Producer, arranger, composer, performer, H.B. Barnum remains one of the unsung giants of music, collaborating with a who’s who of acts spanning from Frank Sinatra to Puff Daddy. Born Hidle Brown Barnum Jr. in Houston Texas. When he was three years old, H.B. and his mother left Houston hitchhiking west. They got as far as Phoenix Arizona. There he was entered in and won a nationwide amateur talent contest resulting in a trip to Hollywood and an appearance in the feature 2oth Century film “The Valley of the Sun Marches On”. Within a year he was a regular on the children’s television program Broom Stick Buckaroos as well as the radio shows Amos ‘n Andy, The Jack Benny Show and CBS Playhouse. He was also the opening act for many of Johnny Grants USO shows.
H.B. attended Utah Street Elementary School, Hollenbeck Jr. High School and Manual Arts High School. He excelled in music and athletics and was offered numerous athletic scholarships. Because of financial restraints, and the advice of Mr. McDonald, the Music Professor at Los Angeles City College, who told H.B. that he would probably never make it music, H.B. dropped out of school.
In 1955 Barnum co-founded the short-lived doo wop group the Doo-tones at the request of family friend and Doo-tone label owner Dootsie Williams, releasing a lone single, “Teller of Fortune.” A year later, he replaced Bobby Nunn in the Robins vocal group assuming production duties on records like 1958’s “Quarter to Twelve” and “It’s Never Too Late.” He also sang with the Medallions (#1 R & B Buick ’59) and other groups. As Pee Wee Barnum, he cut his debut single, “Blue Moon,” for Imperial Records. Efforts for his own Munrab Records (“Don’t-Cha Know”) and Ultra Sonic (“Just Goofin'”) followed. In 1959 H.B and his Soul Brother Ed Brown notched a major pop hit as publishers and producers with Dodie Stevens‘ “Tan Shoes and Pink Shoelaces.” They originally cut the track with composer Micki Grant (Tony winning show writer with whom HB continues to work with). Ed put the track in the hands of Crystalette records owner who put singer Dodie Stevens on the track so it could play on pop radio. The song reached #1 on Billboard, Cash Box and radio stations around the world.
It was during this time period that H.B. also performed as the first band singer at the newly opened Disneyland Park in Anaheim. He performed for three years, eight shows a day with the Mustangs Band.
H.B. also traveled with R&B shows. He traveled as a musician playing with Chuck Higgins and Big Jay McNeeley, Richard Lewis, Little Walter, Marvin & Johnny, Little Esther Phillips to name a few. In one show he had several jobs. He opened the show playing Baritone Sax with Chocker Campbell’s big band, changed coats and played piano with Etta James (Work with me Henry), changed coats and sang with the Robins (Riot in Cell Block # 9), changed coats and played tenor sax with Bill Doggett (Honky Tonk), changed coats and back to the Baritone chair to back up the Five Keys, the Moon Glows, The Five Satins, changed coats and played piano for Gene & Eunice (Ko Ko Mo), changed coats and back to the baritone. I might have forgotten a few coat changes.
In 1960 Barnum scored a Top 40 pop hit of his own with the instrumental “Lost Love,”. He was signed to RCA later that year and released his debut LP, The Big Voice of Barnum. Everybody Loves H.B. — Barnum, That Is trailed in 1961, and while a handful of solo records followed, his performing career gradually took a backseat to his work as a studio arranger and producer.
His Ultra-Sonic, and Little Star records lables, spawned the careers of such artist as, The OJays, Jimmy Norman, Dorothy Berry, The Marathons, Sonny Bono, The Mighty Hannibal, Judy Street, Jack Nitzsche, Round Robin, Richie Simmons, and others. His Mother’s Records lable introduced Rappin Duke, Keisa Brown, Spanky Wilson, Sharon Cash, and Terri Bryant.
