Danny Barnes

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Danny Barnes
File:Danny Barnes.jpg
Danny Barnes on stage at the Northwest String Summit on July 21, 2013.
Background information
Born (1961-12-21) December 21, 1961 (age 59)
Temple, Texas
Genres Country, jazz, punk, rock, folk
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Banjo, guitar, resonator guitar
Years active 1970s-present
Labels ATO, Sugar Hill, Terminus, MapleMusic Recordings (Canada)
Associated acts Bad Livers, Danny Barnes & Thee Old Codgers
Website www.dannybarnes.com

Danny Barnes (born December 21, 1961)[1] is a banjo and guitar player, singer, and composer whose music is influenced by country, jazz, blues, punk, metal, and more.[2] He has been described as a "banjo virtuoso"[3][4] and is "widely acknowledged as one of the best banjo players in America."[5] He was a founding member of the Austin trio the Bad Livers, with whom he toured and recorded extensively from 1990 to 2000. Since the, he has performed and recorded as a solo artist, as well as collaborating with Bill Frisell,[6] Dave Matthews,[7] Jeff Austin[8] and other musicians. In 2013, Barnes and Max Brody formed the Test Apes. In September 2015, Barnes was awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, in recognition of his role as "one of bluegrass music’s most distinctive and innovative performers."[9] Martin’s website said of Barnes’ work: "The raw and unpolished musical breadth of his compositions has propelled him across the industry today."[10]

Early life

Born in Temple, Texas and raised in Belton,[1] Barnes was exposed to music at a young age: he recalls picking up a love of country and bluegrass from his father and grandmother, Delta blues from one brother and punk from another. He was inspired to learn to play the banjo after seeing Grandpa Jones and Stringbean in concert when he was ten.[11] Seeing John Hartford on television and watching Hee Haw were also early influences.[6] He attended the University of Texas and graduated with a degree in audio production in 1985.


In 1990, while living in Austin, Barnes formed the Bad Livers with bassist Mark Rubin and fiddler Ralph White. The band's 1992 debut album, Delusions of Banjer, was produced by Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers and released on Quarterstick Records. It gained the band some attention in the alt-rock-country scene; they followed it up with another album for Quarterstick, Horses in the Mines, released in 1994. The band then released three albums on the Sugar Hill Records label. During his tenure with the Bad Livers, he was acclaimed as "a prodigiously talented picker, and a glorious singer"[12] with "an ideal bluegrass voice."[13] His songwriting, which "represents the merger of a technically superb musician with a powerful wordsmith"[14] has also been the object of praise.[15][16]

In 2000 Barnes, now living in Washington State, dissolved the Bad Livers and founded a new band, Danny Barnes & Thee Old Codgers, with bassist Keith Lowe and violinist Jon Parry. This band released only a single album, 2001's Things I Done Wrong, which was produced by avant-garde jazz composer and pianist Wayne Horvitz (a fellow Seattle resident). 2002 saw Barnes working with jazz guitarist Bill Frisell; Frisell was moving towards incorporating more "American"—country and bluegrass—influences into his playing, and he wanted Barnes to give him lessons in that direction. Their work together led to Barnes playing on Frisell's next album, The Willies; Barnes also toured with Frisell in support of the album.

Since moving to Washington, Barnes has also recorded several solo albums, which were self-released, and a duet effort. His 2003 album Dirt on the Angel, released on Terminus Records, featured Frisell, Chuck Leavell, Darol Anger, and Dirk Powell. In 2004 Barnes participated in Wayne Horvitz's Mylab band and released his second CD for Terminus Records, Get Myself Together.

On 9/21/2007, Danny joined Robert Earl Keen during an opening for the Dave Matthews Band in Houston. Danny joined DMB during their song "Bartender." He also joined DMB during their show at Smirnoff Music Centre in Dallas, and at their two shows at the Hollywood Bowl in California to conclude DMB's summer 2007 tour. He joined the band onstage once again for their three-night stand at The Gorge in 2009. He also joined them on stage on June 18, 2010 in Noblesville, Indiana.

