Barker, Danny (actually Daniel Moses)

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Barker, Danny (actually Daniel Moses)

Barker, Danny (actually Daniel Moses), American guitarist, banjo player, singer, writer; b. New Orleans, Jan. 13, 1909; d. there of cancer, March 14, 1994. In his childhood, Danny Barker learned clarinet, ukulele, and finally banjo from his grandfather, Isadore Barbarin, who played alto horn in the Onward Brass Band. Barker played with the Boozan Kings, and in the early 1920s toured with Little Brother Montgomery and trumpeter Willie Pajeaud. He joined trumpeter Lee Collins and saxophonist David Jones for a 1928 tour of Fla. In 1930 Barker and his wife, singer Louise “Blue Lu” Barker, moved to N.Y. and Danny found work the following year with trumpeter Dave Nelson, trombonist Harry White, and others, including Fats Waller. In the rewarding, personal freedom of N.Y., Barker absorbed everything around him during the Harlem Renaissance, and flourished as a musician. He soon switched from banjo to rhythm guitar, and during the 1930s mainly performed with Sidney Bechet, Fess Williams, Albert Nicholas, and James P. Johnson. In the late 1930s he recorded with his wife and with Henry “Red” Allen, worked in the big bands of Lucky Millinder (1937–38), Benny Carter (1938), and Cab Calloway (1939–46), and began to work with small groups. Barker participated in a Dixieland revival through a series of This Is Jazz radio broadcasts and recorded with Mutt Carey and Bunk Johnson. About the same time, he began to play six-string banjo. In 1948 the Barkers spent a long stretch in Calif., where Lu recorded an album for Capitol. Danny recorded various sides in Los Angeles and New Orleans before returning to N.Y. where he performed throughout the 1950s at Ryan’s, often with trombonists Conrad Janis and Wilbur DeParis, and with his own band. In 1965 Barker and his wife returned to New Orleans and re-established their careers there. Until 1975 Danny served as assistant curator of the New Orleans Jazz Museum. He continued to work as a bandleader, guitarist, and from 1965 to 1972 led the Onward Brass Band. In later years he also recorded with Wynton Marsalis and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. His notable compositions are “Don’t You Feel My Leg,” written for his wife, and “Save the Bones” (for Henry Jones), which was recorded by Nat King Cole. He wrote and lectured about jazz and taught young musicians. When Barker died in 1994 he left a trail of compositions and a discography of considerable range. A distinguished rhythm guitarist, he was also an accomplished six-string guitar player who made over 1, 000 recordings as side-man, but only a couple of recordings as leader exist.


Save the Bones (1991); Live at the New Orleans Jazz Festival (1998).


D. Barker, A. Shipton, A Life in Jazz (London, 1986); D. Barker, J. Buerkle, Bourbon Street Black (N.Y., 1973).

—Nancy Ann Lee

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Barker, Danny (actually Daniel Moses)

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