GEORGE BARNES

Born 17 July 1921, Chicago Heights, Illinois
Died 5 September 1977, Concord, California

George Barnes was one of the most prolific and versatile session guitarists of the fifties and sixties. Though basically a jazz man, he was a master of all styles : blues, country, folk, pop, R&R, R&B. He was one of the first to record on electric guitar and Chet Atkins, Les Paul and Charlie Christian have cited him as a primary inspiration. By the age of 14, Barnes was already a professional musician and had formed the George Barnes Quartet. Two years later he made his first records under his own name: "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" and "I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me" for Okeh Records. By 1938 he was working on the staff of NBC, as a conductor, guitarist and arranger, and did blues and country sessions with the likes of Washboard Sam and Big Bill Broonzy. After a stint in the military during World War II, Barnes resumed his studio work and recorded radio transcriptions with his unusual octet. In 1951 he moved from Chicago to New York City, where he immediately got a contract at Decca to conduct, arrange, do backing vocals, his own albums and record dates (he said the only thing he didn't do was sweep floors!). George also met Carl Kress in 1951, the start of a friendship that was to result in the formation of the critically acclaimed George Barnes/ Carl Kress Duo in later years. They toured the world together and made some of the finest guitar duo recordings ever. Around this time George had the Guild Guitar Company build a unique guitar to his specifications partly arising out of his dissatisfaction with the way electric guitars were prone to feedback. After Kress' death in 1965 George's next partner was to be Bucky Pizzarelli. As a session player, Barnes has worked with everyone from Louis Armstrong to Bob Dylan. His daughter Alexandra has compiled a selective list of Top 40 hits that he played on: http://www.fineguitarconsultants.com/guildgb.htm I have my doubts concerning the reliability of this list. Quite a few Brenda Lee items are mentioned ; according to Brenda's Bear Family discography, Barnes never played on any of her 1956-62 sessions, not even the sole NYC session. He wasn't on "Splish Splash" either, though he did play on "Early In The Morning" (both versions), not mentioned in the list. Other omissions include "What Am I Living For"/"Hang Up My Rock 'n' Roll Shoes" (Chuck Willis) and several Coasters hits, including Along Came Jones, Poison Ivy and Little Egypt. Perhaps his best known guitar solo is that on Connie Francis's "Lipstick On Your Collar", although I've also seen it credited to Bucky Pizzarelli. Website: http://www.gould68.freeserve.co.uk/barnesgeo1.html

 
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