Sweet Emma Barrett Biography

25 March 1897, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, d. 28 January 1983, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. After deciding upon a musical career, Barrett played piano in a number of New Orleans bands during the 20s including that led by Papa Celestin. She continued working in New Orleans bands during the 30s and 40s, with units such as those led by Sidney Desvigne and John Robichaux. In the 50s she worked with Percy Humphrey and Israel Gorman and also led her own band of New Orleans veterans, sometimes touring. In the 60s she suffered periods of ill health but even a stroke did not stop her. Somewhat flamboyant in her younger days, she was known as the Bell Gal because of her habit of wearing bells on her garters. In her later years she developed rather grandiose ideas about her abilities. She took it as a sign of her due that during one tour her musicians clustered at one side of the stage, leaving her in isolated splendour at the other, oblivious to the fact that they were eager to stay as far away as possible from the odour of an unclean dressing on her injured foot. For all her eccentricities, however, Barrett helped perpetuate the music of her home town with unending enthusiasm.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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