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The Back Page: Barney Kessel at the White House 1981



Barney Kessel at the White House 1981

Jazz Guitar Today recently posted a tribute by Frank Hamilton – Focus, Drive, Imagination and Dedication… Barney Kessel

And we received a very nice note from his wife, Mrs. Phyllis Kessel – and she shared some photos too!  Including the photo above -Barney at the White House with the Carter’s.

To Jazz Guitar Today:

Thank you for featuring this piece on my late husband. He was all that and more, for sure.  More people need to remember that he was the greatest when he was alive and touring.  I don’t see enough about him anymore.

Barney had exquisite taste in music and musicians..favorites were Lester Young, and singers Billie Holiday, then Ella, and for male singers, Fred Astaire, Johnny Mercer. Most of Barney’s archives are now at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Thanks again, to you and Mr. Hamilton.

Phyllis Kessel

Barney Kessel with the Carter’s at the White House 1981

Barney Kessel Bio:

Barney Kessel was one of the most innovative jazz guitarists of all time. He was known for his brilliant harmonic improvisation, bluesy and swinging, hard-driving style. Kessel performed all over the world from the early 1940s until 1992. One of the most in-demand studio musicians, he worked on over 500 films, plus radio and TV. He made over 50 recordings under his own name and was the first to use the guitar as the predominant voice of a jazz trio instead of piano.

Kessel also is featured on over 400 recordings of other artists such as Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Oscar Peterson, the Righteous Brothers, Barbara Streisand, and Elvis Presley. A member of The Wrecking Crew, he played on many of the Beach Boys hits. During the 50s and 60s, he won all the major magazine polls including Playboy, Esquire, Downbeat and Metronome. Kessel played for two presidents in the White House, was a musical ambassador for the State Department in 1981 and his many honors include an honorary doctorate from the University of Oklahoma.

Barney Kessel in Hollywood studio in the ’60s.

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