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Spot Barnett, Inspiration To Both West Side And East Side Musicians, Dies At 83

Courtesy Sam Kindrick
Spot Barnett in his legendary pinstripe suit.

Spot Barnett, a saxophone player who became a San Antonio musical legend, died last week.

Hector Saldana, music curator with The Witliff Collections, said Barnett straddled an era that came before him and the era that would follow.

"He was at that crossroads of when the big band sound is changing to that R&B sound," he said, "because he was very influenced by big band. But he was more influenced by that R&B that was coming in which was just a tighter configuration. The bands were smaller but still playing very complex jazz and bop because you know Spot is known for the blues and the R&B but he was a great jazz player. So he brought those things together."

Where he brought them together was on the East Side at many clubs, primarily the Eastwood Country Club, where an entire generation of up and coming musicians soaked up his influence, then created their own sounds.

"Many musicians in San Antonio would go to see him play," Saldana said. "He was a saxophone player bandleader who had an integrated band. The young Doug Sahm played in the band, Ernie Durawa of the Texas Tornados got his start with Spot Barnett, and a lot of the Chicano musicians of the West Side Horns would go see him play. So he had a profound impact on the music the rock and roll music and R&B that San Antonio is known for."

That Spot Barnett's band was integrated was no small thing in the Jim Crow era.

"They were part of an era that sometimes is referred to as 'the Chitlin Circuit.' " Saldana explained. "They backed up a lot of the touring musicians of that day. People noticed it, and it was exotic at the time. We do have to remember that the East Side was predominantly black just like the West Side was predominantly Hispanic and that the crowds didn't often mingle."

Barnett's trademark pinstripe suits and beret set him apart, as did his musical talent, recognized in 2018 by the San Antonio Arts Commission with a Distinction in the Arts Award.

Services are still pending.

Jack Morgan can be reached at Jack@TPR.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii