Chris Barber has died at the age of 90
The musician was one of the ‘Three Bs’ – along with Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball – who are considered to have defined traditional British jazz and led the ‘Trad’ revival of the 1950s and 1960s – and he died “peacefully in his sleep” after suffering with dementia, his record label The Last Music Company confirmed in a tribute post on its website.
A post was also made on the official Twitter account of The Last Music Company, which read: “BRITISH JAZZ GIANT CHRIS BARBER DIES AT AGE 90
“Chris Barber died peacefully in his sleep on 1st March 2021. He had been suffering from Dementia for the last couple of years. We are saddened by his loss.”
Chris formed his first band in London during the 1940s but it was only when he and clarinettist Monty Sunshine formed a co-operative band in 1953 under Ken Colyer that his career took off.
Chris shared a long-standing partnership with trumpeter Pat Halcox, who worked with him from 1954 to 2008 in his various bands.
The band would find success with Ottilie Patterson – who he was married to from 1959 to 1983 – as they progressed from small jazz clubs to concert halls
Barber enjoyed chart success when he played the double bass on the 1956 record ‘Petite Fleur’ as the song reached the top five in both the UK and the United States.
Chris worked closely with Lonnie Donegan, the band’s original banjoist and the pair often included a short set of ‘skiffle’ – American country blues and folk songs – in their concert sets.
The pair’s version of ‘Rock Island Line’ in 1955 became the first debut vocal recording to become a certified Gold Disc in the UK.
Barber was a central figure in the blues revival of the 1960s and introducing performers such as Sister Rosetta Sharpe, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and Muddy Waters to Britain. He added electric guitarist John Slaughter to his band, which became the Chris Barber Jazz and Blues Band.
He was awarded an OBE for his services to music in 1991 and only announced his retirement in 2019, having led a band for almost 70 years.
During his retirement he