Photo by Andreas Wandfluh
Julian Purser, who was Chris Barber’s archivist, co-discographer, and an integral part of the management of the Chris Barber website, has died after a long illness. Julian was a fan of the band for more than four decades, and it was as a result of his frequent visits to the Marquee Club in London in the early 1970s that he offered to take care of a mass of disorganized memorabilia that otherwise might have been discarded.

For well over three decades, Julian added many rare Barber-related items to this archive, as well as amassing his own impressive and enviable collection of Barber vinyl records, tapes, and compact discs. He also joined forces with well-known Dutch discographer Gerard Bielderman in compiling a comprehensive, accurate, and detailed discography of the Barber catalogue.

Julian attended what must have been hundreds of Chris Barber club dates and concerts, several of which included such memorable events as the “great reunion concert” held at the Fairfield Hall in 1975, Chris’s seventy-fifth birthday concert in Liverpool, and the Lonnie Donegan memorial concert, which took place at the Royal Albert Hall.

On top of all this, in recent years Julian occasionally travelled with the band, most notably to Denmark to hear them play with a symphony orchestra, as well as a memorable trip to Switzerland. Julian thoroughly enjoyed being “on the road”, and these and several other occasions are described in detail in Julian’s own words in various pages within this website, to which his contribution, since becoming a member of the three-person “website team” in 2004, was immeasurable.

Julian was a good friend, an infectious enthusiast for all sorts of jazz – Chris Barber’s brand above all – and tireless in his enthusiasm for and efforts towards chronicling the career of one of Britain’s greatest musicians.

Ed Jackson and Andreas Wandfluh
April 9, 2009

Julian Writing About Julian
Not long after Julian, Andreas Wandfluh and I joined together to form what we called "The Chris Barber Website & Archive Team", each of us wrote a short piece about ourselves, telling how we became Chris Barber fans and how our involvement with the band and the music progressed over time. Here is what Julian had to say about himself: (ELJ).
Julian with trombonist Bob Hunt, on tour with
the band in Denmark, January 2005
I was born in Bristol at the end of 1940, and lived in a small village some miles outside the city.

My first recollections of hearing jazz were listening to my Dad's 78s, mainly swing, especially Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw: the live version of Sing, Sing, Sing was one of his and my favourites. However, by the time I was a teenager I had started to listen to Louis Armstrong, Humphrey Lyttelton, Chris Barber, and so on. I still have in my possession a small blue notebook in which I started writing what records I had and who played on each one (this was the start of my discographical endeavours).

Living near to Bristol I was able to visit the Colston Hall and see both Chris and Acker Bilk, and even Louis Armstrong. The local Bristol jazz band was the Avon Cities. I joined their club where they played regularly, and we the fans would dance. Great times!!

For some years in the 1960s I lived in digs in Bristol, and my record collection disappeared! Later in that decade I married, and for some years whilst working to build a career and looking after my family (we had two girls) jazz took a very back seat. However in the early 1970s I came across Chris's Battersea Raindance and once again was hooked. From then on, with help and encouragement from a good friend, Jem Wilyman, I started to rebuild my Chris Barber collection.

Julian and Chris, December 2003
In 1972 my employer obligingly transferred me to a branch near London, which meant I could nip into London on an evening. On a summer's evening in 1973 I went with Alan Nicholson (a good friend of Chris and the band) to a concert in Bishops Park, and met the band, and for the next few years I was able to see the band almost on a weekly basis.

As Andreas mentions in his biography, he and I met in 1974, and have remained very good friends ever since. My visits to Europe over the last few years have usually been to Switzerland, where we both would join up with the band, and we have both been to Denmark when Chris was playing there.

Over the years as my record collection grew, and my archival involvement with the band grew, I got in touch with Gerard Bielderman. Gerard had written the first discography of the band, and I suggested we then cooperate on future editions, and this we have continued to do.

Julian in Jasper National Park,
October 2003
I am not quite sure where the archive interest started (although I suppose it was a logical extension of my record collecting). However, I do remember going into the Marquee offices (above the club in Soho) and spending a day going through a cupboard full of booklets, leaflets, and photographs; this became the start of the Barber/Purser Archives.

