Me & Danny Barker

I heard someone on WWOZ mention this week that Danny Barker would have been  104 one week ago. He was an amazing musician and could tell an awesome story. And the only time I ever met him, he fussed and lectured at me. But then again I deserved it.

I was working at a jewelry counter (arty/tacky stuff not fancy) at a tourist mall adjacent to the French Quarter in 1989. I had just graduated from college and this was my retail job until something better came along.  One Saturday this jazz trio was strolling around the mall in these hokey 1890s costumes and playing for the crowds. No one was paying attention really but I was mesmerized. They were so good, especially the elderly singer…

You know where this is going. I’m shocked to realize now that Danny Barker was already 80 when I saw him that day. He was a great showman and his voice was strong.

I complimented him and the trio and said they sounded great. Maybe he thought I was patronizing him, or maybe he was irritated by tourists who weren’t listening. But he told me to go immediately to the record store down the street and buy his albums. And he made me write down his name to be sure I remembered it.

Go buy Save the Bones from Louisiana Music Factory. It was recorded in 1988, right around the time I met him. You won’t regret it.

And the best version of St. James Infirmary ever… which is also Save the Bones.


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