Barrett Deems

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It is ironic that Barrett Deems' highest profile gig, touring with the Louis Armstrong All-Stars, found him very much out-of-place, reduced to playing in a Dixieland setting. In reality, Deems had a lengthy…
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It is ironic that Barrett Deems' highest profile gig, touring with the Louis Armstrong All-Stars, found him very much out-of-place, reduced to playing in a Dixieland setting. In reality, Deems had a lengthy career with other lesser-known high points. He was with Paul Ash's group when he was just 15 and had his own groups during much of the 1930s. Deems was with the Joe Venuti big band (1937-1944), Red Norvo (1948), Charlie Barnet (1951), and Muggsy Spanier (1951-1954); during that era he was billed almost accurately as "the world's fastest drummer." Deems was with Louis Armstrong during 1954-1958, a period when he was criticized by many jazz writers despite giving the music his best effort. After playing with Jack Teagarden (1960-1963), he settled in Chicago where he played locally with many top swing stars. Deems toured Eastern Europe with Benny Goodman's sextet in 1976 and visited South America with Wild Bill Davison. In later years, Barrett Deems led a fairly modern big band in Chicago and he recorded a strong set with the orchestra for Delmark after he turned 80, his playing modeled after Buddy Rich; he died of pneumonia September 15, 1998.