Versatile country musician returns to roots
GREAT BARRINGTON -- John Barrett, the talented bass player for The Spurs USA, is coming home.
"Home" is northern Con necticut, where Barrett was born and raised. He and the Spurs -- one of the Berkshires' most popular country bands -- will play Sept. 23 at Infinity Hall in Norfolk, Conn., and Barrett is from nearby Winsted.
Barrett, one of the more low-key musicians on the local scene, says he's excited about playing the Infinity -- less because he'll be playing in the area where he grew up; more because he loves the venue's acoustics.
"The sound in there is incredible," said Barrett, a Great Barrington resident. "Ask anyone who has ever played there. I can't wait, really."
In a recent interview with The Eagle, Barrett, 72, spoke about growing up in Winsted, his first instrument, and his first band.
Q: How many years did you spend in Winsted?
A: I grew up there; I stayed until I was 23. Then I got drafted. After I got out of the service, I moved to California for about 10 years. Then I moved back to the area. [Winsted] was a good little town then. It still is.
Q: Do you remember when you started playing music?
A: Yeah. I was 4 years old, and we had a piano. I banged away on it, and I could play some songs by ear. After a while, my mother said, "You're taking piano lessons." But I was never that good.
Q: After that, did you pick up a guitar?
A: Oh, no. When I was in fifth grade, I got a trumpet so I could play in the grammar-school band. The St. An thony's School band. The next year, I started playing the fife, because I also played in a school fife-and-drum band.
Q: This is quite a musical odyssey, John.
A: [Laughs] Oh yeah. A few years later, when I was 15, I found a saxophone in my attic. I don't recall the family story, but it actually didn't sound too good. It was kind of beat up. So I traded it in for a better one.
Q: When did you start playing in a band outside school?
A: Well, the school band was in rehearsal one day. By now I was in high school. And I was playing the sax. These kids were just watching me play. After rehearsal, they asked me if I wanted to come back with them and jam a bit. I said sure. And after a while, we started a band. And eventually, I picked up a bass guitar.
Q: What was the impetus for the bass?
A:Ha! The impetus was that we didn't have a bass player and we needed one.
Q:What was the name of the band?
I like that name.
A: Well, it's still sort of around. There's a guy named Al Fellows -- he lives in Sheffield -- and when I left, he joined, and they started calling themselves "Al and The Fascin ations." And I know he still plays. I talked to him a few weeks ago. In fact, Bob Jones, our drummer, was in the Fascinations for a while. So was Andy Gordon, [the Spurs'] pedal steel player.
Q: OK, enough about the origins of John Barrett. You remember Infinity Hall before it was Infinity Hall, right?
A:Yeah. It was originally an opera house, built in the 1880s. The opera house shut down [in the late 1940s], and it got a little rundown. It was kind of a wreck for a while. Then Mr. [Dan] Hincks bought it and fixed it up. [Hincks bought the building in 2007 for about $240,000 and renovated it extensively. It reopened as Infinity Hall in 2008.] He did a great job. But it always had great acoustics. And now, acoustically, it's as good as any place I've ever played.
Q:Are you hoping for a good crowd?
A:Yeah. I'm hoping I'll reconnect with some people down there I haven't seen in a while. And really, it's a great place. I was talking to one of the promoters, and they let you bring your beer right to the seats. How great is that?
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On Twitter: @DerekGentile Wednesday September 12, 2012
What: The Spurs USA, led by bass player John Barrett of Great Barrington
When: Sunday, Sept. 23, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Infinity Hall, 20 Greenwoods Road W. (Route 44), Norfolk, Conn.
Admission: $25 and $35
Information: (866) 666-6306, www.infinityhall.com