Composer Billy Barnes Dies at 85

By Robert Simonson
27 Sep 2012

Billy Barnes
Billy Barnes

Composer and lyricist Billy Barnes, whose topical material was featured in a series of revues in the 1950s and '60s, died in his home in Los Angeles on Sept. 24. He was 85.

Mr. Barnes' best-known songs included "(Have I Stayed) Too Long at the Fair," which was recorded by Patti Page and Barbra Streisand, and "Something Cool," recorded by jazz vocalist June Christy.

His work was spotlighted in a series of revues, most of which bore his name. The Billy Barnes Revue opened in Hollywood in 1958, and played on Broadway for 87 performances in 1959. Filled with topical tunes on subject such as PTA matrons, beatniks and television, it was deemed by the New York Times to have an "amiable air, an overwhelming desire to be gay, and a group of sunny talented performers" (among them Ken Berry and Bert Convy). However, it was observed that the revue's targets were not exactly fresh ones, and the comic attacks occasionally lacked wit.

In 1961 he returned to Broadway with The Billy Barnes People. Other shows included Billy Barnes' Party, Billy Barnes' L.A. and Billy Barnes' Hollywood.



For television, he wrote special material and original musical production numbers for "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," "The Danny Kaye Show," "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" and "The Carol Burnett Show." He also wrote opening production numbers for several Academy Awards telecasts.

Billy Barnes was born in Los Angeles on Jan. 27, 1927. He started writing musical comedy sketches while still in high school, and continued when he attended UCLA. His first professional revue, A Cabaret Concert Show, was a collaboration with Bob Rodgers in 1956. Rodgers also worked with him on The Billy Barnes Revue, writing the book and directing.

Barnes is survived by his son Tyler and partner Richard T. Jordan.