He worked with Capitol and Motown records as his reputation flourished. At Capitol he worked mainly in collaboration with producer and longtime friend David Axelrod, and together they forged an innovative orchestral jazz-funk sensibility much copied and sampled by today’s rapp artist. At Motown he was mentored and worked with the legendary producers and composers, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Johnny Bristol, Frank Wilson, and Hal Davis.
Barnum’s list of production, arranging, and writing acts credits is remarkably long and distinguished. The list includes, but is not limited to Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, Don Ho, The Tempations, The Four Tops, The Ojays, The Supremes, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Wilson, O.C. Smith, The Jacksons, The Marvelettes, Martha & The Vandellas, Tennesee Ernie Ford, Phil Collins, P-Diddy (Puff-Daddy), Freda Payne, Dionne Warwick, Glady’s Knight, Ike and Tina Turner, Little Richard, Sly Stone, Charlie Rich, The Osmonds, Little Willie John, Cannonball Adderley, BB King, Ray Charles, Spanky Wilson, Ernie Andrews, The Robins, Wayne Newton……..need we go on.
By the mid-’70s Barnum shifted his focus from recording music to television, scoring countless series and specials in addition to composing myriad advertising jingles. The Oscars, Golden Globe Awards, The Grammy’s, The Stellar Awards, Lou Rawls Parade Of Stars, The Tonight Show, American Idol, The Black Achievement Awards, The Olympics, Allen Ludden’s Gallery, Amen, Richard Pryor Special, The Supremes On Broadway, The NAACP Awards are but a few who have aired compositions and arrangements by H.B.
Commercials for Chevy, Chrysler, Ford, Coke, C&H Sugar, Plymouth, Annie Green Springs, TNBA, ESPN, Baseball, NFL, The US Tennis Open and the several Presidential Inaugurations are included in H.B. arsenal of music accomplishments
Music scores for Hitman, A Hard Death, Five OnThe Black Hand Side, History of The World Pt. 2, Emma Mae (Black Sisters Revenge). Barnum’s songs are included in several movies including award winning Pulp Fiction.
Broadway credits include “ Your Arms Too Short to Box With God”, “Alice”, “When Hell Freezes Over, I’ll Skate”, and most recently “First Wives Club”.
List of awards include Drama Critics Award for “Cope” which also won a Tony, PTA Man of the year, President of East Valley Youth Association, Grammy nominations, BMI writer awards, Commercial awards “Milk Does a Body Good” and “Coke”. Numerous civic organizations.
H.B. also was head football and basketball coach for 20 years for the East Valley Trojans. Winning 8 football and 11 Basketball titles.
H.B. founded LIFE Choir in 1981 as an extension to his committed to giving back to his community. He is very proud of their Thanksgiving Day Feast for homeless and seniors which is in is 48th year, and the HB Barnum Celebrity Golf Tournament which will be celebrating its 29th Anniversary this year.
H.B. is quite active presently licensing his catalogue, arranging and producing old and new artist, and devoting time to his favorite past time. Trying to hit a golf ball straight.
LIFE Choir Staff
Audrey, a native Californian, has been a devoted member and an integral part of the renowned H.B. Barnum’s LIFE Choir as a Mezzo-Soprano since 1991. Along with LIFE Choir her performing credits, to name a few, include the Jerry Lewis Telethon; St. Francis of Assisi, in Italy with Barry White; 1-800-SAVE-ME at the Lee Strasburg Institute of Performing Arts; The House of Blues Gospel Sunday; The Black Film Festival in San Diego; two industry promos for the stage production of “The Lion King;” Harry Belafonte’s tribute to Sidney Portier; The Arsenio Hall Show; Aretha Franklin and several Polish and Croatian Film Festival opening ceremonies in Los Angeles and in Poland. She has performed background vocals for many under the direction of H. B. Barnum. Audrey has performed in three Rushare’ Productions and narrator for the Country Stutters’ production of “The Gospel Train” and several Gospel Shabbat venues with Temple Aliyah, Temple Sinai and Temple Israel. One of her desires is to find a cure for children with Rett Syndrome. Audrey is well known for her artistic decorating and she prides herself as a creative writer, an accomplished public speaker and delivers a clean version of the Spoken Word.
