Graham Burbidge

Graham Burbidge was one of the longest-serving members of the Chris Barber Band: he replaced Ron Bowden on December 9, 1957, and stayed for almost two decades, leaving on May 20, 1976.

In the early 1960s, most of the members of the band wrote a short (usually just one page) autobiography. Copies of the documents are part of the Barber-Purser archives. Here is Graham Burbidge's contribution:

I was born on 1st October 1933 in Stepney. In fact that makes me the youngest member of the band. It also means that my early formative years were spent in the country as an evacuee; and I still love to be out away from the towns when the sun is shining. I started drumming when I was just a child -- maybe about six years old -- but this was to play things like “British Grenadiers” with Boy Scouts Bands. It was only after the war that I found out about jazz; and then I progressed from Spike Jones through Spanier, Bunk Johnson to Lennie Tristano. It was a fairly rapid musical progress, but it left me sitting over on the modern side of the fence that used to exist between “modern” and “trad”.

I played my drums in the RAF with a Military Band, but also I managed to get into the dance band, and that was the start for me. When I came back to civilian life in February 1954, my daytime job in a textile export company was already only a base for my playing in the evening. I was in a trio that was completed by Pete Elderfield and Maurice Hinson, and one of our first jobs was at the NJF's London Jazz Centre in a spot opposite Don Rendell's group. However, my early interests in jazz had been much broader than those of most of the modern jazz musicians, and I used to go to all the clubs, sitting in whenever I could. So it was that on one night in Humph's, I was invited to play with the Sandy Brown Band. The next day Sandy rang me and asked me to join the band full time. I took the plunge and became a professional musician. Those days with Sandy were a complete knockout for me. I loved that band, and it was a sad day for me when Sandy announced his own retirement.

I joined Chris in November 1957, and musically, I've been on my toes ever since. With this band you get a chance to play every kind of jazz, and playing with it is an enormously stimulating business. Whenever I get time off, I love to do something entirely different. It's the only way I can find to replace the nervous energy that is used up so fast on the stand.

Off duty, I've got two big interests, guns and model aircraft. The model aircraft building has been with me a long time, but collecting new and antique guns is something newer. On our last trip to the States I found a real Colt .45 -- a beauty. I used to practise drawing against Wyatt Earp on television, and I got to the stage where I had him licked, which is quite an achievement, I guess.

Graham Burbidge Photo Gallery
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