BARRY SLESS – guitar, pedal steel guitar
Born in Baltimore, MD, Barry began his career as a touring musician playing guitar and pedal steel with the Maryland based western swing band, Cowboy Jazz. Their two album releases on Rounder Records became favorites of the legendary Northern California radio station KFAT, whose generous airplay in the San Francisco Bay Area led to regular West Coast touring. After jamming at a San Francisco club with Kingfish founder Matthew Kelly, Barry was invited to join the group. Touring with Kingfish introduced Barry to other Bay Area based bands and in 1994, he became a founding member of the David Nelson Band. DNB caught the attention of Phil Lesh who included Barry and other members on shows with him at The Warfield Theater in 1999. After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2000, Barry became a regular member in most of Lesh’s touring lineups from 2005 through 2008 and has guested with him numerous times since, having played well over a hundred shows with the various formations of the band. In 2007 he joined Roger McNamee’s new group, Moonalice. The group’s 2009 CD release was produced by Grammy award winning producer T-Bone Burnett.
Additional touring musical endeavors include Green Leaf Rustlers, featuring Black Crowes frontman/vocalist Chris Robinson, along with longtime bandmates Pete Sears and John Molo, and Mother Hips guitarist/vocalist Greg Loiacono; and California Kind, also with Sears and Molo as well as keyboardist Rob Barraco and singer/songwriter/guitarist Katie Skene. Barry plays locally around his Marin County home with Koolerator – an eclectic blues/boogie/country/swing band with accomplished Bay Area musicians Danny Uzilevsky, Jonathan Korty, Joe Kyle Jr and Rob Hooper, and with Rattlebox- a unique collaboration featuring Lorin Rowan on acoustic guitar and vocals, Doug Harman on cello and vocals, and Barry on pedal steel guitar.
Barry’s pedal steel can be heard on selected tracks from three Chris Robinson Brotherhood albums (“Any Way You Love, We Know How You Feel” and “If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home By Now”, both released in 2016 and “Barefoot In The Head” released in 2017). He also appears with Leftover Salmon frontman Vince Herman’s Great American Taxi on their 2010 album release “Reckless Habits” and 2011’s “Paradise Lost” and was an occasional touring member of the band.
During his career, Barry has also shared the stage and traded notes with Carlos Santana, Bob Weir, Bill Kruetzmann, Mickey Hart, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Cassidy, Paul Kantner, Country Joe McDonald, T-Bone Burnett, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Herring, Derek Trucks, John Scofield, Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Stanley Jordan, Los Lobos, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Larry Campbell, Joan Osborne, Ryan Adams, Jackie Greene, Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements, Jesse McReynolds, Melvin Seals, Merl Saunders, Buddy Miles, Robert Randolph, Tom Constanten, Papa John Creach, George Porter, Papa Mali, Oteil Burbridge, Jeff Chementi, Commander Cody, Bill Kirchen, Leftover Salmon, Norman Greenbaum, Donovan, Wally Ingram, Jay Lane, Jeff Sipe and others.
Barry’s playing combines elements of many different genres, and can evoke styles reminiscent of artists from the western swing of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys and the twang of the Bakersfield classic country sound, through the psychedelic and free wheeling improvisational styles of the Grateful Dead. He maintains a strong sense of song, melody, phrasing and taste, while creating his own unique sound. With roots planted in Americana, hints of jazz and Motown and a dose of psychedelia, he’s at home backing up a singer/songwriter or making a quick left turn, leaving the script and soaring into the cosmos of free form improvisation.
Barry’s guitars are custom made by Santa Cruz, CA luthier Scott Walker. He owns six of Scott’s creations. www.scottwalkerguitars.com. His amplifiers are custom built by Sonoma County amp creator Bill Krinard, one of the original creators of Two Rock amps. He also had a three time gold medal award winning beer (World Beer Cup 2008 & 2014 and Great American Beer Festival 2016) named for him. Sless’ Stimulating Stout was brewed by Iron Springs Brewery from 2005 until it was retired in late 2021 when the pub closed their doors for good.