Renowned New Orleans jazz drummer Louis Barbarin was born on October 24, 1902.

One-third of a musical dynasty, which included his father, Isidore Barbarin, one of the founders of the Onward Brass Band, and his older brother, Paul Barbarin — also a well-known drummer who played with Louis Armstrong and King Oliver — Louis was admired for his creative use of the cymbals, bass, and snare drum.

Jazz historian Michael White described Louis as the “grandfather of New Orleans drumming.”

“Among a lot of musicians who stayed in New Orleans, a lot of them said they preferred Louis,” White said. “He had all of the right ingredients in his playing and style that typified great New Orleans drumming.”

According to his 1997 obituary, Barbarin got his start in 1918, substituting for his brother at one of Tom Anderson’s Bars in Storyville. Anderson was a local political boss and state legislator who was known as the “mayor of Storyville.”  

Louis would go on to work alongside New Orleans jazz legends such as John Robichaux and Punch Miller. They played gigs throughout New Orleans including at Preservation Hall.

In the 1960s, Louis performed with the Onward Brass Brand, his father’s former group that his brother Paul had revived. The lineup also included Louis Cottrell Jr., son of Barbarin’s mentor Louis Cottrell Sr.

He retired in 1982 due to hearing loss.

Louis died on May 12, 1997, at age 94.

The Barbarin family continues to promote jazz culture through the Barbarin Family of Jazz Foundation, which seeks to support the community through music education, research, and preservation.  

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Shannon Stecker is a creative writer, a marketing director, and a lover of stories. She has spent the past 15 years of her career in a creative space – as a print and broadcast journalist, a freelance...