Earliest Donald Byrd
Yesterday the jazz world heard of the passing of trumpet legend Donald Byrd. But until now the only source for this sad news is Byrd’s nephew, confirmation from other relatives is still missing.
If it’s true that Donald Byrd passed, he would have reached the age of 80. Not widely known – although mentioned in standard discographies – is the fact that Byrd started his career at a very early age. Byrd can first be heard on two 78rpm records by the tenor saxophonist Robert Barnes for Fortune Records, a company based in Detroit. Although some discographies note 1947 for these recordings (Byrd would have been 15 then), it was probably recorded in 1949. judging from the date on which one of the resulting records was mentioned in Billboard.
Of the four sides with “Sahib Byrd” apparently released I can offer you two here. Unfortunately the record this was dubbed from broke some dozen years ago and was glued. When played now it skips and jumps at several points, although I really tried my very best to fix the problem (if someone has a better sound file, please let me know)
Although “Bobbin’ At Barbee’s” is designated as the b-side of Fortune 113, it’s the side with a solo by Byrd, so I put it in first place. Billboard (June 18, 1949) did not like it very much: “Just noise – hardly any music”, is all they had to say.
At least Billboard had more words for the a-side, “Black Eyed Peas”,which features Barnes exclusively: “Good opening riff dissipates into another loud honking tenor sax solo of little quality or distinction.”
Now if anyone has a copy of Fortune 115 (“Raspberries And Cream”/”Blow Robert Blow”), I’ll be glad to hear from you, as I would surely be interested in hearing it!