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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 9, 2007

Danny Barcelona, 77, drummer in Armstrong band

 •  Obituaries

By Dennis McLellan
Los Angeles Times

Louis Armstrong, left, is shown with drummer Danny Barcelona in a 1967 photo. The son of Filipino immigrants and born in Waipahu, Barcelona traveled the world with the famed jazz musician.

ADVERTISER LIBRARY PHOTO | Oct. 3, 1967

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LOS ANGELES Danny Barcelona, the longtime drummer with Louis Armstrong and His All Stars, who traveled the world with the legendary jazz trumpeter and played on scores of recordings, including Armstrong's 1964 hit "Hello, Dolly!" has died. He was 77.

Barcelona, who was born in Waipahu in 1929, died April 1 of cancer in a convalescent home in San Gabriel. He was surrounded by his family, they said.

He joined Armstrong's All Stars in 1958 and traveled with the band throughout the United States, Asia, Europe and Africa, as well as behind the Iron Curtain for more than a decade.

After Armstrong died in 1971 and the band broke up, Barcelona became a fixture at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu for several years, playing with the Bernie Halmann Group. He later worked at Harry's Music Store in Kaimuki and gave drum lessons before moving to the Los Angeles area in 1979.

Affectionately called "the little Hawaiian boy" by Armstrong, Barcelona played on more than 130 recording sessions and soundtracks with Armstrong, including his 1968 hit "What a Wonderful World."

In a 1966 opening-night review of the band at the Carousel in West Covina, Leonard Feather, then the Los Angeles Times' jazz critic, noted that "Armstrong today leads one of the best groups he has ever fronted. Wisely, he gives each individual a chance to prove it."

That included Barcelona, who, Feather observed, "did his customary 'Stomping at the Savoy' drum workout to close the show."

"Danny was excellent," said Buddy Catlett, who joined the Armstrong band as bass player in 1965. "He was a good show drummer on top of it. Louis kept a sense of showmanship going at all times, and Danny did his part."

In a 2000 interview, Barcelona said Armstrong was the same off stage as on.

"He stayed happy all the time," Barcelona said. "Pops loved to play the horn. That's what kept him going. If we had two or three days off, he'd get restless and was ready to play again."

The son of Filipino immigrants, Barcelona was a self-taught drummer. He joined trombonist Trummy Young's orchestra in Hawai'i in 1948. (Young later played trombone for Armstrong's All-Stars and recommended Barcelona to Armstrong.)

In the early '50s, Barcelona started his own sextet, the Hawaiian Dixieland All Stars, which toured the Hawaiian Islands and Japan. Around the same time, he met his wife, Dee, who was performing at a hotel in Waikiki with her two sisters as the musical trio the Morgan Sisters.

In addition to his wife, Barcelona is survived by his daughters, Dana Barcelona-Bonner and Jodi Barcelona; his brother, Jose "Sonny" Barcelona; five grandchildren and a great-grandson.