A few years ago Andreas told me about Ed's Chris Barber website, and the three of us decided to join up to create a definitive Barber website. The three of us met in the UK at the end of 2003, after I had been to Canada to meet Ed and his family earlier in the year. Chris gave the undertaking his full backing, and I feel that we have built a formidable website, both for commercial uses, and the permanent storing of as much archive material as we can find. There is still much more to dig out. The site now acts as a reference for many purposes, such as journalists looking for particular photos or items, concert Halls requiring photographs and details of the Band, and the like.

I enjoy the collaboration with Ed and Andreas, and the three of us hope to meet again next year to plan further development of the site.

Some of my favourite Chris Barber records:
Liverpool, 6 July 2005
This was one of the concerts in the month-long "Liverpool Pops" fifth season, held on Liverpool's Waterfront. It was for me a nostalgic trip north: I first started my working life in the docks in Liverpool back in the late 1950s! I noticed a lot of changes – the port area is being regenerated, and it is concerts such as the "Pops" that are helping to do this.

For Chris the build-up to the concert had been a busy time, for as well as continuing the Band's normal touring schedule, he had to find the time to plan the concert, and to invite the guests who would make the concert a special one. Once the line-up was settled, two days of rehearsals took place in London, on the previous Monday and Tuesday, after which the band travelled up to stay overnight in Chester. Wednesday was a bright and windy day, with the previous day's rain keeping away. We started arriving on site at 10 o'clock, and soon all the band and technical crew had arrived. With the help of the organising staff the stage was soon set for sound checks and final rehearsals.

After the band had run through their own numbers (a curtailed set due to the time needed for all the guests), on came Van Morrison, who brought his piano man with him (Mark T. Jordan). He and the band ran through his six numbers, two of which were off his new album, Magic Time, and other Van favourites. Previous Van performances with Chris and the Band were all skiffle numbers, but this time the music choices were either Van's own compositions or numbers he plays with his regular band.

The next guest to rehearse was Andy Fairweather Low (ex Amen Corner and Eric Clapton, and now with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings). His set included two gospel numbers (both often played by the Band, but with very different arrangements) and a blues number. On stage next were Bill Wyman and Terry Taylor, with Andy remaining on vocal for another Gospel number, and with Bill taking the vocals on a Chuck Berry song. Finally "Big Bill" Morganfield (Muddy Waters's son) took to the stage with three blues numbers.

All the rehearsals went well, and those of us present (who included Giorgio Gomelsky, founder of the Crawdaddy Club, and who first discovered the Rolling Stones and managed the Yardbirds, besides producing Battersea Rain Dance for Chris) enjoyed what was in effect the whole concert before the concert!

There was then time for a rest and sustenance before the evening show. It is I think appropriate here to praise the backstage facilities – there were always refreshments available, and a place to rest.

Then we had the concert itself, with an audience of over 3000. Down went the lights and on came Chris to announce his Band, and straight into Bourbon Street Parade, followed by Rent Party Blues and Jungle Nights In Harlem, Spell Of The Blues, and Jubilee Stomp. The Band's set ended with Big Noise from Winnetka, greatly enjoyed by the audience.

It was then time for the first guest, with Chris explaining how Van had heard Goin' Home when he was young, it being an influence on him. So on came the "Man" to rapturous applause. Goin' Home was followed by St. James Infirmary Blues, Mediocrity (from the new album), Moondance, Lonely And Blue (Fats Waller's Black and Blue) and finishing with the up-tempo All Work And No Play.

To give the view of a Van expert I quote from Simon Gee's review for Wavelength – The Van Morrison Magazine (formerly online: now defunct): "If you love to hear Van work out with a foot-stompin', rollicking, raucous big band of altos, tenors, clarinets, trombones and trumpets then this gem of a 30 minutes is for you! Wish those horns were with him all the time. Part of a two hour plus tribute to Chris Barber [as Bill Wyman so eloquently put it later on: if it hadn't been for Chris then none of the sixties music scene would have happened]. Van appeared at the end of the first set with guitar, harp and sax, and current pianist, Mark. Fantastic Saint James with Van on top form scatting and ad-libbing, excellent Moondance (wow, those riffs with those horns), a quieter sincere reading of Lonely And Blue with Chris doing back-up vocals, and finally a rowdy and jolly All Work as you've never heard it before. Thanks Chris for starting all this, and thanks Van for rising to the occasion and loving every minute of it."

