Etta Baker’s Piedmont Blues


Writing about Elizabeth Cotten (see post below) the other day, I couldn’t help but think about the great Piedmont guitarist Mrs. Etta Baker, since their stories have so much in common. Both started young: Mrs. Baker, as she tells it in the attached video, was only three when she started copying her father’s playing. Both were discovered as a result of chance meetings. Mrs. Baker’s was in 1956 with the folklorist Paul Clayton, who was in the area doing field recordings, and Clayton, once he heard her play, recorded her the next day.

Mrs. Baker (and her father!) appeared on the resulting LP, Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians, and her influence, both as a guitarist and as a great human being, continued until her death in 2006 at the age of 93.

The video was made in 2004, when Mrs. Baker was 91. Her playing has lost just a bit, but her spirit shines bright. Please watch!

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