Donald Christopher Barber born on 17th April 1930 says it was as a boy during WW2 that his interest in jazz music began. When he was at school he learned to play the violin and says that his father was a good player. After leaving school he went to work in insurance
Barber formed an amateur band back in 1952 with Monty Sunshine on clarinet, Tony (Lonnie) Donegan on the bango, Ron Bowden on drums, Jim Bray on bass and Barber on trombone. They were known as The Barber Sunshine Five. “When I started there weren’t any professional jazz bands in England. The audience then was a minority”, said Barber. They turned professional in March 1953 and were joined by trumpet player Ken Colyer. The band then became Ken Colyer’s jazzmen. In 1954 Colyer left and was replaced by trumpet player Pat Halcox. Halcox stayed until his retirement in 2008. Apparently, one of the reasons was the travelling.
In 1954 the band’s name was changed again. It now became The Chris Barber Band. In July of 1954 the band recorded for Decca, releasing a Long playing (album) called New Orleans Joys. One of the tracks was Rock Island Line by Donegan. Barber played the bass on this track. The LP was released in December 1954 and in 1955 Donegan released Rock Island Line as a single. In March 1956 Donegan left Chris Barber and went on to have a successful career in the skiffle genre. Donegan passed away in November 2002 leaving us with a great number of recordings, some comical, such as My Old Man’s A Dustman and Does Your Chewing Gum Lose it’s Flavour on the Bedpost Over Night.
In 1959 Barber and his band released Petite Fleur on PYE records with Monty Sunshine on clarinet. Barber didn’t play on this record. Sadly, Sunshine died in 2010. Barber went on to record for EMI on their Columbia label and went on to record for the Dutch label Timeless. He received the OBE in 1991 for services to jazz music. The band is now known as The Big Chris Barber Band. Sadly, in 2013 Barber’s longest serving band member Pat Halcox passed away. Barber often played with the late Kenny Ball and the late Acker Bilk. They called themselves the three Bs. When asked about retirement, Barber says that he looks on his job as a hobby and you can’t retire from your hobby.