Jazz guitarist, bandleader, and husband of singer Peggy Lee, Dave Barbour began his musical career as a banjoist in his high school band. Later switching to guitar, his first professional jobs were with Wingy Manone in 1934 and Red Norvo in 1936. In the late 1930s he worked as a studio musician, playing with Lennie Hayton, Charlie Barnet, Hal Kemp, Raymond Scott, Glenn Miller, Herman Chittison, and Lou Holden. He joined Benny Goodman in 1942, where he met Lee. The two married in 1943 and quit Goodman, settling in Los Angeles.
Lee left the music business altogether to raise the couple's daughter, but Capitol Records finally convinced her that she was wasting her talent. She signed a contract with the label in 1945. Barbour became her musical director and formed his own orchestra, which backed Lee on several recordings. During this time he also recorded with Barnet, Andre Previn, Jack Teagarden, Teddy Wilson, and Boyd Raeburn. In 1950 he made an attempt at acting, appearing in two films, Mr. Music and The Secret Fury. Barbour also co-wrote several hit songs.
Barbour suffered for many years with severe stomach ailments. For the last thirteen years of his life he lived in virtual retirement, appearing only occasionally for charity events and for a recording under Benny Carter's direction in 1962. He passed away in 1965 from a hemorrhaged ulcer.