On March 12, 2022, a brilliant guitarist passed away in total anonymity. His name was virtually unknown to the general public and this sad news only affected a very small minority of connoisseurs. And yet, he had embellished the most beautiful songs of the Atlanta Rhythm Section with his magic guitar. But as he remained discreet on stage and did not play the guitar hero, he did not get the attention he deserved. In addition, his group did not have any real success internationally. So what could be more normal than the announcement of his death had no impact in the world of music. Another forgotten rock'n'roll hero whose talent was inversely proportional to notoriety. But if Barry Bailey did not mark the memories in concert, his flamboyant solos remain immortalized on the records of the A.R.S. as well as on many other albums as a "sessionman" (among others some Mylon LeFevre and Al Kooper records but also Johnny Cash's "Rainbow" album with his mate JR Cobb).

Barry Bailey was born on June 12, 1948 in the city of Decatur, Georgia. If we know practically nothing of his youth, we do know that he began his musical career in the early sixties. He plays in various bands like The Imperials, The Vons or Wayne Loguidice and the Kommotions. He joined the famous Studio One as a session guitarist. He already knew some of the musicians who would later make up the Atlanta Rhythm Section and he met others. Like his friends, he prefers the calm and cozy atmosphere of recording studios to the stage and tours. And like them, he ends up being convinced by the arguments of producer Buddy Buie who thinks they have all the assets necessary to succeed in music. The story of the Atlanta Rhythm Section is on! With his friends, Barry will share the stage with big stars (Bob Seger, Foreigner, the Who, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith). The band would even play at the White House in 1977 for the birthday of President Jimmy Carter's son. Barry will experience the decline of the A.R.S. and he will leave the combo in 1985 to rejoin it in 1989. He will retire in 2006 for health reasons (Barry will fight until his death against multiple sclerosis which handicapped his hands in particular). In 2009, he returned to Decatur and the municipality gave him the keys to the city. June 19, 2009 is Barry Bailey Day. On March 12, 2022, Barry died in his sleep at the age of seventy-three.

Like all great guitarists, Barry was recognizable by his personal style, his technique of bringing out the harmonics and his delicately saturated tone.

If his accomplice JR Cobb said that his own influences came from country music, he affirmed that those of Barry found their roots in jazz. We readily believe it when we listen to "Angel", this superb song teeming with complicated chords but which fit together very well.

Jeff Carlisi, one of the guitarists of 38 Special, recalls a night at Funochio's club. Lynyrd Skynyrd played there and the band was in its infancy. Barry came over to jam with them and Jeff never got over it. He had never heard anyone play that way.

Of course, besides his personal technique and harmonious phrasing, Barry owed a lot to his guitar. A 1969 Les Paul Deluxe Goldtop, nicknamed "Reb" by one of the A.R.S. (presumably for "rebel"). The particularity of this guitar resided in its pickups (mini humbuckers) and in its mahogany wood body carved in one piece.

Initially, Barry played a Telecaster and a Les Paul Junior. But the Telecaster was not versatile and the Junior did not hold the tuning. His buddy JR Cobb owned a Les Paul Deluxe because he had once borrowed Joe South's and found the sound catchy. One day, Barry borrows the Deluxe from him for a session. A few hours later, he offers to buy it. JR accepts because he already has in view the acquisition of a Stratocaster. Barry will no longer leave his Deluxe.

During his career with Atlanta Rhythm Section, Barry will co-sign a decent number of titles (even if many compositions were signed Buddy Buie and JR Cobb).

From the first album, his name is credited for the songs "Baby no lie", "Earnestine", "Days of our lives" and "One more problem". On the disc "Third annual pipe dream", he co-signed "Jesus hearted people", "The war is over" but especially "Doraville" and "Angel" (two important titles in the career of the A.R.S.).

His surname reappears on the albums "Dog days" (for "Boogie smoogie" and "Silent treatment") and "Red tape" ("Oh what a feeling"). If Barry is not mentioned on the "A rock’n'roll alternative" disc, he largely makes up for it with the following "Champagne jam" (the very rock "Large time", "The ballad of Loïs Malone" and ""The great escape”).

After the track "While time is left" (on "Underdog"), his name disappears from the compositions.

But whether he's helping craft titles or just following his companions, Barry remains the mainstay of the A.R.S. with his magnificent guitar.

Of course, JR Cobb is not clumsy and he can have fun on a scale of blues, on a country stepping down or in slide guitar. However, most of the solos are provided by Barry who never puts himself forward and plays first for the song. It always seems to hit the bullseye even with just a few notes. Here are some examples.

On "Angel", he sends a subtle solo, without unnecessary technical demonstration, while remaining sufficiently strong. At the end, we can hear his trademark with his pinched harmonics.

Barry stirs up the emotion with some beautiful guitar lines at the end of "Imaginary lover". We also realize his musicality and his talent when listening to the very melodic solo of "Alien", a song on which we can still hear his particular technique of bringing out the harmonics (just like at the end of " You're so strong").

Barry also knew how to swing heavy when needed (the incredible rhythm of "Large time" and the short very rock solo of "Homesick").

And if he was never in the technical demonstration, he still had speed in reserve as evidenced by his mind-blowing solo of velocity at the end of "So into you". This song also testifies to the professionalism of Barry because (according to Buddy Buie) it took eight tracks for his guitar to ensure several harmonies and parts at the octave.

But perhaps the best example of Barry's talent lies in the sublime solo of "Sky high" accompanied only by a few piano chords. Everything is there ! The subtlety of the playing, the sense of melody and musicality. And this velvety saturation, slightly coated with a discreet echo. The sound and style of Barry Bailey! Even if all his interventions have always been inspired, if there was only one solo to remember from this superb guitarist, it would undoubtedly be this one.

Now Barry has gone sky high to join almost the entire Atlanta Rhythm Section. The stars will undoubtedly dance to the famous Georgia Rhythm.

Sky High Forever!

Olivier Aubry

Translation : Y. Philippot-Degand

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