HAPPY BIRTHDAY Junior Barber born, April 12, 1943 talented dobro player and founding member of the Gibson Brothers Band and currently touring with Beartracks. Junior was voted Dobro Player of the Year for five years running by the International Bluegrass Musicians Association. Junior has also been a much sought after studio veteran.
The only musical talent out of six siblings, bluegrass Dobro picker Junior Barber managed to pass on some musical genes to his son, Mike Barber, with whom he plays in the Gibson Brothers. Several of this New York state outfit’s albums were released under the name of the Gibson Brothers Bluegrass Band. The younger Barber — it would be too confusing to call him junior — actually eased into bluegrass slowly, getting into music slightly before his teenage years with a crack at drums, then electric guitar, before finally joining the Gibson Brothers in 1991 playing upright bass. Dad Junior Barber went directly to the electric guitar and it took years of battling to rid him of the rock & roll demons. He was 17 when he first heard the very special sound of the resophonic guitar known as a Dobro. His father owned one of the old metal body models. Antoine Barber Sr. played Hawaiian music and uncle Bill LaPorte also played Hawaiian style on a flat-top guitar. Junior Barber began working out with the instrument some, but he was still sticking to the music one could get away with playing in electric clubs around upstate New York, New England, and the Southern Vermont area. In the ’60s, he began playing banjo in a lot of dance clubs. Musically, he had been veering back and forth between country and garage rock in a string of musical ensembles that went nowhere. Martigraw, a bluegrass band led by Doug Night in the mid-’70s, was his most successful involvement up until that time. Eventually, he sold all his electric instruments, and devoted himself to the Dobro and acoustic music. It was an effort well worth taking if the reaction of the International Bluegrass Musicians Association means anything: the organization nominated him for Dobro Player of the Year for five years running. His influences included great country Dobro players such as Josh Graves as well as the wild Hawaiian virtuoso Sol Hoopi, and he reserves particular affection for many of the resophonic recording artists of the ’20s and ’30s, finding in their creations a type of soulfulness missing from modern, more technically pristine productions. Barber has been involved in teaching in workshop situations, both on tour with the Gibson Brothers and on his own at various bluegrass festivals such as Winterhawk in New York. The Gibson Brothers band is filled out by brothers Eric and Leigh Gibson singing and playing banjo and guitar respectively. Some of the Dobro player’s finest picking is on his Steffi’s Waltz album, in the company of players such as Roland White, Bob Carlin, and Stuart Duncan. Like many good Dobro players, Barber finds himself in demand by various recording groups when a genuine country flavoring is desired for particular tracks.
I enjoy researching Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, and Country birthdays, anniversaries and interesting trivia dates. I am a piano/organ performance major who has taught privately and served as church accompanist since 1968 in North Carolina and Central Kentucky. Although classically trained, I appreciate all genres of music. My mother, who was also a church musician and taught public school music grades K-12, knew that Bluegrass music was the purest American music. She always introduced her students to this fine genre and began my musical studies with her at age 2. Bach to Berachah Valley, Mozart to Jimmy Martin, Sibelius to Stanley Brothers, the list goes on, I hope you find some moments of enjoyment and learn a few interesting facts along the way.
I am thankful for the many resources we have at our fingertips including Google. FaceBook and BluegrassBios by Wayne Rice. It was he who inspired me to tackle the task of trying to pass on knowledge about Bluegrass music. Thanks Wayne~!
Lou Ellen Wilkie