Paul Barbarin Day

May 5, 1899 – Feb. 17, 1969

A tribute to the New Orleans drummer and bandleader

New Orleans drummer and bandleader Paul Barbarin was born May 5, 1899 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Part of a very musical family which included his nephew Danny Barker, three brothers and his father, Barbarin played clarinet when he was 15, switching to drums the following year.

He worked locally in the Crescent City with the Silver Leaf Orchestra and the Young Olympia Band before moving to Chicago in 1917.

Barbarin worked with Art Simms, the Tennessee Ten, Freddie Keppard, Jimmie Noone, his own groups, and most notably with King Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators (1925-27) with whom he recorded.

After moving to New York, Barbarin was part of a particularly excellent rhythm section with Luis Russell’s Orchestra (1928-32) and recorded with Jelly Roll Morton in 1929.

Barbarin freelanced, was back with Russell during 1935-39 when it was Louis Armstrong’s backup band, and worked with Joe Robichaux’s New Orleans Rhythm Boys, Henry “Red” Allen, Sidney Bechet and Art Hodes.

Moving back to New Orleans, Barbarin founded the Onward Brass Band in 1955 and composed such New Orleans standards as “Bourbon Street Parade” and “The Second Line.”

Paul Barbarin passed away on Feb. 17, 1969 at the age of 69 while he was playing snare drums during a parade at Mardi Gras.

Here is a brief clip of Barbarin playing part of “The Bucket’s Got A Hole In It” with an all-star New Orleans ensemble that includes clarinetist George Lewis in 1959.

-Scott Yanow