Audrey’s passion is compassion and lives her life accordingly.
Rayna M. Nettlesbey
I was a Revlon Model, an Actor: in “Mission In Possible 3”, “Strong Medicine“, “General Hospital”, “ In Living Color”. Singer: with Luther Vandross on the Grammy’s 1995, Aretha Franklin at The Greek Theater with Life Choir, Barry White in Assisi Italy/HB Barnum, LIFE Choir Christmas CD a lead singer on Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Theatre: Josephine Baker Rendition. Education: California State University, Los Angeles received a Bachelor OF Arts Degree and was on the Dean’s List, Los Angeles Southwest College received an Associates In Arts Degree. I am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. In the SAG/AFTRA union since 1990. My email address is Rnettsweb@yahoo.com.
Lé Nona ‘Lynne’ Walton is a Singer, Actress, Director, Producer from Chicago, Illinois. Moving to Los Angeles in 1972 she worked in Television Production as a Union Contracts Manager and Music Clearance. Joining LIFE Choir in 1981 with her family she has served and enjoyed 38 years of membership in LIFE. Currently serving as Assistant Director for this dynamic organization, the talent, arrangements, sounds and directions of H.B. Barnum has provided outstanding opportunities. LIFE Choir has sung in Polish, Croatian, Hebrew, African, the Polish National Anthem, Jewish Shabbats, Upscale Events, multiple Telethons, Grammys, Oscars, Blackish, This Is Us, A Star Is Born, and more.
Lynne’s vocal range covers multiple styles Contemporary, Standards, Jazz, Gospel, R&B and Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma. Touring stateside with Gladys Horton’s Marvelettes, Brenton Wood, Al Wilson, Brenda Holloway, as “The Dish” with Eddie Daniel’s “The Amazing Platters” and currently sings with King James Brown. Internationally with H.B. Barnum’s LIFE Choir, Barry White in Assisi, Italy, Warsaw, Poland, and has performed with musical Legends Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Sweet Divas, Reminésse, Christina Aguilera and the Los Angeles opening of The Lion King. LIFE is Love, Inspiration and Faith Everlasting.
Bernard Walton, Jr.
A Singer, Poet and Retired Journeyman Meat Cutter/Manager for Vons. After moving from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles he became the well-known ‘Butcher’ that Vons kept in the 1985 Safeway/Vons merger TV/Radio Commercials. His picture covered National billboards, and Newspapers. He is a TV, Radio, National Video commercial talent. Bernard has been a member of H.B. Barnum’s LIFE Choir from the beginning in 1981. He is married to his loving wife, Lenona, and has two wonderful children and beautiful energetic grandchildren. He has faithfully served as President, Vice President, Wardrobe Chairperson, and is now Head Facilitator for the choir.
With LIFE Choir, Bernard has performed with musical greats such as Aretha Franklin, Neil Diamond, Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers, and Disney’s’ Lion King I & II Producers Productions. Internationally, Bernard has performed with Barry White, in Italy, and Maryla Rodowicz, in Poland. He shared stages with Foreigner, Third World & Solomon Burke. TV performances include The Grammys, Image Awards, The Oscars, multiple Telethons, Hands Helping Hands with Stevie Wonder, Code Black, Blackish, This Is Us. Currently he is the lead singer with Eddie Daniels’ The Amazing Platters.
Born in Muskegon, Mi., grew up in Waukegan, Il. Proud parent of 2 sons and 5 grandchildren. Past President and Vice President of Life Choir. Proud veteran of the US Navy. Profession, nurse, because I love helping people. Mediums of performance credits film, TV and live theater. Remains a long standing member of L.I.F.E. Choir.
Born in Glogow, Poland. He graduated from the Szczecin Technical University with a degree in Engineering. He was a member of The Szczecin Technical University Choir, serving as a President and manager of the group. He traveled with the choir to 18 counties including United States where he visited the White House.
