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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Guitar Galaxies - George Barnes

La Paloma
Guitar Galaxies
George Barnes
Recording Director: Hal Mooney
Engineer: Phil Ramone of the A&R Recording, Inc., New York, N.Y.
Mercury SR 60956 & PPS 6011


Electric and Straight Guitars: George Barnes, Don Arnone, Allen Hanlon, Everett Barksdale, Al Caiola, Al Cassamenti, Art Ryerson, Barry Galbraith, Carl Kress (played rhythm only)
Bass Guitars: Billy Bauer and John Pizzarelli
Piano and Celeste: Andrew Ackers
Xylophones and Marimbas: Milt Schlesinger and Phil Kraus
String Bass: Cliff Leeman
Bongos: Willie Rodriquez
Tympani on When Yuba Plays The Rhumba On The Tuba: Milt Schlesinger
Chromatic Bongos on When Yuba Plays The Rhumba On The Tuba: Phil Kraus
Baritone Ukuleles on Tequila: Barry Galbraith and John Pizzarelli
Tenor Ukulele on Tequila: Art Ryerson
Timbales, Maracas, Tambourine and Casabas (gourd with beads): Miscellaneous Personnel

The same set appears to have been released featuring two different cover designs, the second example is a substantial book-fold (PPS 6011) which was released in 1961.

From the inside cover: About George Barnes

One of George Barnes' chief aims in life has been to establish the guitar as a solo instrument as acceptable to music listeners as a trumpet, clarinet, or saxophone. This does not mean that he advocates the removal of the instrument from the rhythm section; he would prefer to see musical organizations using a solo guitar and a rhythm guitar. When playing with a group, guitarist Barnes frequently switches back and forth between solo and rhythm work.

Over the years Barnes' life since 1927 when he reached the age of six and was playing the piano. His home town, Chicago Heights, Illinois, was hard hit by the depression in 1931 and his father, who had been teaching him to play, was forced to exchange the piano for groceries. Undaunted, the ten-year-old lad searched his house until he found an old battered guitar his mother had given his father for a Christmas present many years before. Young Barnes was soon supplementing the family income with funds derived from playing at social functions in the neighborhood.

At the tender age of twelve, Barnes joined the musicians union so that he could work professionally with a trio in Hammond, Indiana. He sat strumming his guitar in a cabaret while other kids his age were sleeping. It was not long before a quartet was organized under Barnes' direction known as The Hill Toppers. They took to the road and for four years played the midwest country fair circuit.

It was in 1935 that Barnes learned to play the blues so well he was invited to accompany famous blues singing stars on record dates. His uncredited playing was heard on many of the old 78 rpm discs made by The Yas Was Girl, Blind John Davis, and Memphis Minnie. This activity in the blues field introduced him to the jazz world and in February 1939 he was presented as a guitar soloist at the Off-Beat club in Chicago. He was an immediate sensation on a bill that included some of the biggest names in jazz.

Barnes' ability to play, not only jazz, but any kind of music was soon noticed and in December 1939 he joined the staff of the National Broadcasting Corporation in Chicago. His guitar was a feature of the famous radio show, Plantation Party, for three years.

During the war, Barnes served with the army intelligence unit at the Pentagon, where his trained ear made him proficient in the tricky business of intercepting enemy code messages. He spent his furloughs in New York City sitting-in with any musical group that lacked a guitar and was willing to have one.

When he received his discharge in 1945, he returned to Chicago and found a good job waiting for him at the American Broadcasting Company studios. He organized an octet with an unusual instrumentation that approached symphonic proportions, less the strings. His eight players by doubling had at their disposal the clarinet, bass clarinet, bass saxophone, alto saxophone, English horn, oboe, flute, piccolo, piano, vibraphone, bass, and drums. Barnes, leading the group with his guitar, was responsible for the novel and interesting arrangements of well known melodies. The octet became a regular three times weekly feature over ABC radio until late 1951 when Barnes decided to move to New York City to free lance in the radio, television and recording fields. For the past decade he has been a much-in-demand artist, whose services are frequently called upon in the areas of guitar composition, arranging, and playing.

Barnes' unique organizational talents as evidenced by his Chicago octet make him an ideal leader for Guitar Galaxies. Using Latin tunes and the modern techniques of stereophonic recording, Barnes has produced a startling array of sound combinations. He has artistically and mechanically developed unique effects using a wide variety of percussive instruments to complement the tones derived from the eleven guitars. The familiarity of the standard Latin tunes selected adds melodic shading to the overall percussion sound. – George Hoefer, Associate Editor, Down Beat Magazine

Billboard review for the 1961 release: Another in the new Mercury Perfect Presence sound series, this admittable set features the great guitaring of George Barnes, abetted by an ensemble of melody guitars, with assorted percussion instruments. Things are largely keyed to a Latin beat, which lends an admirable showcasing for the percussion elements. Tunes include "Tequila," "Anna" and "Lady In Red." Excellent sound with an eye-catching, tastefully done cover of three latin dolls. Classy merchandise.

When Yuba Plays The Rumba On The Tuba
Bim Bam Boom
Cuban Pete
Lady In Red
Mama Inez
Linda Mujer
La Paloma
Anna (El Negro Zum Bon)
Orchids In The Moonlight


  1. thanks for posting this, mark...i'm george's daughter, and am producing a transmedia property titled THE GEORGE BARNES LEGACY COLLECTION, a history of american popular music through the 44-year career of an electric guitar pioneer whose influence on 30's blues, 40's swing, 50's and 60's rock and country, and jazz throughout, until his death in 1977 at the age of 56, has been surprisingly undercelebrated. cheers! alexandra barnes leh, los angeles

  2. Thank you for your comment Alexandra! I thrilled that you stopped by! I hope that you will drop by again when you have completed your project and leave a link so that we can check it out! Thanks again! Mark

  3. Hi, Mark! I meant to get back to you earlier, but had lost your link -- I finally launched THE GEORGE BARNES LEGACY COLLECTION this April 1, and am delighted by the response to the site and the content therein. It's a work in progress, of course -- there's so much music, and so many associated photos and stories. The additions I make, as well as associated activities, are always announced on the GB Facebook and Youtube pages, which you can join on the website. I hope you and your readers will come enjoy and partake!
    All my best,

  4. I have a mint copy of Guitar Galaxies on my deck right now. It conjures up a smoke filled lounge on a Sunday afternoon, with my Dad reading the papers, and relatives round. I managed to rescue a pile of vinyl from his collection when he died a few years back - my Mum was about to take it all down to the local Oxfam shop!
    Paul Craven


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