BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY
For the African American civil rights activist, see Ella Baker.
Baker with acoustic guitar
Etta Lucille Reid
March 31, 1913
Caldwell County, North Carolina,United States
September 23, 2006 (aged 93)
Fairfax, Virginia, United States
Rounder, Tradition, Reprise,Music Maker
Etta Baker (March 31, 1913 – September 23, 2006) was an American Piedmont blues guitarist and singer from North Carolina.
She was born Etta Lucille Reid in Caldwell County, North Carolina, of African-American, Native American, and European-American heritage. She began playing the guitar at the age of three. She was taught by her father, Boone Reid, a longtime player of the Piedmont blues on several instruments. He was her only musical instructor. She played both the 6-string and the 12-stringacoustic guitar and the five-string banjo. Baker played the Piedmont blues for nearly ninety years.
The family moved to Keysville, Virginia, in 1916. There were eight Reid children, four girls and four boys. All but one survived into adulthood. Boone Reid worked a series of jobs during the 1910s and 1920s, occasionally taking work in factories and shipyards in other states. The rest of the family lived with an uncle. By the time Etta Reid was fourteen, the entire family worked on a tobacco farm in southern Virginia, which meant that they were together. She dropped out of school after tenth grade.
Baker was first recorded in the summer of 1956, after she and her father happened across the folksinger Paul Clayton while visiting the Cone mansion, in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, near their home in Morganton. Baker's father asked Clayton to listen to his daughter playing her signature "One Dime Blues". Clayton was impressed and arrived at the Baker house with his tape recorder the next day, recording several songs.
Baker has shared her knowledge with many well-known musical artists, including Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. She received the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award from the North Carolina Arts Council in 1989, a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1991, and the North Carolina Award in 2003. Along with her sister, Cora Phillips, she received the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award from the North Carolina Folklore Society in 1982.
Baker had nine children, one of whom was killed in the Vietnam War in 1967, the same year her husband died. For a while after these deaths, she stopped playing, but found she missed the consolation the blues brought her. She last lived in Morganton, North Carolina, and died at the age of 93 in Fairfax, Virginia, while visiting a daughter who had suffered a stroke.
Renowned Piedmont Blues Guitarist Etta Baker Dies at 93, from World Music Central
1956 : Instrumental Music from the Southern Appalachians (Tradition Records; reissued 1997)
1990 : One Dime Blues
1998 : The North Carolina Banjo Collection, various artists (Rounder)
1999 : Railroad Bill
2004 : Etta Baker with Taj Mahal (Music Maker 50)
2005 : Carolina Breakdown, with Cora Phillips (Music Maker 56)
2006 : Knoxville Rag, with Kenny Wayne Shepherd, issued on CD as 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads, with a DVD showing Shepherd and Baker playing guitar in her kitchen (Reprise Records) UPC 093624929420
Etta Baker MP3s, from Music Maker Relief Foundation
Live recording of "One Dime Blues," performed by Baker (track 7, recorded at the 1994 Florida Folk Festival and made available for public use by the State Archives of Florida)