Moving to Warsaw he became the manager of the Polish international star singer Maryla Rodowicz.
Immigrating to the United States, he worked on 11 films with the late Paul Leder.
In 1999 he founded the Polish Film Festival Los Angeles and is serving as the Festival’s Director.
Served as juror for many film festivals.
In 2007 the President of Poland awarded him with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland for promoting Polish culture abroad.
LIFE Choir member since 1992.
Zelda Carol Davis
ZeldaCarolyn Davis, Paralegal/Secretary, photographer stands in the 2nd Alto Section of LifeChoir. She enjoys driving her 1974 1/2 MG B across the United States, coast-to-coast since 2006. Along the way on her annual journeys she has taken thousands of photographs seeking out such things as wild-cars to wild flowers and strange structures. When she is not driving or taking photographs, she can be found knitting scarfs for others, or reading a novel.
Historian and Fund Raising
Born in Buffalo NY, Cheryl grew up singing at home, in school, and in the church her grandfather pastored. After moving to L.A. and singing in several choirs and groups, she joined LIFE (for life) in 1981, and is one of the choir’s lead vocalists (He Gave Me Life; Jesus I Love You; Are You Coming Home for Christmas?). She has also ministered in prisons and missions with New Life For Old Prison Ministry. A member of SAG, Cheryl has done TV and radio commercials, and enjoys acting, as well as re-writing lyrics for friends’ birthdays and other special occasions. In 2014, she retired after 25 years of service with the County of Los Angeles. Nowadays, Jim Gilliam Senior Club and other activities keep her on the go. Cheryl enjoys traveling and has visited Europe, Asia and Africa. On the bucket list: South America, Australia, Tasmania??
Barbara was born in Germany, migrated to Canada with Parents and three sisters. Little Brother John was born in Canada.
Barbara’s show business career was short lived. She was part of the opening act as a background singer and go-go dancer at the Cave Supper Club in Vancouver Canada.
It just so happens that there she happened to meet her future husband, LIFE founder and director H.B. Barnum, who was conducting for Lou Rawls……..but that’s another story.
Barbara came to LA to seek her fame and fortune. She began a employment with Federal Express as a shipper and rose to management during her 23 year career. One of the highlights of her Fed-Ex tenure was being the poster face of the company for many years.
Barbara is one of the early members of Life. She is always looking for a “Deal” and ways to improve the appearance of LIFE as they go about their service. She is a member of the powerful Alto section is the one that’s always smiling at performances. She is an excellent cook and is always trying out new recipes on H.B. She is a YouTube and Facebook junkie, and always ready for a game of pinochle.
Barbara and H.B. are the proud parents of one son Daniel, and three other adopted household occupants…..Beau, Doogle, and Joe………but that’s another story.
A performer on stage and screen. She has toured with such notables as HARRY BELAFONTE, BERRY WHITE, SOUL II SOUL, ANDRE CROUCH, THE SPURRLOWS, and as a member of the SUPREMES with MARY WILSON & CINDY BIRDSONG. Her Broadway Show experience includes, THE WIZ, EUBIE, JELLIES LAST JAM, VIOLET, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, and the show created by her late husband Ron Taylor IT AIN’T NOTHIN BUT THE BLUES. Her commercial credits include both on camera and VO for McDONALDS, AT&T, JC PENNEYS and RITE AID among others. On TV her career began as a World Action Singer on ORAL ROBERTS TV Show ORAL ROBERTS AND YOU (she is also a proud graduate of ORU). But this season you can catch her as Bernice Watkins on PROVEN INNOCENT which begins airing 2/15/19 Friday nights on FOX. She is a vocal instructor at THE MUSICIANS’ INSTITUTE of Hollywood, a National Councilor for the Broadway Stage Union, ACTORS’ EQUITY, founding Director of the 501c3, UNITED VOICES OF PEACE, and Minister of Music at THE WELL OF RIVERSIDE Church.