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"Bashful" Barney Barnard

   A biography as told by his brother, Richard Barnard.

Richard Barnard, younger brother (by 14 years) of Julian "Bashful" Barney Barnard spoke with me several years ago about his brother. Barney played a major role in the early years of Bill Haley, and he was a partner in the Four Aces (Of The Western Swing), he certainly deserves more than a footnote in a Bill Haley discography. My apologies for being late publishing this to Richard, but the biography is deeply appreciated.

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Julian Wilson Bernard Jr. was born on October 9, 1925 in Norristown PA, as Quaker son of the City Attorney. Julian senior had the largest solo practice in Norristown, The County Seat of Montgomery County, and the family lived in a prominent part of the city.

As a teenager, Barney took to music at an early age.  His love in music focused on traditional jazz to hillbilly. His two instruments were bass and guitar.  Years later, Barney told his brother Richard about the times he used to sneak out of his parents' house late at night to play music with many older musicians in Norristown.  Many of these musicians were men in their 40s to 60s who lived in the Italian neighborhood in the east end of Norristown.  When sneaking out at night, Barney would look outside his bedroom window and watch for a car without lights to drive up the back driveway of the house.  When the car arrived, one of the men in the car would quietly position itself below Barney's bedroom to catch Barney's guitar when he tossed it out.  Barney would then shimmey down the rainspout from his bedroom window to the ground.  Barney would hop in the waiting car to be off to a full night of music and entertaining personalities.

While in high school Barney played in various non defined groups.  It was in school he met and became good friends with Billy Williamson who later became one of Bill Haley's partners. The boys were the same age.  When World War II emerged, Barney went off to serve in Europe under General Patton.

                                         

Barney's father, a former marine in WWI, was head of the draft board in the county and naturally had his son enlist. After being wounded in Germany, recouped in England and returned home.

It was his father's idea that Barney should go back to school and get his high school diploma and then go off to college and law school...but that never happened! Barney was somewhat of a rebel and a puzzle to his family.  His father hoped he would follow and become a lawyer.  This was never to be, because Barney was blessed with musical talent.  He loved music ranging from Django Reinhardt to Woody Guthrie.

Like so many boys returning home after the war, Barney was shaken and restless, so he found his solace in music.  Living in Norristown once again, he formed a local quintet that played hillbilly music. The band played in the Philadelphia area and booked live broadcasts from radion station WNAR in Norristown.  The years were 1946-1947.

Photo of early group. Barney Barnard playing guitar. Other members not identified (anyone know them?).

 

 

 

In 1947 Barney met another hillbilly singer from the Chester PA area named Bill Haley.  Barney became Bill Haley's partner when they formed the new group "The Four Aces (Of The Western Swing)".  Because Haley was living in Chester PA, Barney relocated to Chester and the band became established in the Chester area. Barney and Haley were equal partners in the band with Barney officially as the manager. Both he and Haley promoted the band and hawked the products the band pushed on performances for added income. The group was not making money, they were scraping by.  Richard remembers all the members of the band would come by their house on Sundays, especially during the summer, for a meal.  it was probably the only square meal they would eat.  "Everyone would show up in Western uniforms, Stetsons and all" Richard said "I remember them sitting outside on the front porch and playing music afterwards".

Eventually the band pooled their funds together (and probably got a lot of help from Julian Bernard Sr) to get a brandnew 1948 Chrysler Suburban station wagon. It was a "woody" according to Richard, "quite pricey".  the proceeded to paint four aces on each of the front doors.

For awhile, the band had a female vocalist named Kitty O'Brien.  Richard said h remembered her "she dressed up in the same type western uniform. She was engaged to Barney, but he broke it off.  She left after that, and we never saw her again".

The Four Aces broadcast their shows out of WPWA radio station.  Richard says he remembers going with them to the station. He said "It was a one story ranch style building, big windows and all, and at the same time it was a light yellow building with white trim and the transmitter sat right in the front lawn.  They sat me in the listening room. It had a big window to the studio (which was, of course, sound proof). It had speakers, so I heard all the show.  The band would sing, then Barney would do the commercials. He also advertised Radio Park, where they played.  Mind you, Radio park was not a great place.  It had a high wall around it, full of trees. probably a Victorian era place that had already fallen into ruin, and it was about a city square block in size. They had tickets for you to buy to enter. It had an outdoor stage about four feet from the ground. Everything was outside. In the back of the they had an enclosure about the size of a trailer. Carny (Carnival) people would flank the side of the stage and pitch their games and wares".

Another place the band frequented was one of questionable repute, LUKE'S BAR.  Luke, the owner, had two businesses... he sold used cars and had the saloon.  The saloon was in an area known as "Bethel Court" (long since bulldozed away).  Richard never got to go tot he bar, but he said Barney described it as having "holes all over the walls and the floor. There were bare light bulbs hanging down from chords. It stank. The entrance had swinging doors (like the illustration in Jack's book). Luke rode a motorcycle into the bar (usually with his girlfriend).  There were many fights at Luke's Bar.  Barney once told Richard they (the band) usually knew when a fight was going to break out, so they started accelerating the beat to their music in time with the activity."

Barney stayed with the group until 1949. The group was becoming more popular, and by now Barney was married and living in Chester with his wife Louise "Dolly" Eckert and their two children.  There was a lot of time being spent away on the road.  Barney came to a parting of the ways with Bill Haley at this point.  There were too many disputes, and the band broke up.

After this, Barney left the music business.  He been from selling Ford vehicles for awhile, the moved to Shelby Ohio eventually working as Director of Advertising and Public Relations for the Ohio Seamless Tube Company.  Barney had found his niche in Shelby Ohio.  He did play jazz music at a local saloon, "Bud's Saloon" for years, and even wrote some musicals for the local police force so they could have fundraisers.  Barney was happy in Shelby Ohio, and remained there until his death in 1990.

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