October 17, 1923 – May 6, 2004
Barney Kessel cut his teeth working in the lively music scene of Oklahoma, landing his first professional gig at the age of 14, and becoming one of the first and only electric guitar players in the area.
Heavily inspired by fellow Oklahoman Charlie Christian, with whom he was able to meet and jam with on one occasion, Kessel quickly established himself as a leading voice on the guitar, landing gigs in the '40s with the bands of Chico Marx, Artie Shaw, Charlie Barnet, and Les Brown, appearing in the seminal 1944 short film "Jammin’ The Blues" alongside musicians such as Lester Young, Papa Jo Jones and Illinois Jacquet, and recording with bebop trailblazers Charlie Parker, Wardell Gray and Dexter Gordon.
In following years and decades, Kessel earned wide renown for his versatility and reliability, becoming a first-call studio musician on the West Coast and a member of the legendary “Wrecking Crew” in the '60s. From the '70s onwards, Kessel’s guitar playing was put in the spotlight once again, primarily as a member of The Great Guitars, which featured fellow legends Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis, and (occasionally) Tal Farlow.