Third volume of Louisiana Musicians Biography Series now available

The Historic New Orleans Collection brings jazz legend and beloved local icon Danny Barker’s life and legacy back into print with the release of a new illustrated edition of his autobiography, A Life in Jazz.

Jacket photo by Milt Hinton; book design by Alison Cody

A Life in Jazz by Danny Barker
edited by Alyn Shipton
with a new introduction by Gwen Thompkins
Volume 3 in THNOC’s Louisiana Musicians Biography Series
available December 1, 2016
hardcover • 254 pages • 8″ x 10″ • 115 images
Order your copy here!





About Danny Barker

Storyteller, researcher, songwriter, performer and mentor, Barker was a true griot—an elder statesman of New Orleans music and an international representative of jazz and African American culture. In more than 60 years as a working musician, he appeared on more than a thousand recordings and penned dozens of original songs, including the blues song “Don’t You Make Me Feel High [Don’t You Feel My Leg],” his biggest hit and sung by his wife, Blue Lu Barker. He was also the first to record classic Mardi Gras Indian songs and chants, writing his own adaptations of “My Indian Red,” “Corinne Died on the Battlefield,” and “Chocko Mo Feendo Hey.”

About the book
First published in 1986 and edited by Alyn Shipton, a music historian and jazz program host on BBC Radio, A Life in Jazz represents decades of work Barker undertook to write the intertwined stories of his life and music. His carefully crafted set pieces range from hilarious to harrowing, and his writing style is much like his music—wry and swinging.

The new edition is accompanied by more than 100 images that bring his story to life, as well as Barker’s complete discography, a never-before-published song catalog, and an introduction reflecting on his legacy by music journalist Gwen Thompkins, former NPR reporter and now host of public radio’s Music Inside Out. Through his struggles, triumphs, escapades, and musings, Barker’s autobiography reflects the freedom, complexity, and beauty of this thoroughly American, black music tradition.

A Life in Jazz is the third volume in THNOC’s Louisiana Musicians Biography Series, following Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man (2010) by Harold Battiste Jr. with Karen Celestan and Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans (2012) by Ben Sandmel.

Praise for A Life in Jazz
Chicago Tribune
“Outside of [Jelly Roll] Morton, no single musician shed more light on the origins, context and meaning of early jazz than guitarist-banjoist-raconteur Danny Barker.

So anyone who values this music can be thankful that Barker’s memoir, ‘A Life in Jazz,’ has been restored to print in lavishly illustrated, sumptuously produced form by the Historic New Orleans Collection… the tome reaffirms the singularity of Barker’s voice and the value of his insights.”

New Orleans Advocate
“A glossy new expanded edition, lavishly illustrated with more than 100 historic photographs…the new ‘A Life in Jazz’ illuminates the words and stories of a uniquely talented New Orleanian.”

Louisiana Weekly
“The wonderful thing about ‘A Life in Jazz’ being available to the world again by way of The Historic New Orleans Connection, is that readers have the opportunity to hear the echo of Barker’s voice through his own words…. an observer of human nature, told his tales succinctly, intelligently with flashes of political statements wrapped in humor, wit and honesty.”

Images above:
Right: Lee Collins, Danny Barker, and Arthur Derbigny on the beach in Pensacola, Florida; 1928; courtesy of the Danny and Blue Lu Barker Collection, Hogan Jazz Archive Tulane University
Left:  Danny Barker and the Onward Brass Band; April 19, 1974; Photograph by Michael P. Smith ©The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2007.0103.3.56

Bookmark and Share