I Don't Dig You Jack : Blu Lu Barker©2008JCMarion


Louisa Dupont (Barker) was born in New Orleans in November of 1913. As a young girl she was heavily influenced by the singing styles she heard from the family wind-uip gramophone, an early record player. She heard the blues on record by such greats as Ma Rainey, mamie Smith, and of course Bessie Smith. Young Louisa would sing along to these landmark performances on record, dreaming of the day she could emulate her girlhood heroes. Her father ran a pool hall and it has been said, a thriving business in bootleg liquor during the time of Prohibition. She was part of a local entertainment group called The Merrymakers for a while, and then at a very young age Louisa ran off with a New Orleans musician named Danny Baker, and from about nineteen thirty until her passing nearly seventy years later, they would remain together in music as in life.

Danny Baker became a well known and respected musician in the New Orleans area. Through his talent on banjo and guitar, Danny and Louisa came in contact with many of the top name jazz and blues players of the time. By the eary nineteen thirties they had moved to New York City and after a time Louisa had the opportunity to record under her name. It was under a change in names that she began to put her vocals on record. At one of her first sessions for Decca, she was given the name she would become famous as - Blu Lu Barker. In the late thirties she recorded a number of songs for Decca that made her famous. "Don't You make Me High" (also known as "Don't You Feel My Leg") with "New Orleans Blues" on # 7506, "Never Brag About Your Man" with "Midnight Blues" on # 7683, "Jitterbug Blues" with "Down In The Dumps" on # 7713, and "I Don't Dig You Jack" with "Lu's Blues" on # 7770. Danny Baker wrote many of the songs and led the backing band known as The Fly Cats. They were Red Allen on trumpet, Buster Bailey on clarinet, Sammy Price on piano, Wellman Brauch on bass, Paul Barbarin (Danny Barker's uncle) on drums, and Barker himself on guitar.

After a few years of inactivity in the recording studio, Blu Lu recorded a few sides for the Apollo label with the Danny Barker Sextette. The songs were "That Made Him Mad" and a remake of "Don't You Feel My Leg" on Apollo # 376, "There Was A Little" on # 382, and "Buy Me Some Juice" and "You Gotta Show It To Me Baby" on # 399. Barker began to get more of an R & B feel in her style as she played a number of club dates in the New York City area. In late 1948 her version of "A Little Birdie Told Me" (with "What Did You Do To Me?" on the flip) on Capitol # 15308 was a good national seller doing better than Paula Watson's original, and not too far behind Evelyn Knight's big number one seller. Later in 1949 "Leave My man Alone" and "Here's A Little Girl From Jacksonville" on # 15347. In February of 1950, Capitol released "Bow Legged Daddy" and "Love That Man" on # 807. In May of the year "At The Animal Ball" and "Round And Round The Valley" was issued by Capitol on # 977. From about 1952 Blu Lu barker was inactive on the music scene. By the mid nineteen sixties the Barkers moved back to New Orleans and resumed making music together in club dates and recorded for some local jazz and blues oriented record labels. The Barkers also appeared at New Orleans music events such as the Jazz And Heritage Festivals. Danny barker worked at the New Orleans Jazz Museum, formed a traditional marching brass band, and wrote of the musical history of the city.

Blu Lu Barker still was singing into the 1990s. She received induction into the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame in 1997, one year before she passed away (four years after Danny Barker passed). Although a peripheral figure in the history of American Rhythm & Blues history, Blu Lu (and by his contribution, Danny Barker) contributed so much to the entire scene that they deserve their place with all the other pioneers in the music of their time.

CDs featuring the music of Blu Lu Barker include "1938-1939" for Classics with 21 tracks from the Decca years. The follow up from Classics - "1946-1949" feature the Apollo and Capitol sides. The one cd that captures the Barkers in a live performance is "Live At The Jazz & Heritage Festival" from Orleans in 1998 of a 1989 performance with 10 tracks by Blu Lu in front of a fine combo led by Danny Barker.

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