio recordings called Plantation Party from 1940-41. There's also a lot of good George Barnes stuff on YouTube. If you want to see the type of guitar he played, look here. Apparently only about 20 were ever made. Thanks for bringing him up on the forum! AE
  • Blue DragBlue Drag S.F. Bay Area✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 55
    In the mid-seventies I was an aspiring/perspiring jazz guitar student working in a record/instrument store. A young kid (late teens) came in, we were talking guitars and he mentioned that he took guitar lessons in Concord, Ca., from a guy named George Barnes. I said: THE George Barnes? He said "what do you mean?" I took him into the record section and showed him a George Barnes-Ruby Braff album that we had and he said : "Yep, that's him. I didn't know he made any records." George appeared at a local small jazz club (literally someone's living room on the beach south of San Francisco) and I went to see him. During the break I got to speak with him. He was a real character; big cigar, loud plaid sport coat, he looked like a used car salesman. I said that I knew that he taught and that I would love study with him. I asked how I could get a hold of him and he quipped; "I'm in the book (phone). I ain't hiding from anybody." Sadly, he passed away shortly afterwords and I never got the chance to take lessons from him. I did study with his rhythm guitarist, Duncan James, but what I would have given to sit opposite George and soak in what he had to offer. I don't think that anyone "swung" as hard as George. Many people that I've played his records for have mentioned that he "sounded kinda like Django", I know that they started about the same time, mid-thirties. George was originally pegged as a blues guitarist, early reviews mentioned the "Negro blues guitarist from Chicago, George Barnes (George was not black).
    George was a staff guitarist at RCA in New York and played on tons of sessions (many of them Rock & Roll and R&B), he played on all of Sam Cook's and The Four Season's hits for example.
    Here is a great resource on "all things George":
    May George S.I.P. (Swing in Peace)
  • oldsoutholdsouth New
    Posts: 52
    Man, I just love his tone - his music was happy music. But, I never knew he played on Sam Cooke's records - incredible!
  • jimmyl51jimmyl51 New
    Posts: 14
    I too have been obsessed with George Barnes for years. After years and years of looking for a Guild George Barnes 17" Acousti-Lectric I was very lucky to find one a 1963 about 15 years ago. I moved to Maine and am now living in Oklahoma City for work however the guitar is safe with my wife in Maine at the moment. When I lived in San Diego a number of years ago I ran into Richard Glick who was Fine Guitar Consultants now deceased. He was able to get ahold of George's guitar from his daughter Alexandra Leh Barnes. He wanted to know if I would like to see it. What really amazed me was the condition that the guitar was in. Super high action! I spoke to George's daughter for about two hours on the telephone about her dad. She told me that the guitar was left in exactly the same state that it was in when her dad died. She also told me how he was treated by Les Paul which apparently in her eyes was not very nice. I would love to get ahold of some of George's teaching material so if anybody has any referrals it would be much appreciated! I love to talk about George Barnes and Chicago! jim hahn in Oklahoma City
  • Blue DragBlue Drag S.F. Bay Area✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 55
    Hey, Jimmy. Care to elaborate on how Les Paul "was not very nice" to George?
    There is a picture of the 2 of them together on the web site that I linked in my previous post.
  • alexandraalexandra New
    Posts: 3
    hi, all...i'm george's daughter, alexandra, and just found this thread while googling "george barnes django" -- great to see you all here, and to read your very cool posts (got a particular kick out of the "used car salesman" description -- i always hated his 70's leisure suits!).

    i'm a writer-producer in los angeles and am setting almost all of my other projects aside to produce THE GEORGE BARNES LEGACY COLLECTION, a transmedia history of american popular music through the lens of a surprisingly unheralded, yet incredibly influential, consummate musician -- from 30's blues (he was a pioneer of the electric guitar, and was the first electric guitarist to record commercially, at the age of 16, with big bill broonzy and other blues artists), to 40's swing (he had his own national radio show in his 20's featuring his innovative compositions and arrangements), to 50's and 60's rock (you've heard him a zillion times on some of the most famous rock n' roll in history) and country (he was chet atkins' idol), and jazz throughout (in over 50 recordings under his own name, and many more with other jazz greats), until he died at a much-too-young 56 in 1977. my mother evelyn -- who is a beautiful 88-year-old amputee with an amazing sense of humor and an incredible fund of stories (i have a whole bunch, as well!) is working with me on the project. she regularly reminds me that she won't be here forever, so i'm working around the clock! it's a huge work and a labor of love -- and we know GB fans and students (and those who don't yet have a clue about him) will want it and love it.

    i'm in the midst of digitizing his work for the project -- the first release will include two of his five teaching methods, interspersed with recordings of private lessons, jam sessions, rehearsals with carl kress, ruby braff, lots of personal content. i'd love to keep you all apprised of its progress and commercial availability.

    i look forward to hearing from you, and can hardly wait to share this incredible project with you all...

    my best,
    alexandra barnes leh
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