Notable as both a jazz trombonist and a bandleader, Barber was perhaps most famous for his 1959 hit "Petite Fleur." Over the course of his multi-decade career, he recorded numerous live and studio albums with his Chris Barber Jazz Band.
He received his early training at London's Guildhall School of Music. In 1953, he and clarinetist Monty Sunshine formed Ken Colyer's Jazzmen, a group that would later be renamed The Chris Barber Band.
In 1967, he recorded the Paul McCartney-written song "Catswalk," renaming the track "Catcall."
From 1959 until 1983, he was married to the Northern Irish-born blues vocalist Ottilie Patterson.
His 1950s collaboration with the popular Scottish singer and songwriter Lonnie Donegan spurred the "skiffle" music movement of the mid-20th century.