I have just finished reading Chris's biography, Jazz me blues. My first thought after shelling out my £19.99 was that at under 200 pages it was a bit thin. Having said that I thoroughly enjoyed the read and am pleased to add it to my considerable Chris Barber collection.
There was quite a lot about the bands trips to America and the musicians and music that fired Chris's enthusiasm for the music, and very interesting it was. As a teenager I was introduced to British Traditional jazz in 1960 via Tuesday nights at Barnet jazz club and trips to the Wooden Bridge at Guildford. Mick Mulligan and the Simms Wheeler Vintage jazz band were the first I saw and it was the British scene that fired my love for the music which has lasted to this day. Consequently it was the stories about the British scene I enjoyed the most. I heard Lonnie tell his story about turning up to a rehearsal with a banjo he just bought but couldn't play until Chris showed him how on at least two occasions, so it is interesting that it was perhaps just an amusing story not based on fact. The departure of Monty Sunshine was a BIG story to Barber fans and I thought the book past it by with very little comment. I lived in Woodside Park near where Monty lived and saw him play many times locally and chatted to him a lot ( on one occasion after a session at the Conservative Hall Finchley he asked myself and a friend if we would like to go up to the 100 club with him to see a New Orleans clarinetist, I think it was Ed Hall. We went of course) Monty was fairly anti Barber in those early years and I remember Ken Lindsay who ran the Barnet Jazz club in Barnet admonishing him for slagging off the next weeks band (which was Chris) as last week it was him. The reason I have remained a Barber fan for so long is the fact that he did change and experiment, the addition of John Slaughter was for me the best thing that happened to the band. To anyone who has not read the book it is a very worth while read. Long may Chris continue !
I enjoyed the book too and also think it was much thinner than it could have been. No mention of the back room boys such as Richard Oliver for example (with the band for 25 years), who we got to know very well when the band visited NZ (and Australia) in 2000.
There must be so many more memories that could be aired and more than enough for volume 2? The concentration on the American tours and the dozens of musicians encountered wasn't easy reading, but good to see a section on the cars! It would be interesting to hear Chris's opinion of his contemporaries for example - and even some of the many band members, particularly of more recent times. Big thanks to the publishers, who replaced my first copy as there was a binding fault.