Born in Houston, MS in 1937 and raised in Starkville, Dewells Barton, Jr was the son of a high school band director. He graduated from North Texas State University and hired in with the Stan Kenton orchestra in 1961 as a trombonist, then switched over to the drum kit the following year. Barton's charts for this band included "Turtle Talk" and "Waltz of the Prophets." He stayed with Kenton until late 1963, then did freelance work as composer and arranger, moving to Los Angeles in 1965 where he earned a living by writing tunes for television shows and devising ditties for commercials. Rejoining Kenton in 1967, Barton served again as drummer and wrote enough music for an entire LP album. Recorded in December of that year, Kenton's The Jazz Compositions of Stan Kenton was released in early 1968, startling the mainstream jazz audience with some edgy modern material, and soloists who were obviously influenced by the free jazz movement. Barton left Kenton and formed his own big band in 1969. Barton's ensemble played the nightclubs of North Hollywood where Clint Eastwood heard them and asked Barton to compose film scores. Barton's work may be heard in the soundtracks of Play Misty for Me, Every Which Way But Loose, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, High Plains Drifter and Dirty Harry. After writing more music for the television industry, Barton moved to Memphis where he worked for several advertising firms as a composer of jingles from 1973 to 1986. By the late '80s, Barton was leading seminars at prestigious institutions like The New England Conservatory and the University of Alabama. He served on the faculty of several colleges including Jackson State University in Mississippi. The Dallas Jazz Orchestra came out with an album of Barton's compositions in 1996. He passed away at the age of 64 on December 4, 2001.
Share this page