SFC Spotlight: Kenny Baker

**click photo to enlarge**

World renowned fiddler Kenneth Clayton Baker of Jenkins, Kentucky passed away on July 8, 2011.  Master of the “long bow” style of bluegrass fiddling, Baker joined up with Bill Monroe in 1957, becoming the longest lasting member of The Bluegrass Boys when he left the group in 1984.  Best known as a bluegrass fiddler, Baker’s reputation as a musician reached far beyond bluegrass into swing, country, and beyond, earning him a National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1993. Baker’s influence on American music is immeasurable.

We are fortunate to hold a wide array of Baker’s recordings a the Southern Folklife Collection spanning his entire career, including his fantastic solo LPs of fiddle tunes recorded for the County label in the 1970s, like Dry and Dusty, call no. FC_4221, pictured above.  The Becky Johnson Collection (#20405) includes some wonderfully candid performance photos of Baker and countless other bluegrass heroes, and the always astounding collection of materials assembled by the late Mike Seeger includes priceless recordings of performances by Baker and his fellow Bluegrass Boys.

While scanning through Seeger’s recordings, we came across a bluegrass fiddling workshop hosted by Seeger at Bill Monroe’s Bean Blossom festival, 21 June 1969, call no. FT_12857.  In the two clips below, Baker first expresses his love for the fiddling of legendary jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli, and in the second, we are treated to Baker’s rendition of the classic fiddle tune “Fisher’s Hornpipe.”  May he rest in peace.

Kenny Baker, workshop at Bean Blossom, 21 June 1969

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Kenny Baker, “Fisher’s Hornpipe,” live at Bean Blossom, 21 June 1969

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.