Monday, July 18, 2011
Famed Letcher County Bluegrass Musician Dies
(Kentucky) - Kenny Baker, 85, a Letcher County native who spent many years performing with legendary bluegrass musician Bill Monroe, penned 92 instrumentals and tutored many others, died Friday of complications from a stroke. Baker first picked up a fiddle when he was 5, according to his son, Kenneth Baker Jr. After joining the Navy during World War II, Baker was soon transferred off a destroyer escort ship to entertain troops in the South Pacific. After military service, he returned home to Letcher County, got married, worked in coal mines and played at barn dances on weekends. He started playing the fiddle professionally with country musician Don Gibson in 1953 then went from playing Western swing and dance-band tunes to bluegrass music, performing with Monroe, the father of bluegrass music, beginning in 1957, before returning to Letcher County. He returned to Monroe's Blue Grass Boys band in 1968 and left again in 1984, but he was reunited with the band in 1994 at Monroe's Bean Blossom bluegrass festival.