Louis Barbarin is one of four musical offspring of Isidore Barbarin -- progenitor of a New Orleans musical dynasty -- that from the ring of their surname would more appropriately work as hair trimmers. What a loss to the city's musical history, then, had the father not blasted his melliphonium through the city's streets in the late 19th century, with Louis Barbarin following shortly thereafter as drummer with the first edition of the Onward Brass Band, round about 1918. This meant the young drummer was subject to musical influences from outside his own family, mainly bandleader Manuel Perez.
Barbarin also drummed with players such as Jack Carey, Punch Miller, and Sidney Desvigne at gigs which took place wherever people were willing to congregate, from indoor dances to the streets to the deck of a boat. From 1937 this drummer began to work almost exclusively with Papa Celestin's Band, in a sense a New Orleans gene pool in which the members of several different local musical klans were able to mingle in the mutually supportive cause of keeping traditions intact.
When the leader of this group died, the band itself carried on with a banjoist in charge; this was none other than Albert French, or "Albert Freedom" as he might have been nicknamed during the 2003 diplomatic squabble over invading Iraq. Barbarin approved of French, remaining in his company for a period that rivals the relationship history of any other banjoist and drummer. In 1963, the two cut one of their best albums live. Indeed Barbarin seemed more active in the touring department the older he got, particularly in the '70s -- both the decade and his age. He was active as a musician until 1982, also fitting in some teaching. His musical brethren are Paul Barbarin, also a drummer; Lucien Barbarin, yet another drummer, and William Barbarin, a cornet player.