Chris Barber, "Godfather of British Blues"
Chris Barber has been one of the movers and shakers in the British blues and jazz worlds since the early 1950s. Barber formed Chris Barber's Jazz Band with future skiffle star Lonnie Donegan in 1954. As instruments were added through the years, the band evolved into The Chris Barber Jazz and Blues Band; the band has played over 10,000 shows over the past 50 years, and has made thousands of recordings.
A lesser-known fact about Chris Barber, however, is his behind-the-scenes role as a concert promoter. During the 1950s and '60s, Barber brought dozens of American blues artists to the U.K. and Europe to perform on the continent for the first time. Barber's efforts in bringing the blues to European audiences earned him the title "Godfather of British Blues," and the shows that he promoted influenced future members of blues-rock bands like the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones and others.
Many of Barber's shows were recorded for posterity, but the tapes were lost during the 1970s and remained undiscovered until recently. Barber had decided to restore one of the vintage American cars that he owns, and while digging through his storage warehouse, he found the long-lost original tapes for some of these unique shows.
The first three volumes of Barber's Lost & Found CD series will be released in May 2008 by MVD Audio in the United States and Blues Legacy in the U.K. The performances on these discs have never been released commercially and represent historical recordings from some of the greatest talents in the blues and Gospel worlds.
Volume One - Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee
Volume one of the Lost & Found series will feature a December 1957 performance by Gospel great Sister Rosetta Tharpe, along with an April 1958 performance by folk-blues legends Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, both shows recorded at the Free Trade Music Hall in Manchester, England.
Tharpe's ten-song set includes three solo numbers with just Tharpe and her guitar, including "Rock Me," and seven songs backed by The Chris Barber Band with vocalist Ottilie Patterson, including "Old Time Religion" and "Peace In The Valley."
Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee are also backed by Barber's band on the duo's thirteen-song set, which features Terry on vocals and harmonica and Brownie McGhee on guitar and vocals. Among the folk-blues standards performed by the two are "John Henry," Leadbelly's "Midnight Special," and "Worried Man Blues."
Volume Two - Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Muddy Waters, Champion Jack Dupree
The second volume of Lost & Found opens with a handful of songs from a 1958 Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee radio broadcast, the pair backed by The Chris Barber Band on three cuts, soloing on one song, and with McGhee performing "Boogie On The Blues" by himself.
The meat of volume two may be an October 1958 performance by blues giant Muddy Waters with pianist Otis Spann, Waters' first appearance in the U.K. Waters is backed by The Chris Barber Band on just two of his ten songs here, with he and Spann kicking out the blues on the other eight, including "Baby Please Don't Go," "Rollin' Stone" (from which the Rolling Stones got their name), and "I Can't Be Satisfied."
Volume two is rounded out with performances by New Orleans bluesman Champion Jack Dupree and saxophonist and bandleader Louis Jordan. Dupree is backed by drummer Graham Burbidge and bassist Dick Smith from Barber's band on three songs taken from a radio broadcast of a live 1959 performance at The London Jazz Club. Jordan is represented by a single song, the classic "Ain't Nobody's Business," from a 1962 recording session at the Olympic Studios in London.
Volume Three - Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Weatherspoon
The third volume of Lost & Found may be the series' strongest, with important and influential performances by Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin' Wolf and Jimmy Witherspoon.
Recorded live in May 1964 at Manchester's Free Trade Music Hall, Williamson's eleven-song set includes songs like "Pontiac Blues," "Your Funeral, My Trial," and "This Little Light Of Mine." Backed by The Chris Barber Band, it was around this time that Williamson, a major influence on every blues harmonica player to follow, would also record a ground-breaking blues-rock collection with the Yardbirds.
Blues great Howlin' Wolf would travel to England with his long-time guitarist Hubert Sumlin to perform alongside Barber's band. The collaboration resulted in the four songs included here, featured a rarely-performed Howlin' Wolf take on the classic "Dust My Broom," as well as "Howlin' For My Baby," "May I Have A Talk With You," and "Take A Walk With Me."
Vocalist Jimmy Witherspoon's amazing career would span five decades and earn the powerful singer accolades on two continents for recordings made with talents like Count Basie, Eric Burdon, Dr. John and Van Morrison. Witherspoon is represented on volume three of Lost & Found by two different sets.
Witherspoon's first performance is a three-song set taken from the Richmond Jazz & Blues Festival in August 1964. Backed by The Chris Barber Band, Witherspoon belts out "Times Getting Tougher Than Tough," "Have You Ever Loved A Woman" and "Roll 'Em Pete." Witherspoon's second set, from a 1980 Dutch radio performance, features four songs, including "Everyday I Have The Blues" and "Ain't Nobody's Business."
Each volume of the Lost & Found series will include sonically-remastered recordings made from the original performance tapes, including on-stage introductions and sound bites from Barber and the performers, and an eight-page color booklet with liner notes.
More information about the Lost & Found series, including complete tracklists, can be found on the artist-owned Blues Legacy label website.