Chris Barron, founder of the Grammy-nominated rock ‘n’ roll band, The Spin Doctors, likes to make people happy. He’s a songwriter and, as such, he says, that’s his job. He’s proud of this vocation and it’s evident in much of the music he makes – from his recent solo work to his band’s hits like, “Two Princes.” It’s also exemplified in his newfound weekly routine. Every Saturday – or, Caturday – Barron hops on Twitter and engages with his 128,000 followers, sharing and posting charming, cute and lovely pictures of cats all with the aim of spreading cheer. It’s one of the few bright spots on the social media platform that too often engages in toxic bickering or political arguments. For Barron, offering joy amidst difficulty has always been what his life has been about.
“I’m proud of the life that I’ve lived,” Barron says. “And I like the fact that if you do music, the basic premise is that you life is about making people happy and doing something that’s nice and, essentially, healthy and wholesome. Also, I fucking love writing songs.”
Caturday, for Barron, began on the train one afternoon. He was en route to a gig with The Spin Doctors, bored and on his phone. He’d recently and rather randomly taken a picture of his own cat, Gus (who has since passed away). Gus was a big lout of a cat, Barron says, weighing just under 20 pounds. Barron tweeted out the picture and wanted to add a hashtag. He started with “#Cata-” and then “#Catb-“ all the way down to “#Catu-“ when “#Caturday” popped up. He clicked on that and thought little of it. Not long after, though, some 80-100 replies popped up and Barron’s relationship to Caturday was born. Since, his Twitter following has almost doubled in size.
“I think I tweet several hundred cars every Saturday,” he says. “I joke with my wife and daughter that it’s another job. Usually people start sending my cats at about midnight on Friday night.”
While Twitter is so often seen as a cesspool, there are others, like Barron, who work to bring positivity to the digital space. Former NBA basketball player, Rex Chapman, for example, has amassed nearly one million followers, tweeting videos and tear-welling cuteness. But, with so many followers, comes a new type of responsibility and, Barron says, he hasn’t shied away from speaking his mind between the images of cats playing yarn and jumping off counter tops. While these images often induce healthy endorphins in the brain, they can’t blot out dialogue entirely.
“There are a lot of screwy MAGA people out there,” he says. “I got into Twitter before Trump was president and I wasn’t savvy at looking at all the profiles of everyone I followed. There are a lot of trolls to weed out. I’ve blocked tons and tons – it’s a jungle out there.”
Barron, who says his first memory is being in the house in Rye, New York, listening to his parents playing Elton John’s song, “Crocodile Rock,” on the stereo, says he’s always wanted to indulge the spotlight. Another early memory he has is of Shirley Temple. Barron remembers seeing her on a small television, singing “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” not knowing the show was recorded decades prior. He fell in love with her performance, saying to himself that he was going to marry her. His mother, though, a few years later had to convince him to get a guitar. While Barron at first protested the idea, she reminded him the guitar was useful for sing-alongs, taking to the beach and impressing girls. So, at eight-years-old, he began taking lessons. His teacher also taught Trey Anastasio, who would later start the jam band, Phish.
“With three sentences, he completely changed my life,” Barron says. “He told me, ‘Find a few chords you like and strum them in an order you like. Then sing do-do-do or da-da-da along with it. Words will come and then just write them down in a notebook – that’s how you write songs.’ I was like, ‘Wait, what?!’”
With that simple bit of wisdom, Barron was off. At 19-years-old, he wrote “Two Princes,” which would go on to rise near the top of the Billboard charts. Later, sitting around with the members of Blues Traveler, Barron played them the song, along with a few others. John Popper, himself, told Barron he had to move to New York from his hometown in Princeton, New Jersey, to pursue music. So, Barron quit his diner job, left his small apartment above a music shop and moved to the Big Apple. Not long after, in 1988, The Spin Doctors were formed and the band was breaking ground. One of their biggest performances came on the Late Show With David Letterman in 1992.
“That was our first television appearance,” Barron says. “To this day, its one of the most viewed episodes of the show of all time.”
Prior to their slot, most, if not all bands on Letterman, stayed in the background while the lead singer played with Letterman’s house group. But Barron and The Spin Doctors told the show’s production team that it was everyone or no one. The band wasn’t trying to make a stand or a big statement, Barron explains. It was just a feeling of creative solidarity. While the request could have got them knocked off the show, Late Night gave the band the thumbs up and Letterman, himself, loved their performance. It’s one of many examples throughout Barron’s life where he went with what his heart.
“That was a big moment,” Barron says. “It could have lost us the show but we hung together. It was one of those moments where the morale of the band and the bond of the band takes precedence over everything else. But it pays off to have that trust for the rest of your lives.”