Premier jazz saxophonist Robert “Bootsie” Barnes has been proclaimed a Philadelphia treasure.
“Bootsie” began his musical career at age 6 on piano switching to drums at 10. His grandmother gave him a saxophone at age 19 and he knew he had found his niche. In school, classmates included drummers, Lex Humphries, Bill Cosby, Al “Tootie” Heath; bassist “Spanky” DeBrest, trumpeter Lee Morgan, and a host of Philadelphia giants who went on to help shape the maturing sound of jazz music. Those who had the biggest influence on him were his father, who played trumpet with Bill Doggett’s 16 piece big band, and his cousin Jimmy Hamilton, saxophonist and star clarinetist of Duke Ellington’s band for 26 years.
In the 60’s and early 70’s Bootsie played the renowned “Chitterling Circuit” which included clubs such as South Jersey’s Dreamland, Cotton Club, Laurettas’ Hi Hat, Pearl’s Celebrity Room and Over the Top