Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Mickey Baker Passes On

Legendary rhythm and blues guitarist Mickey Baker died 27 November 2012 at the age of 87.

Mickey Baker was born on 15 October 1925 in Louisville, Kentucky. He was only eleven when he was placed in an orphanage. He ran away from the orphanage often, being retrieved in each case. When he was 16 he moved to New York City and worked menial jobs before becoming a pool hustler. At 19 he enrolled in the New York City School of Music to study guitar, but eventually dropped out. Instead he taught himself guitar and by 1949 he had formed his own jazz combo. It was not long before he switched to rhythm and blues.

Starting in the early Fifties he served as a session musician on many recordings. He played guitar on hits produced by such artists as The Drifters, Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, Big Maybelle, Little Willie John, and others. He also released a few singles under his own name. In the mid-Sixties he formed Mickey & Sylvia with his student Sylvia Vanderpool. The two would have a top twenty hit with the song "Love is Strange"  in 1956. The duo would break up in the early Sixties, although they would continue to record together on and off for years to come.

In the mid-Sixties Mickey Baker moved to France, where he recorded for such French performers as Francoise Hardy, Sylvie Vartan, and Ronnie Bird.  He would also write a number of instruction books on playing guitar.

Although not as well known, Mickey Baker can be counted alongside such greats as Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry as having an influence on guitar in both rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll. His influence would be felt not only on rhythm and blues acts of the Sixties, but even the British Invasion bands of the same era. His book Jazz Guitar has remained in print since it was first published over fifty years ago.

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