A shadowy figure from the world of Southern rock, Joe Barnes is the name of a man who was part of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd road crew and eventually became the group's stage manager. The name Joe Barnes also shows up credited as "arranger" on a 1978 album by Sea Level, an Atlanta band out of the Southern rock momentum in Georgia and Alabama, slowing down only for police cruisers that might be hidden by the sides of bridges. This important tactic is worth noting considering that the personal history of at least one band from this scene is marred by corrupt incidents involving roadies procuring soft drugs for bandmembers and then having to take the legal heat in place of these maestros. Which leads to the inevitable question: Joe Barnes was an "arranger"? Of what? Members of Sea Level such as bassist Chuck Leavell and percussionist Jai Johanny Johanson, also associated with the Allman Brothers, have apparently had little to say on the subject of Barnes in interviews, at least in terms of mentioning any sort of contribution made to the Sea Level musical gestalt by outside arrangers.
Obviously, whatever sort of arrangements Barnes made were more connected to management details, and hopefully with a more happy outcome than his relationship with Lynyrd Skynyrd. The conclusion of Barnes' years flying with the "Freebird" mob are described with great eloquence in this excerpt from Lynyrd Skynrd: Remembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock by Gene Odom with Frank Dorman: "Ronnie Van Zant pounced on Joe Barnes, the band's highly valued stage manager, during a flight to Houston. The only explanation for this unprovoked attack -- he'd never gotten violent with him during Joe's four years with the band -- was the fact that Ronnie was drunk once again. Ronnie . . .punched Joe in the face and then held him down and bit his stomach until somebody pulled him off. When the plane landed, Joe left and never returned." This unfortunate fellow should not be confused with percussionist Joe Barnes, based out of New York City from the '90s onward, or a hand drum teacher as well as a Latin jazz player. Roadie/arranger Barnes of the bitten tummy also has no connection with the senior Joe Barnes, an extraordinary Western swing and country string player from the '30s an '40s who used the stage name Red Brown.