Kenny BakerMarch 06, 2012
Date of Birth: June 26, 1926Place of Birth: Jenkins, KentuckyKenny Baker refined the rugged bluegrass fiddle style during his twenty-two year stint with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. Today, he is one of the most emulated fiddlers of all time. This Eastern Kentucky coal miner's playing is colored by the influence of Stephane Grappelli's smooth jazz. Baker utilized the "long-bow" technique, resulting in a very polished and connected sound, as opposed to the short and choppy 'Georgia shuffle' which predominated early bluegrass fiddling. Baker was also heavily affected by the use of three fiddles in Bob Wills' recordings and developed a knack for playing with rich double stops as a result. Baker fiddled on the definitive recordings of such landmark bluegrass instrumentals as "Jerusalem Ridge" and "Salt Creek." He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Hall of Honor in 1999.
Kenny Baker, best known as the long-time fiddler for Bill Monroe, is considered to be the most influential fiddle player in modern times. His solo albums for the independent County label have had a huge impact on contest and Bluegrass fiddling. He has introduced dozens of tunes into modern fiddling and his complex style has influenced three generations.
Kennyís father and grandfather were traditional fiddlers and by the time he was 8, he was trying to play the fiddle, soon becoming discouraged by his fatherís critical comments. He switched to guitar and played that until he joined the Navy at age 16, where he took up the fiddle again. After his discharge, he went to work as a coal loader and played for local dances.
About 1953, Kenny got a job offer playing with singer Don Gibson at WNOX Knoxville. Gibson and other musicians encouraged his interest in Jazz fiddle and Baker stayed with the band for four years. During his time in Knoxville, Kenny had been approached by Bluegrass star Bill Monroe about joining the Blue Grass Boys. When Gibson moved to Nashville, Kenny decided to try Bluegrass, making his recording debut with the band in 1957.
Unfortunately, the late 1950ís were lean times for Bluegrass and Kenny left the band twice to go back to work in the mines. Around 1967, he joined Monroe again, this time for a much longer stay.
In the 1980ís Kenny left Monroe again, spending most of his time working on his farm. He also did tours with an all-star group called the Masters and worked with Josh Graves. In the 1990ís, he performed on a series of tours sponsored by the National Council on Traditional Arts.
Portrait of a Bluegrass fiddler (cassette) Highlights (cassette)