The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46310   Message #2336644
Posted By: PoppaGator
09-May-08 - 01:10 PM
Thread Name: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
Good point, Joe. I wonder why I never wondered about that before!

If you can find Danny Barker's recording of this song, it's very much worth a listen. I'm not sure which album it's on; I hear it on the radio two-three times every month because it gets a lot of airplay on WWOZ-FM (also available at -- just a quick plug; I'm not even bothering to clickify). Danny interjects spoken interludes after just about every line of the song, and even though the recording is eminently musical, it's almost as much comedy routine as it is performance of a song. Also, since it's a solo recording, it's easy to hear and appreciate his simple but very elegant self-accompaniment on acoustic archtop jazz guitar

Danny was a long-time trad-jazz banjo and guitar player, who put in many years with Louis Armstrong's bands. From the late fifties though the sixties and beyond, he lived at home in New Orleans and performed regularly with his pianist/vocalist wife, Blue Lu Barker, for whom he wrote the classic "Don't You Feel My Leg." (Folkies are most likely to know that song as recorded by the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, vocal by Maria D'Amato Muldaur.)

Danny Barker is also responsible, almost singlehandedly, for the renaissance of New Orleans traditional Brass Band music. It was a dying art when he organized a group of teenagers and preteens as the Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band, teaching them the then-nearly-forgotten repertoire of traditional dirges and uptempo jazz-funeral hymns. Those young fellows grew up to become the leaders of a new generation of brass bands, notably including the Dirty Dozen, the first such ensemble to break through to wider recognition.