This was the nick name that young Dan earned in glowing reflection of his eager willingness to please others and work. Danny substantiates this characterization in several instances. Among his memoirs, there are detailed tales of life in Downtown Orleans Parish. In this season of the God blessed child, this fin de cicle
post focuses again on the jazzy childhood of Daniel Moses Barker.
“So I have vivid memories of what was happening on the river and I saw much, for I would roam about the wharves, and was welcome there because most everyone knew my grandparents.”
It should be no surprise that his accounts reveal a boy of natural intelligence and keen observation. In the beautifully maddening life of New Orleans – wether it be a hundred years ago or only a few days passed – there is a terrific abundance of varied, colorful examples of being.
“One day they were working on a Japanese ship and I went up the gangplank to watch the almond-eyed yellow men. One of them gave me a present of a little Japanese doll.”
Learning was highly valued in his up-bringing. This accumulation of knowledge also just happened to be taking place during a social transformation occurring in the churches and streets of a poly-glot frontier on a “reconstructed” south. Downtown Orleans Parish, at that time, was also home to the most notorious vice districts known in near history.
“On the northeast corner of Chartres and St. Philip stands a three-storied building which, in 1916, was a barroom and gambling joint owned, operated and patronized by Italians. The many tables were always occupied by men; many of them wore black shirts, black suits, black shoes and black hats. The doors were always wide open and the smoke from the long thin black cigars which were favored by most of the patrons would drift to the outside. If you passed the joint the strong aroma would damn near choke and suffocate you. I looked about the interior of this place on many occasions because I was fascinated.”
Later, as he grew into young adulthood, Danny Barker began to understand his place in the scheme of things. Although there was no great, deeper awareness of the gauntlet which he was to continue to run for more than eight decades, there was a distinctly effective insight which 'Son do' came upon in his life in New Orleans.
“I learned early on that I would never see the inside of a college. I also found out that if I wanted to go places with a minimum of education, the way involved the learning of a musical instrument.”
His first band, The Boozan Kings.
His holy reign, the Creole land of Boozan.
His angelic proclamation, popular songs.
Any way you examine it: survival or salvation? Danny Barker's offering to life was what we now name as a culture. In closing, I'll say that from my observation, there are many people who don't quite understand this idea, Jazz. I would answer that: as you are willing to know the life of this man, from 'Son do' all the way to 'Old Danny,' you can know Jazz
Peace & Pops,
Maison Musique, New Orleans
My Catalogue of CD's Available Thru A Locally Owned & Operated Retailer Worthy of Your Support:
MOMENTS OF SOUND: ESQUIZITO 1996-2006 is now available in Digital Download thru:
- which like iTunes, you would search for: esquizito.
GOOD NEWS: The Kingdom is at hand.