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Barnes, Jr. was born in Welch, West
Virginia in 1941. His parents, Ellen and Sidney Barnes, Sr. loved their
only child with a passion. Both parents were creative and hard-working.
Mom, a very religious woman, sang in the church choir, taught school and
was a part-time beautician. She also formed the church's Junior Choir
and put together school plays in which Sidney was always involved. Dad
had a knack for drawing and woodcarving, and worked as a truck driver,
coal miner, auto mechanic and welder, in order to feed and care for his
grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, listening to and learning to appreciate
Country/Western and Bluegrass as well as Gospel music. When Sidney began
to think seriously about a musical career, there was no such thing as
Rock n' Roll, only Rhythm 'n' Blues, Pop and Do-Wop. But after Elvis and
Allen Freed, that all changed, and a young Sidney Barnes began his long
journey into the dark and exciting world of show business. After forming
several vocal groups in Junior High and High School (while living in
Washington, D.C.) with school mates including a young Marvin Gaye, Van
McCoy and Herb Feimster (of "Peaches and Herb" fame), Sidney felt ready
for the big time. In order to increase his chances of success, the
Barnes family moved to Newark, New Jersey as close to New York city as
they wanted to be.
In no time at all, he was knocking on
doors, and singing for anyone who would listen to him. He was led to a
fledgling New Jersey record label called Gemini Records, where he
recorded his very first record called "Wait My Love". The record was a
modest local hit, but, at that time, Sidney felt more comfortable as a
member of a group, rather than a solo artist. He formed a group called
"The Serenaders" with friend and neighbour George Kerr. The group played
at local nightclubs and talent shows around the New jersey area, and
landed a recording contract with Riverside records. Their only release
on Riverside was a song called "Adios My Love". But soon Riverside
folded, and the Serenaders were once again looking for that big break.
big break came in 1962. Sidney heard through the music grapevine that
Berry Gordy was opening a branch office of Motown records and Jobete
Music in New York. Sidney, always the leader, was knocking on the new
Motown office door just as the desk and furniture was arriving. After
auditioning for Berry Gordy, the Serenaders were signed to a contract
and flown to Detroit. There they found themselves in the now legendary
Detroit Hitsville recording Studio, with many of the early Motown stars.
To make a long story short Sidney and George Kerr became head
songwriters, producers and talent scouts for Gordy's New York office.
This office was headed by Gordy's wife, Ray, a beautiful, sweet and
wonderful woman who changed Sidney's life with her coaching,
encouragement and kindness. After helping to build up the Jobete music
catalogue, he helped to bring in an old friend and New Jersey resident
George Clinton and his singing group, Parliaments a do-wop vocal group
at the time.
and George Kerr split from Motown and each other in 1964. Sidney then
teamed up with piano player and songwriter, J.J. Jackson. The two began
writing freelance for several R&B solo artists of that period, including
Saundra Philips and Billy Prophet. The Soul Sisters, and Inez & Charlie
Fox were also just a few of the several acts that had chart records
written by Barnes and Jackson. Sidney and J.J. had a short stint as
staff writers for Juggy Murray's Sue Records, one of the first
black-owned record labels based in New York at that time.
the pair was signed exclusively to Leiber & Stoller's fledgling Red Bird
Records and Trio Music Publishing. Leiber and Stoller were famous for
co-writing hits like "Hound Dog", "Yak Katy Yak", "Charlie Brown",
"Jailhouse Rock" and countless other Rock n' Roll classics. Sidney and
J.J. wrote chart hits for the Shangri-Las and other Red Bird artists. In
1965, Sidney recorded a song for Red Bird, which he co-wrote with J.J,
entitled "I Hurt On The Other Side". This record also features J.J.
Jackson's first-ever efforts as an arranger. The pair followed the
success of that session with others like "You'll Always Be In Style" and
"I Don't Know Why". All are now considered classics.
touring for a short time as one of the Fiestas (of "So Fine" fame),
Sidney signed as a solo artist for Herb Abramson's Festival records.
Abramson was one of the original founders of Atlantic Records. He is
also credited with discovering Ray Charles and other legendary stars. By
then, Sidney and J.J. Jackson had split. J.J. went on to write and
record his big hit, "But It's Alright". Herb Abramson became Sidney's
musical godfather and had Sidney appear on several recording sessions as
writer, singer, musician and producer. While on Herb's label, Sidney
wrote and produced for a girls' group called the Flirtations, on a song
called "Stronger Than Her Love". He also wrote and produced "Talkin'
'Bout A Shindig" and "New York City" for himself. These songs received
much local and regional airplay.
