Barrett Deems
March 1, 1914 - September 15, 1998

Barrett Deems

Barrett Deems (born Springfield, Illinois March 1, 1914) who was best known for anchoring Louis Armstrong's bands (Armstrong used to call him "The Kid") died September 15, 1998 at Columbus Grant Hospital of Pneumonia.

Up until just before his death he still performed with his own excellent Barrett Deems 18-piece Big Band (including trumpeters Brad Goode and Mike McLaughlin, trombonist Audrey Morrison, and reedmen Barry Winograd and Richie Corpolongo).

The group which performed weekly at the Elbo Room and The Note. Even at 80+, he was still talented, although some nights, he would wander off and spend the night by the bar (the backup drummer is excellent, though!)

Deems, once billed as "the world's fastest drummer," began working professionally in the late 1920s, and led a number of Chicago-area bands before joining Joe Venuti (1937) with whom he worked for 7 years.

He then worked with Jimmy Dorsey (1945), Red Norvo (1948) and Muggsy Spanier (1951), Armstrong, Jack Teagarden (1960-4). He also led his own band, Chicago's Brass Rail club, worked with the Dukes of Dixieland, Joe Kelly's Gaslight Band, played and recorded with Art Hodes, and toured with a number of Armstrong Tribute bands.

You can hear him on Louis Armstrong's Satch Play's Fats and Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy as well as his appearance in the 1956 film High Society.

Barrett Deems - Louis Armstrong

The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong 1981
Dick Cary - Peanuts Hucko - Big Chief Russell Moore
Keith Smith - Arvell Shaw - Barrett Deems

Masters Place

"This Gretsch kit belonged to my friend Barrett Deems.

The sizes are 9x13, 16x16 and 14x20. This round badge Gretsch kit was given to Barrett by me in May of 1998, the year that he passed away. Barrett had always wanted a round badge Gretsch kit so I had this one recovered in his favorite color, White Marine Pearl, and I used his favorite Slingerland T rods and claws on the bass drum, along with solid maple hoops.

Barrett was a phenomenal drummer and is most widely noted for the many years in which he played under Louis Armstrong. Barrett lead his own 18 piece big band here in Chicago for the last decade of his life and he was always extremely popular, drawing large crowds wherever he performed.

His energy was endless. As Louis Armstrong said of Barrett:
"He makes coffee nervous"

Steve Maxwell

Barrett Deems - Gene Krupa - Buddy Rich

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