There followed a short intermission.

Petite Fleur opened the second half, with Tony Carter taking the lead clarinet part. Then Chris introduced the next guest, "Big Bill" Morganfield, singing and playing blues guitar on Crying Days, Long Distance Call, and Foolish Love, with Chris playing some pungent solos.

Andy Fairweather Low then took centre stage to sing and play two gospel songs which, he said, he does not often get the chance to play: Glory, Glory and Closer Walk With Thee. Both were very different from the usual band versions. Andy finished his set with blues standard Stormy Monday. Andy was then joined on stage by the last two guests, Terry Taylor (guitar) and Bill Wyman (all three are part of Bill's band). Andy took the lead vocal on I Shall Not Be Moved and Bill sang lead on You Never Can Tell, played with a New Orleans feel to it.

It was now nearing time to end the concert, and with Big Bill back on stage, the Band swept into The Saints with everybody (except Van, who had to leave to go to Cork) taking solos and/or singing – a tour de force.

This was probably the most varied Chris Barber concert ever played, the Band suiting each guest and changing the mood as required. I don't know of any band (let alone a jazz band) that can play this type of concert like Chris's can. They were superb.

It was a day many of us will never forget. Thanks to Chris, the Band, and all the guests for a wonderful day. I'll leave the last words to Bill Wyman: "If it wasn't for this guy here, none of us would have been here tonight. All the rock bands of the sixties, I'm talking about. The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, everybody, everybody learnt from skiffle, and what Chris was doing, and bringing over blues artists in the fifties, and forties even, and so we are very proud to be here tonight as he is massive in the history of English music."

The website includes two pages of photos from this concert: Photos by Helge Lorenz, and Liverpool Concert Photos pages.
A diary of the road crew battling snow and ice to get to the next gig

I joined the band in Lucerne, having flown direct from Bristol to Zurich, and there being collected by Andreas Wandfluh, with whom I was travelling to the gig that evening in the Kulter - Und Kongresszentrum, which is in the town centre, close to one of the many lakes in Switzerland. We met up with the Band in their hotel, Hotel Rebstock, and went with them to the hall. Before the sound check, there was a rehearsal of a Duke Ellington title, Merry Go Round, which will hopefully soon be included in the programme. The concert was well attended, and it certainly helps that Chris can speak fluent German. After we had cleared the stage and loaded the vans, we decided to walk back to the hotel. This was not a good idea, as the roads were all iced up and we nearly slipped on more than one occasion!

The next day we travelled north to Schaan, which is in Liechtenstein, close to the Austrian border, and got to the hotel (Schaanhausen) around lunch time. After a spot of lunch we rested for an hour or two before taking the vans round to the Theatre (Theatre Am Kirchplatz), which had been renovated since the band’s last visit, with excellent dressing rooms. Again the concert was well attended.

The next day was a day off (this was useful as the next day’s the travel might get difficult) so the band spent the day variously relaxing: some played pool, some read or watched films on their laptops, etc. The hotel was most comfortable, and the food and drink just right.

On the Wednesday morning (8th March) we went back southward towards Arosa, which is near Davos. The journey was through one of the valleys in this part of the Alps, and luckily the roads had been cleared of snow and ice. We started our ascent of the mountain to Arosa at Chur (there is a narrow-gauge railway from Chur up to Arosa, and some the Band parked their cars in Chur and rode up on the train). Obviously we in the band wagons had no choice in our method of ascent, so started on the long road up, which was one long succession of bends, many sharp, with in most places a long drop off the offside of the road. The barriers, when they were provided, would not have stopped anything as they were wooden, and not very safe looking! At the bottom the road was snow free, but the higher we went the worse it got. I give Barry and Mike top marks for their driving. I felt quite safe. We had snow chains with us, and had hoped not to use them, but on reaching Arosa itself we slowly ground to a halt; the chains were then put on to complete the last mile of the journey, by which time it had started snowing again. (It was to fall for the next 24 hours.)

