Walter Barnes - clarinet, saxophone, bandleader
One of the deadliest fires in American musical history took the lives of over 200 people, including bandleader Walter Barnes and nine members of his dance orchestra The Royal Creolians at the Rhythm Club, in Natchez, Mississippi, on April 23, 1940. News of the tragedy reverberated throughout the country, especially among the African American community, and blues performers have recorded memorial songs such as “The Natchez Burning” and “The Mighty Fire” ever since. A state historical marker was later erected at the former site of the Rhythm Club.
Barnes, a Vicksburg native, had moved to Chicago in 1923 where he began studying reed instruments with classical teacher Franz Schoepp, then took further studies at the Chicago Musical College and the American Conservatory of Music