Chris Barber Announces Retirement after 70 Years in Music

Chris Barber died on March 2nd 2021 at age 90. Read our extensive obituary.

The Big Chris Barber Band will carry on but Chris Barber has decided that at 89 its time to retire from full time playing.

Barber made some recordings with his first band in 1949 and remained active until a fall early this year took him off tour, a full 70 years in professional music. His band has stayed busy throughout the year playing over 40 shows while hopefully awaiting his return. But it seems like that was not to be. Instead, he has decided to celebrate his retirement and endorse the continued efforts of the band that bears his name.

Hot Jazz Jubile

While his early sidemen have moved on some in the current band have been with him since the 1980s. Others are among the top players in Europe. The current band includes Bob Hunt, tb, Mike Henry, tp, Peter Rudeforth, tp,  with a reed section of Nick White, Ian Killoran and Bert Brandsma, John Day on bass, John Watson, drums, and key to that Chris Barber sound, Joe Farler on banjo.

Ken Coyler Jazzmen 53
Left to right: Monty Sunshine, Lonnie Donegan, Ron Bowden, Ken Colyer, Chris Barber, Jim Bray (Photo courtesy of the Barber-Purser Archives)

The band has scheduled a concert to celebrate his retirement and legacy Friday, September 13, 2019 at Cadogan Hall, London. It is hoped that Chris Barber will be in attendance.

Barber was at the cornerstone of British Trad. The music he made with Ken Coyler, Pat Halcox, Monty Sunshine, Lonnie Donegan, Jim Bray, and Ron Bowden, beginning in 1953, made way for the success of The Ken Colyer Band, Acker Bilk’s Paramount Jazzband,  Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, Terry Lightfoot, and Papa Bue’s Viking Jazzband in the decades to come.

UpBeat Records

He also played significant roles in bringing the blues to Britain, and in bringing British popular music to the world.  He invited many American blues artists to appear with his band, including Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Muddy Waters, Louis Jordan, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. His skiffle group with Lonnie Donegan helped to kick off that craze, which inspired the early Beatles.

Joe Bebco is the Associate Editor of The Syncopated Times and Webmaster of

Or look at our Subscription Options.