We arrived at the Hotel Excelsior early afternoon, and found Chris waiting for us. The hotel is a road crew’s nightmare, as the room we were to play in was two floors up from the entrance, so all the equipment was manhandled out of the vans and into reception, and then carried up the stairs, or piece by piece in two small lifts. The Excelsior is a refined and upmarket hotel, and the guests seemed to be all German or Swiss. It looked to me as though the British (except the Band!) have not found Arosa yet. The band played two sets starting at about 9.30, to a packed room. At the end we took down the stage and took the gear back down in the lift and stairs to reception ready for the off at 9 in the morning. This was the first of two long hard days.

We did, however, leave on time in the morning (you can see in the photographs how much snow there was). We were able to move the vans and load up, and keeping the chains on for the first half of the journey down to Chur we headed for Seefeld and Austria. Seefeld is also up a mountain, but except for about 200 yards we did not need the chains.

The Hotel Klosterbrau was at one time a monastery, hence the two types of uniform worn by the staff: the men wore monks robes, while the girls wore Tyrolean dress. This time all the gear had to carried up a long set of stairs to the main bar (there must have at least half a dozen bars and dining rooms -- it is a large building). Unlike theatres and concert halls were there are stage hands to help bands, at both Arosa and Seefeld there was no staff to help. The band’s one set started at 10.15 and finished just before midnight! A long day indeed.

My time with band had now finished and on Friday morning I left very early (5.45 in the morning) to take a taxi to Innsbruck, where I caught a train for Zurich. Even this was not all plain sailing as there was a blockage (snow) on the line, so we had to decamp into coaches for the middle part of the journey. However, I arrived at Zurich airport in time for my plane back to Bristol.

I have a lot of admiration for the road crew as they work extremely hard, and for long hours, and gigs like those at Arosa and Seefeld are some of the hardest. My thanks go to Mike and Barry (I travelled with Mike) for looking after me for the trip. The only casualty of the Swiss trip was Mike’s Renault van which broke down a few days later!

Rock Island Line: A Tribute To Lonnie Donegan
Royal Albert Hall, Monday 21 June 2004
I arrived at the Royal Albert Hall at about midday on the day of the concert, and was signed in by Barry Walker, Chris's sound engineer. We spent the afternoon listening to the rehearsals from the side of the stalls, and it was obviously going to be memorable evening of excellent music and – let's be fair – nostalgia! The musicians' restaurant was like sitting in a 1960s time warp!

For the concert I was joined by my daughters, and Jem, a good mate, and we found our seats near the front of the stalls. It was almost disconcerting listening to Lonnie's two sons (Peter and Anthony) talking and singing: they both sounded very much like their Dad! The backing band was Lonnie's own band, some of whom had been with him for twenty years or more! Pete Wingfield and Ray Cooper were also added at times, and it was good to see ex-Chris Barber Band member, Alan ‘Sticky' Wicket, on percussion, and a current member, Vic Pitt, playing bass with Kenny Ball.

In the first half, stand-out numbers were Dead or Alive, with Billy Bragg, both of Rolf Harris's numbers, Rick Wakeman (keyboards) with vocalist Chrissie Hammond, and last on, Joe Brown (I shall be trying to see Joe in concert as soon as possible!).

The second half was even better than the first! Bruce Welsh (The Shadows) and friends gave us some authentic skiffle-rock & roll numbers. Roger Daltrey showed why The Who are still at the top of their game. Mark Knopfler surprised us by duetting with Joe Brown: he included a new track from his forthcoming album (due in September), called Donegan's Gone, a fitting tribute. Then came Joe Cocker, again on top form. The last guests were firstly Van Morrison, and then Chris playing bass and backing vocals on the last two numbers, a reminder of the Skiffle Sessions album. A word of thanks to Lonnie's band, who gave great support all night.

It was an evening to savour and remember, a most enjoyable occasion. A personal ‘thank you' to Barry, Chris and Kate for helping make it a great day.

Photographs of Julian by Andreas Wandfluh
The Website & Archives Team -- Left to right: Ed Jackson, Julian Purser, and Andreas Wandfluh (Bristol, December 2003)
Julian & Andreas with Bob Hunt's trombone, owned originally by Tricky Sam Nanton (Bristol, 2003)
Andreas & Julian, 2004
Julian & John Service (subsequently trombonist with The Big Chris Barber Band), 2004
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