Home > PublicationsEncyclopedia >  Kessel, Barney

KESSEL, BARNEY (1923–2004).

When jazz historians look back at the twentieth century and the musicians who pioneered jazz as an art form, Barney Kessel will be considered third in the holy trinity of jazz guitarists, behind only Django Rheinhardt and Charlie Christian, Kessel's primary influence. Kessel is widely recognized as one of the best improvisational guitarists in the world. Born on October 17, 1923, in Muskogee, Oklahoma, he grew up in the African American business and entertainment district. By working as a ticket taker, he was exposed to the raging sounds of jazz as well as the popular songs of the day in movie theaters. After playing with groups in Muskogee, Stillwater, and Norman, he relocated to southern California, and he based his entire career there. Kessel's list of collaborators reads like a jazz who's who: Lionel Hampton, Lester Young, Billie Holliday, Charlie Parker, Woody Herman, Oscar Peterson, Artie Shaw, and Ben Webster. Kessel was voted Best Guitarist in Down Beat's Readers Poll (1956–59), among many other awards of recognition.

He was not limited to jazz, however, and played on sessions with Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, Marlene Dietrich, and Gene Autry. He recorded music for hundreds of films and music for many television commercials. He suffered a massive stroke in 1992, which ended his public performances. Throughout the 1990s and into the twenty-first century Kessel was feted around the world with honorary concerts and awards. Barney Kessel died on May 6, 2004, in San Diego, California.

Hugh W. Foley, Jr

See also: ELVIN BISHOP, CHARLES HENRY CHRISTIAN, ROBERT LEE DUNN, JAZZ

Bibliography

Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler, The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Hugh W. Foley, Jr., "Jazz from Muskogee, Oklahoma: Eastern Oklahoma as a Hearth of Musical Culture" (Ph.D. diss., Oklahoma State University, 2000).

Barry Kernfeld, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994).

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society. This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia and part or in whole.

Photo credits: All photographs presented in the published and online versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture are the property of the Oklahoma Historical Society and are held in the agency's Research Division Photograph Archives (unless otherwise stated).


Citation

The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Hugh W. Foley, Jr, "Kessel, Barney," The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org (accessed December 13, 2017).

About the Encyclopedia | Terms of Use | Using the Encyclopedia