Sunday, 26 September 2021

Barney James, musician, actor, handyman and father-of-two

BARNEY JAMES, who has died at the age of 71, moved to Henley in 1992 after making

BARNEY JAMES, who has died at the age of 71, moved to Henley in 1992 after making a significant contribution to the music industry.

He was born on November 11, 1944 at Salford Royal Hospital in Manchester and was the eldest of four children for Sid and Mary, who were publicans.

Following his education at St James’s Royal Catholic School and De La Salle College, Barney worked behind the bar at the various northern pubs run by his parents.

He fell in love with the sound of the drums while he was a member of the sea cadets and it became a passion that would see him perform at the highest level.

Barney appeared with a number of jazz and blues bands in the Manchester area before leaving home to become a drummer in an Irish showband.



In 1970 he moved to Southend-on-Sea, where he played in a number of bands including Forum, Legend and Warhorse.

A previous member of Warhorse was the legendary keyboard player Rick Wakeman, who was alerted to Barney’s expertise on the drums. In 1974 Wakeman invited Barney to play on his album Journey to the Centre of the Earth, which made it to No 1 in the album charts and went gold.

The album was supported with a world tour during which Barney travelled to Japan, New Zealand, America, Australia and Europe. He particularly loved his time in New York and California.

He then worked on Wakeman’s next album, The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It was during the promotion of this album that Barney was spotted by the actor and director Derek Jarman, who cast him in the historical thriller film Sebastiane.

In 1978 Jarman again directed Barney in the cult film Jubilee, which starred Adam Ant and Toyah Willcox. Barney’s policeman character was killed in a petrol bomb attack.

Barney also appeared on TV in an episode of The Professionals, playing a German terrorist.

He married Louise in Amersham in 1980 and two years later the couple moved to Northend.

In 1983 their first daughter, Alice, was born. The family then moved to Crazies Hill where, in 1986, their second daughter, Chloe, was born.

Barney and Louise took over caretaking responsibilities for the village hall and he continued to work as a session musician and also joined a covers band, East Bay Grease.

The couple separated in 1992 and Barney moved to Henley where he married Zoe. Sadly, the marriage didn’t last.

Barney then turned his attention to a previous pastime — restoring woodwork, as well as painting and decorating, although music and his family were always his number ones.

He enjoyed the outdoor life as well as sorting out the world’s problems in his two favourite pubs, the Queen’s Head (now Pachangas restaurant) and, more recently, the Old Bell in Bell Street, where he could be seen tackling the Times’ crossword with a pint of Guinness close at hand.

Barney was proud to have been included in the charity book 100 Faces of Henley — Volume Two.

His understanding and knowledge of all kinds of music was remarkable and, apart from reggae, he loved it all.

He was one of the very few people I know who knew anything about my musical hero, Gram Parsons.

Barney leaves his two daughters and two grandchildren, Louis, four, and Matilda, one.

There are a great many people in Henley who will miss his friendship, knowledge and joie de vivre.

His funeral — or last gig — will be at Caversham Crematorium on Tuesday (April 12) at 2.30pm followed by a reception at the Old Bell.



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