Danny Barcelona – Speed Redefined

Danny Barcelona was a native Hawaiian. He was born on July 23, 1929, in Waipahu, Honolulu, Hawaii, and passed away on April 1, 2007, having served his time as one of the best jazz drummers ever. The drummer was best known for his role in Louis Armstrong’s band All-Stars.  The Filipino-American lived his life sailing in jazz music as a drummer.

Danny Barcelona started playing music at a very tender age. He was always fascinated with drums, and that compelled him to pursue his passion for the instruments. He was dedicated to becoming a popular jazz drummer and groomed himself for success early enough. By age18, he was already gigging with trombonist/singer/bandleader in Trummy Young.

Danny Barcelona
danny barcelona

One thing that stands out with Barcelona is that he was a self-taught percussionist. There are not many drummers who learned the skills by themselves and became as successful as he did. It was his passion for success and greatness that pushed him to scale better heights. He met young in the mid-40s, who introduced him to Armstrong in 1956.  He joined the band and became their main stickman for 15 years.

Barcelona joined Hawaii All-Stars then and later became its leader when Young departed for Louis Armstrong’s 1952 combo. Barcelona set his foot to travel around the Hawaiian Islands, Japan, and the Far East. As 1957 came to a close, Barcelona relocated to New York City. Again, Trummy Young recommended him for a gig in Armstrong’s All-Stars to take over the throne from Barrett Deems, who was then retiring. He appeared on more than 130 recordings with the team. 

Barcelona was 27 years old when he started working with Armstrong. And it was at this time that his career would pick.  He worked on all-time hits like “Hello, Dolly” (1964) and “What a Wonderful World” (1968). Barcelona traveled the world with Armstrong and Young. Some of his best moments included trips to Denmark, Germany, and Rhodesia, Africa.

His style was characterized by more of the ride cymbal, with crisp, clean fills and brakes. The solos leaned more towards asymmetrical phrasing. It is a unique style that only he knew how to deliver, and it always seemed to flow well with the music. There are not very drummers who have enjoyed such a vast experience for their style.

Danny Barcelona Performing
danny barcelona performing

Armstrong fell sick in 1971 and died in July the same year. Barcelona then packed and returned to Hawaii, becoming a frequenter at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel. He worked on presentations with Bernie Halmann and Melveen Leed. At the same time, he was working at Harry’s Music Store and the East Music Center, where he served for many years.

He came back to the mainland with his family in 1979, settling in Monterey Park, CA. He lived here for the rest of his life and continued to play drums whenever possible. On Sunday, April 1, 2007, Danny Barcelona passed away after battling cancer. He was then 77 years old. Barcelona has left a musical foot in the jazz world that will not fade away any time soon in all his career.

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Written by Andrea

Andrea is a music lover and an experienced drummer with more than 15 years of drumming with different bands and music projects, such as Seditius and Hermano & the Marines.

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