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Etta Baker

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Guitarist Etta Baker quietly enjoyed one of the blues' most enduring careers, working in almost total obscurity and recording only on the rarest of occasions while honing her craft throughout the greater part of the 20th century. Born in Caldwell County, NC, on March 31, 1913, she was the product of a musical family, taking up the guitar as a child and learning from her father and other relatives traditional blues and folk songs. Over time, Baker emerged among the foremost practitioners of acoustic Piedmont guitar fingerpicking, an open-tuned style not far removed from bluegrass banjo picking; however, for decades only relatives and friends ever heard her play, as she confined her performances solely to family gatherings and parties. She finally made her initial recordings in 1956, joining her father and other family members on a field recording titled Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians; she again faded into willful obscurity, however, raising her nine children and toiling in a textile mill. Finally, while in her sixties -- at an age at which most performers consider retirement -- Baker finally began pursuing music professionally, hitting the folk and blues festival circuit. In 1991 -- 35 years after her debut recording -- she issued the album One-Dime Blues and continued performing live throughout the decade to follow, returning in 1999 with Railroad Bill. Baker died on September 23, 2006, at the age of 93 just months before her final album was to be released. ~ Jason Ankeny

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Birth Name:

Etta Lucille Reid


31 March 1913 in Caldwell County, NC

Years Active:

'30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s