The son of a Royal Air Force Pilot Officer, Barrie was born in Oxford in 1945. Following the return from his 1964 German recording tour with The Shamrocks, the emergent British R & B boom bass player joined Dr K’s Blues band and created bass guitar history by ordering a Telecaster Bass in early 1966; his visionary idea led Fender to produce the now legendary Telecaster/Precision Bass Hybrid. He has a son and daughter by his first marriage, and seven grandchildren. Happily married to Lesley for thirty-nine years, Barrie has remained a true Bluesman, loving the sound of a wailing harp and boogie-woogie piano. He has had a varied and interesting career, as well as being a professional driver he is a true Artisan. Honing inherent hand skills, he worked at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich for seven years as a conservation technician. During that time he qualified as a mature student with distinctions for a City and Guilds 205 as a toolmaker, notwithstanding winning the Chaplin Trophy for the best restored boat at the Henley Regatta in 1988. As well as becoming a marine historian through research for his own projects, a 28-ft motor cutter, a 60-ft launch tug and two 45-ft admiral’s barges steeped in royal tour and royal yacht history, he became a journeyman shipwright/marine engineer working at the yard of the legendary Peter Freebody at Hurley on Thames. Barrie spent some of his happiest years working alongside Peter, daughters Melanie and Katie and son Richard who run the business today. After satisfying his love of restoring old steam and motor launches he returned to conservation and restoration work. A self-employed consultant antiquities engineer, Barrie worked on major restorations for the National Trust such as Uppark House and made mounts for the Crown Jewels when the Jewel House was refurbished at the Tower of London. Working alongside leading London restorers, he conserved anything from ancient Cycladic art to Dong Son bronzes and gold. Conservator and mount-maker extraordinaire, his work can be seen in London, New York, and Japanese museums and private collections worldwide. Since 2000 Barrie’s love of old cars and boats has smouldered on. Through the restoration of his own motorcar, he has restored dashboards and refurbished many instruments on vintage Bentleys. Several Merlin aero-engined specials display his work. Recently, he has completed the restoration of a beautiful Lake Windermere whiff gig, built in 1899. Seemingly unstoppable, since retiring he has now completed his original 1964 design – Bats Bass. An author of incisive recall and vivid descriptive ability, Barrie, the keeper of the slabs secrets, at last turns the cypher key unlocking the mystery surrounding the mighty Hybrid.
I bought this to complement Barry Matthews' book on the same topic. However, where Barry's book is a lovely, Sunday afternoon drive through the beautifully fascinating countryside of Fender arcana, Barrie's is a high-octane rush through the electric neon sunlit streets of the British Blues Boom, 1964-1968 ... as well as beautifully fascinating Fender arcana. It's obviously a matter of great pride for Barrie to have inspired a huge guitar manufacturer to set upon a very profitable path. But the best parts of his book don't concern that. The best parts concern his journey through the coal face of British pro & semi-pro R&B bands. He was never a famous musician, his bands never made the charts nor sold millions of records (or even made many). But that's the thing. He played at the business end of the scene, slogging through overseas tours and one nighters on the club circuit ... I would say the first part of Barrie's story lies there. The second part is a detective story. In 1967, Barrie sells his bass gear ... Nearly 30 years later, he wants it back … This is a great story, well told, but I'd like to have read more about his experiences on the road, his experiences tracking and tracing Hybrid basses ... and how his fascinating work outside music feeds into his life within the bass clef.