1966, Sidney joined his old buddy George Clinton in Detroit to form a
production company called Geo-Si-Mik with Mike Terry (famous Motown sax
player). Working exclusively for Golden World Records, the team
co-produced records on several acts, including J.J. Barnes, Edwin Starr,
Darrell banks, the Holidays, Pat Lewis, Theresa Lindsay and Parliaments.
After a dispute with Motown, Golden World Records closed its doors.
Sidney and George Clinton parted ways, but not before laying the
groundwork for what would later become Parliament/Funkadelic.
the name Johnny Goode, Sidney recorded a song entitled "Payback" for
LaBaron Taylor's Detroit-based label, Groovesville Records. When the
riots of the 60's erupted in Detroit, Sidney fled to Chicago where he
joined legendary Chess Records. As a singer, songwriter and producer, he
immediately began working with and writing songs for Ramsey Lewis, The
Dells, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters and others. Soon Sidney was helping to
form a musical rock group called Rotary Connection, which featured
Sidney and the late, great Minnie Riperton as co-lead vocalists. From
1967-1970 the group recorded five classic albums for Chess, and acquired
a small cult following. Rotary disbanded in 1971. Minnie went on to
pursue a solo recording career. Sidney stayed in Chicago and kept active
doing radio and TV commercial jingles for some of Chicago's major
advertising agencies. During this time Sid also started working with
Maurice White, helping to map out the musical concept for what would
later become Earth, Wind and Fire. When Maurice asked Sidney to become
the lead singer of the group, Sidney declined, forcing Maurice into the
lead singer's position. The rest is history.
that period, Sidney was also assisting a young Chaka Khan and an
up-and-coming R'n'B singer named Donny Hathaway to develop their musical
skills. By the mid-seventies, Sid was touring as a back-up vocalist with
Minnie Riperton, who by then was having some success as a solo artist.
It was during that period, while appearing at the Riviera Hotel with the
Smothers Brothers, that Minnie first informed Sidney that she had
cancer. Three years later she was gone.
a trip to Los Angeles with Gene (Duke of Earl) Chandler on a production
assignment for A&M Records, Sidney decided to move there and try his
luck in the Hollywood recording community. Upon moving to L.A., Sidney
discovered that the business had changed. Getting studio work was not as
easy as it was years before in New York and Detroit. However, Sidney did
eventually hook up with some of his old Midwest and East Coast friends,
who hired him on several recording sessions for records and commercials.
moved back to Chicago and spent time working with Jerry Butler's
Songwriters' Workshop, only to get a call from Maurice White that lured
him back to L.A. Sidney assisted with background vocals on Deniece
Williams' first solo album for Columbia records. Maurice was producing
the album, which included Deniece's first hit single "Free". From there,
Sidney was off to Detroit again to assist George Clinton in laying vocal
tracks for George's multi-platinum selling album entitled "Mothership
Connection". Upon returning to Los Angeles, Sidney started work on his
first solo album for Parachute/Casablanca Records. Unfortunately, the
album was released but not promoted.
recording his solo album, Sidney met a French producer, Simon Soussan,
who hired Sidney to write and sing lead on a Disco project called
"Arpeggio". The song was "Love and Desire, and became a Disco favourite
worldwide, scoring high on the Pop, R&B, and Disco charts. During that
time, Sidney also worked with music arrangers Joel and Jerry Goldsmith,
recording a song for the soundtrack of a Walt Disney movie called
"Secrets of the Lost World". He also performed a song on the soundtrack
for the movie "Love at First Bite". Next, it was a short but exciting
tour as back-up vocalist for Deniece Williams on a Lou Rawls Budweiser
this tour, Sidney recreated the voice of Johnny Mathis on the Deniece
Williams/Johnny Mathis hit, "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late". Sidney
received rave reviews for his performances. Sidney moved back to Chicago
in 1992, and semi-retired, writing songs and doing demo sessions for
various local producers.
1999, Sidney received a call from friends and contacts in England
informing him of the popularity of some of his songs recorded in the
60's. Songs like "I Hurt On The Other Side", "You'll Always Be In
Style", "Stronger Than Her Love", "What Can I Do?" and other Sidney
Barnes originals have become major club favourites among England's
Northern Soul fans. Because of these and other surprises, Sidney is
coming out of semi-retirement to travel to England and set up a tour
there that will include other American Northern Soul artists.
is currently featured singing on at least fifty different CD
compilations. Released a 15-song CD entitled "Sidney Barnes, Then
and Now (1960-1999)". The CD includes some classic Sidney Barnes
recordings from the 60's, 70's, and 80's. As well as doing occasional
studio work with his old buddy George Clinton, Sidney is working on an
early recordings from the 60's are being sought after by record
collectors all over the world. The rare 45's are selling for as much as
$200 per copy. And some of his songs he wrote etc. go for $750+