6 JANUARY 1946
Roger Keith Barrett was born on 6 January 1946, in Cambridge, England. His parents were Max (Dr A M Barrett) and Win (née Heeps). Roger was the fourth of five children, the others being Alan, Don, Ruth and Rosemary. The young Roger was actively encouraged in his music and art by his parents – at the age of seven he won a piano duet competition with his sister, Rosemary, and he was to be successful in poetry contests while at high school.
Max died when Roger was 15 and his diary entry that day consisted of one single line: “Dear Dad died today.” The loss cost him dearly. Three days later he wrote to his girlfriend Libby that “I could write a book about his merits – perhaps I will sometime.”
From age 11-16, Roger went to the Cambridgeshire High School for Boys on Hills Road, aka “The County”. The school had its own Scout troop, which Roger attended with great interest. He was a natural mimic and would amuse his friends with impersonations of famous people including comedy actor Sid James. Fellow scout Brian Boydell remembers that this was when he gave Roger the nickname of “Sid”, at an age of twelve. Some 3-4 years later the spelling would change after seeing a bassist in the Riverside Seven, a traditional jazz band, named Sid Barrett. Brian “Freddy” Foskett, formerly a jazz drummer with the Riverside Seven, took Roger to the YMCA in Alexandra Street to hear the band play and Roger decided to put the “y” into his nickname to avoid confusion with the bass player. From then on Sid was Syd – until in the 1970s, when he reverted to his original Roger. “Syd doesn’t live here anymore” is how he answered the door to visiting strangers.
Syd knew Roger Waters from primary school and met David Gilmour as a teenager, so their paths were to cross many times. These three later became the main creative leaders of Pink Floyd, each of them rising to the front during their own era, connected in origin and friendship from the Cambridge days. After a stint at Cambridge School of Art, Syd moved to London to attend Camberwell Art College, and eventually hooked up with Roger Waters, who was attending Regent Street Polytechnic. David Gilmour was asked to join the band at the end of 1967.
Syd was a notable and popular bohemian figure on the Cambridge scene, swapping guitar chords with David Gilmour and avidly enjoying a wide range of musical influences from jazz to obscure blues combos. By the time he moved to London, he had already been part of local bands including Geoff Mott and the Mottoes, born out of collaborations at the Barrett family home from 1962 onwards. On return trips to Cambridge, he began playing guitar with The Hollerin’ Blues, who by 1965 had turned into Those Without. Meanwhile, Roger Waters had formed a band called Sigma 6 with college friends including Richard Wright and Nick Mason. When two of the 6 band members left, there was space for Syd to join, along with Rado “Bob” Klose. Six songs were recorded by this first version of Pink Floyd, and after 50 years they finally received their proper release in November 2015. After some personnel and name changes, the band finally settled down into the Barrett / Mason / Waters / Wright lineup in the summer of 1965 under the name of Pink Floyd, as suggested by Syd. The first mention in press dates to a Melody Maker article in early July 1965.
In a Swedish interview from September 1967, Barrett explained that “the name Pink Floyd comes from two blues singers from Georgia, USA – Pink Anderson and Floyd Council”. Roger Waters at the same time, but in another interview, explained the name as something that “sounds like a nice name to us. It’s really just a registration mark. It’s better than calling ourselves CCE338, or something like that.” The blues singers Syd referenced actually originated from South and North Carolina respectively and the name combination was picked up from the linear notes of a Blind Boy Fuller compilation album.