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Under the Influence of Danny Barker

Kermit Ruffins and Danny Barker
Kermit Ruffins and Danny Barker. Photo by Dan Meyer.

This week marks the centennial of Danny Barker’s birthday.  Born on January 13, 1909, this torch bearer of New Orleans music was a jazz banjoist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, and ukelele player.

Before he died in March of 1994, Danny played with countless Jazz luminaries such as Cab Calloway, Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Carter, Sydney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, Lena Horne, and his wife, singer Blue Lu Barker. 

Danny Barker moved to New York City in 1930, but he returned to his native New Orleans in 1965 to work at the New Orleans Jazz Museum. 

In the early 70’s, Danny led a brass band called the Fairview Baptist Church Marching Band, which grew into the Hurricane Brass Band and helped launch the careers of many musicians, such as Leroy Jones, Greg Stafford, Darryl Adams, Lucien Barbarin, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Tuba Fats, and Charles and Kirk Joseph, who eventually formed The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

The Fairview Band provided a key link in the continuous chain of New Orleans musicians, and was pivotal in reviving brass band music.  Thanks to Danny Barker and those he mentored, brass music still flourishes today.  

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