In 2015, Barnes played and toured with the Jeff Austin Band. In September 2015, he was awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.[9] In an interview with Texas Monthly, asked what he intended to do with the prize money, Barnes replied, "I'm going to invest it in my art."[6]



  • Junior Sampled 2013 / Minner Bucket Records (CD)
  • Ambient Works Vol. 1 2013 / Minner Bucket Records (CD)
  • Shri 108 2013 / Minner Bucket Records (CD)
  • Falling Hard/Money Moves Up 2013 / Minner Bucket Records (Vinyl 45)
  • Poison 2011 / ATO Records (cassette)
  • Angel 2011 / ATO Records (CD)
  • Rocket 2011 / ATO Records (CD)
  • Pizza Box 2009 / ATO Records (CD)
  • Barnyard Electronics 2007 / Self-Released (CD)
  • Get Myself Together 2005 / Terminus Records (CD)
  • Livin' Large in a Little Bitty Room - Live! 2004 / Ironway Communications (CD)
  • Dirt on the Angel 2003 / Terminus Records (CD)
  • Minor Dings 2000 / Cavity Search (CD)
  • Oft Mended Raiment 1999 / Minner Bucket (CD)

Bad Livers

  • Blood and Mood 2000 / Sugar Hill
  • Ridgetop Sessions 2000 / Lumpydisc
  • Dust on the Bible reissue 1999 / Quarterstick
  • Industry and Thrift 1998 / Sugar Hill
  • Hogs on the Highway 1997 / Sugar Hill
  • Horses in the Mines 1994 / Quarterstick
  • Delusions of Banjer 1992 / Quarterstick
  • The Golden Years 1992 / Quarterstick
  • Lust For Life 1991 / Fist Puppet
  • Dust on the Bible 1991 / Self-released

Danny Barnes & Thee Old Codgers

  • Things I Done Wrong 2001 / Terminus Records (CD)

With Pete Krebs

  • Duet For Clarinet and Goat 2001 / Cavity Search (CD)

Barnes, Hokkanen & Rubin

  • Aka The Mad Cat Trio 1999 / Lumpydisc (CD)

As a guest musician


  1. 1.0 1.1 Trischka, Tony. "Interview with Danny Barnes." Banjo Newsletter. September 2005. 12-23.
  2. Dukes, Howard. "Barnes dubs banjo in many styles." The South Bend Tribune. 29 May 2011. G2. Retrieved January 5, 2013
  3. Staff. "Danny Barnes and Thee Old Codgers: Things I Done Wrong (Review)." Dirty Linen December 2001-January 2002. 84-85.
  4. McLeese, Don. "Danny Barnes: Get Myself Together (Review)." No Depression #59 September–October 2005. Retrieved January 2. 2013.
  5. Staff. "Robbie Fulks, Danny Barnes Perform Live Score at Chicago Cultural Center on Feb. 9." US Fed News 28 December 2006.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Hall, Michael. "Danny Barnes Proves That Playing the Banjo Can Pay." Texas Monthly. 14 September 2015. Retrieved September 15, 2015.
  7. "Dave Matthews Band Tries a Slice of Danny Barnes’Pizza Box." jambands.com. 16 June 2010. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  8. "Jeff Austin Band featuring Danny Barnes, Ross Martin & Eric Thorin." Happening @ Michigan. 8 June 2015. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Itzkoff, Dave. "Banjo Innovator Wins Steve Martin Bluegrass Award." The New York Times. 15 September 2015. Retrieved September 15, 2015.
  10. ""Danny Barnes Wins Sixth Annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass"". 11 September 2015. Retrieved 15 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Nitchie, Donald. "Interview with Danny Barnes." Banjo Newsletter. August 1995. 6-11.
  12. Alden, Grant. "Trading in the tools of the trad. Bad Livers: Blood and Mood." No Depression #26 March–April 2000. Retrieved December 24, 2012.
  13. Latkovich, Peggy J. "Bad Livers in Concert at Peabody's Downunder, Cleveland, OH October 21, 1999" Dirty Linen 41.
  14. Whitworth, E. Andra. "From Bad Liver to bard: Musician-Poet Danny Barnes finds his voice as solo artist." The Athens Banner-Herald September 11, 2003. Retrieved December 24, 2012.
  15. Shirk, A. V. "Bad Livers: Hogs on the Highway (Review.)" The Old-Time Herald. Winter 1997-98. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
  16. Wald, Elijah. "Bad Livers: Hogs on the Highway (Review)." Sing Out! The Folk Song Magazine. May 1997. 138.

External links