Hillbilly-Music.comThe People. The Music. The History.
About The Artist
We first learn of him from Charles Wolfe's book, "A Good Natured Riot", where he documents a sole appearance on the WSM Grand Ole Opry in 1936 in his Opry Roster Appendix A.
Once research revealed his last name, his career took on a path of interesting twists.
In 1919, he was billed as "Evangelist Barritt" at a big tent tabernacle meeting in Washington, DC. He was to direct the music and would sing "The Ninety And Nine", illustrated with beautiful colored slides." The ad stated Mr. Barritt was an oboist, having played in the leading orchestras of England and would play Godard's "Berceuse" from "Jocelyn" on this most ancient of wood wind instruments.
For another camp meeting, we learn that he had played for 20 years in England and other companies, accompanying some of the most noted singers, but he had changed direction and was devoting his talent entirely to the evangelistic work, preaching the Gospel through music and song.
In 1920, he was part of the leaders of the Adventist movement that took part in a ceremony welcoming eight new churches in New Jersey.
In was in 1921 that he had taken up the musical saw to his musical talents and was being featured in lectures. From that point on, ads were making special note of the musical saw and the music was said to be "marvelously beautiful".
Other radio station listings were listing the programs, the artists and the tunes whey would perform. This provides some insight into Mr. Barritt's musical tastes. Songs such as "The Rosary" and "Smilin' Thru" on the musical saw over WEAS. And later, An oboe solo - "O, Dry Those Tears", a vocal solo, "Mother Machree" (accompanied by Miss Winfred Bowen-Cunningham). On another evening, listed as an evangelist, he did "Absent" by Metacalf on the Oboe; "Juanita", a Spanish melody on a common carpenter's saw, "Mother Machree" by Ernest R. Ball, a vocal solo. He was accompanied on the broadcast by Miss Ruth Blakenly of New York.
He began to travel around the country making various appearances an evangelist, speaker and performer. The Atkins Saws Company in Indiana were now being promoted in his personal appearance ads. Another ad mentions he was also performing with "30 musical glasses" and a "Conn Golden Saxophone."
He began appearing on numerous radio stations around the country such as KDKA in Pittsburgh, PA, WWL in Cincinnati, WCBA in Allentown, PA. Mr. Barritt was termed "the musical evangelist for the Columbia Union Conference of Seventh Day Adventists".
In other appearances we learn he did other numbers on the musical saw - "Carry Me Back To Old Virginia" and "Old Black Joe."
But sometimes research turns up something that causes you to smile. A column by Senator Soaper in 1936 posed a question. "How is it with the player of a musical saw? Does he come in the jurisdiction of the carpenters local or does he draw the musicians' scale?
His only appearance on the Grand Ole Opry was on September 5, 1936 from 9:55pm to 10:05pm. DeFord Bailey preceded him and the Dixie Liners were on afterwards.
Thomas Barritt died in 1961 at the age of 75 in Norfolk, Virginia. He was buried in the Forest Lawn Cemetery. His wife, Constance, passed away in 1980. They had three sons.
Credits & Sources