by Robert Wilkinson
Though most have never heard of Mickey Baker, he was one of the pioneering guitarists in R&B and rock and roll. Though he mostly played as a top session cat, he is known for one very big hit!
From Wikipedia: “MacHouston Baker (October 15, 1925 – November 27, 2012), known as Mickey Baker and Mickey “Guitar” Baker was an American guitarist. He is widely held to be a critical force in the bridging of rhythm and blues and rock and roll, along with Bo Diddley, Ike Turner, and Chuck Berry.”
”He did sessions with The Drifters, Ray Charles, Ivory Joe Hunter, Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner, Louis Jordan, Coleman Hawkins, and numerous other artists. During this time, Baker (along with either Paramour Crampton or Connie Kay on drums, Sam “The Man” Taylor on tenor, and Lloyd Trotman on bass) played on numerous hit records on the Atlantic, Savoy, and King labels.”
”Inspired by the success of Les Paul & Mary Ford, he formed the pop duo Mickey & Sylvia (with Sylvia Robinson, one of his guitar students) in the mid-1950s. Together, they had a hit single with “Love Is Strange” in 1956.”
So today we celebrate the life and brilliant guitar work of a very obscure, but also very influential early force in rock and roll in the 50s, Mister Mickey Baker! He pioneered a thousand guitar licks copied by those who came after this seminal figure in rock and roll and rhythm and blues!
We’ll begin with his huge 1956 hit with Sylvia “Love Is Strange”
Here’s a huge score! It’s 7 minutes of live film footage of Mickey Baker with the Coleman Hawkins Quintet performing “South of France Blues”
From 1953 with the Drifters, “Money Honey”
From 1954 with Ruth Brown, "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean"
From 1954 with Big Joe Turner knocking out “Shake Rattle and Roll”
From 1955 with Little Willie John, “Need Your Love So Bad”From 1955 with Big Maybelle, produced by Quincy Jones 2 years before Jerry Lee’s version, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On”
From 1956 with Louis Jordan, “Caledonia”
From 1956, Mickey Baker whipping out some great guitar licks! “Spinnin’ Rock Boogie”
From 1957, Mickey and Sylvia’s studio version of “There Ought To Be A Law”
From 1959, “Whistle Stop”
From 1961 with Ike and Tina Turner, “It’s Going to Work out Fine”
Here’s some fantastic guitar work by Mickey with Sylvia! “No Good Lover”
Mickey and Sylvia groovin’ slow and easy! “Baby You’re So Fine”
Our next offering finds Mickey and Sylvia performing “Love Is Strange,” made huge by Buddy Holly! I've looked around, and there is no definitive songwriting credit for this song, so it's unclear if Mickey and Sylvia ripped themselves off or not, since it's very close melody and chords to "Love is Strange." Most attribute it to Buddy, but you decide! Here's the Mickey and Sylvia version of “Dearest.” It is very close to "Love is Strange!" Here’s Buddy’s version! “Um Oh Yeah (Dearest)”
We’ll close today’s birthday tribute with something he did in 1965 in France. Mickey Baker and the Midnighters – “Spacewalk”
For our encore, Mickey Baker in 1969 giving us a huge serving of funk! “Popcorn Lesson”
Thanks for the licks across the years, Mickey. Sorry you felt you had to leave the US, but things were pretty funky if you were multiracial in America way back when. RIP.
Copyright © 2013 Robert Wilkinson