Bobby Barnes had a handful of 45s out from the late 60s to the mid 80s but despite his considerable gifts as a gritty no nonsense vocalist, and the collectability of his discs, nothing seems to be known about the guy at all sadly. He never made a bad record in his career and the dates of his early 45s are pretty much educated guesses. Although he is best known as recording in Phoenix, AR his first release was probably cut in New Orleans. Two Of A Kind is a very tasty blues ballad on which Barnes makes a strong impression over a small band backing – his gruff tone and splendid sense of dynamics make this a side that demands repeated listening.
Even better was his second 45 – but it was a real strange one. The label says the production was by the famous Buck Ram at a Las Vegas address. But the sound of the disc is pure Goldwax - if that isn't a Memphis rhythm section circa 1967/8 I'll eat my hat. Check the drumming, guitar, organ and the horns, not to mention Bobby's best Otis Redding style vocals. Perhaps the session guys were on vacation. More likely this 45 was cut in Tennessee and then leased out to Ram. Whatever the circumstances I Shed A Tear is a single to cherish, as it hits all the bells. The chord structure of the song and the arrangement are just right and Barnes gives it his all - down to some lovely "my my my" fills. It is quite possible that this 45 was Bobby’s first recording session.
By 1973 Barnes was in Phoenix where he stayed for the remainder of his recording career. His first of three 45s for the local Raina label was the super two parter Freedom Train. This deep soul ballad wasn’t the James Carr song but his own work on which he gives arguably the most intense rendition of his career. A quite amazing piece of work. The following year Barnes put out “Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone” which wasn’t quite in the same league despite another classy throaty vocal.
It wasn’t until 1980 that Barnes had another single out – although the pressing numbers and abject distribution of the high quality double sided disc on Poormans was such that it was an in demand item from day one. "Thank You For Loving Me" was a very good midpaced song (note the names of Eddie & Ernie on writing credits) which benefitted from higher production values including a well arranged string section. You Make My Life (A Sunny Day) was perhaps the better of the two sides – but it is a really close run thing. The addition of male and female chori bring more tonal colour to the song which is a really melodic one. The 45's label says “From New Album Crossroads” on it but like so many of the LPs promised by singles from the period this never materialised. Such a disappointment.
For what turned out to be his final record Bobby was back on Raina doing a pounding version of Vernon Garrett’s “I’m At The Crossroads”, but it was the flip that caused a lot of people to sit up and take notice. I don’t think I’ve heard a better tribute to Bobby Womack in his “Poet” period than Barnes’ superb I’ve Had My Share (Of Loving You). Once you hear this you’ll certainly want to repeat the experience as soon as you can. A great melody, some excellent guitar work and a first class vocalist giving it the treatment.
UPDATE ~ My great freind Greg Burgess has written to say that
"Bobby Barnes was clearly something of a character. I found a blog entry by a guitar player called GilaMonster reminising about a spell in a south Phoenix nightclub supporting ' vocalist /song stylist ' (his phrase) Bobby Barnes who carried a .22 pistol called 'Little Roscoe' in his boot on stage and kept another gun known as 'Big Roscoe' in his car."
Two of a kind / The skate ~ SCAMM SOUND 1004 / CROSS-TONE 1004 (1969)
I shed a tear / Times are bad ~ DISCOVERY 1311 (late 60s?)
Freedom train / Pt 2 ~ RAINA 102 (1973) / RAINA 106 (1984)
Tomorrow I’ll be gone / Keep it funky ~ RAINA 201 (1974)
You make my life (a sunny day) / Thank you for loving me ~ POORMANS 801 (1980)
I am at the crossroads / I’ve had my share (of loving you) ~ RAINA 1819 (1985)
Note ~ the guy singing the 1973 Marvel 45 is a white pop artist – not this Bobby Barnes at all.
Thanks to John Reid and Bosko Asanovic for extra discographical info.