Kenny Baker (1921-1999)
Withernsea-born, Kenny Baker was an accomplished player of jazz trumpet, cornet and flugelhorn, and a composer.
Baker joined a brass band and by the age of 17 and had already become a professional musician. After leaving Yorkshire’s East Riding, for London, he met and began performing with the already well-known jazz musician George Chisholm.
While serving in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, he spent a year (1944/45) at Alma Park, Grantham, with the newly formed RAF Regiment.
Baker was first heard on record in a British public jam session in 1941 and quickly established a strong reputation in London clubs.
The young Baker was lead trumpeter with Ted Heath’s post war orchestra
In the 1950s Kenny led his own group called Baker’s Dozen for which he played lead and solos. With this group he performed on the first regular jazz show on British radio, the BBC Light Programme series Let’s Settle For Music.
So good was Baker that when the Musicians’ Union were trying to justify their ban on American players working in Britain, they were able to ask, “While we have Kenny Baker who needs Louis?”
In 1958, while driving through Grantham to a northern gig, he collided with a woman cyclist wearing a fur coat, on St Peter’s Hill. Fortunately the pensioner was not seriously injured.
In the 1960s and 1970s he was still on call for film and studio work. He often appeared on BBC radio’s Sounds of Jazz programme introduced by Peter Clayton in the 1970s with recordings made at the Maida Vale studios in London and broadcast late on Sunday evenings.
In 1955 when he appeared at Blackpool with the up-and-coming comic pair of Morecambe and Wise. He also went on to share top billings with other big comedy variety acts of the day, such as Tommy Trinder, Benny Hill and Ken Dodd.
His career saw him play with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Petula Clark, Sammy Davis, Jr and Tony Bennett.
He also performed on James Bond soundtracks and with The Beatles. In addition to this, he was also heard on hundreds of TV programmes including The Muppet Show, through his involvement with the Jack Parnell Orchestra, which played for the now-defunct ATV company.
In the 1980s he provided the music for The Beiderbecke Trilogy, starring James Bolam.
His famous group, Baker’s Dozen, reformed in 1993 for four sell-out nights at Ronnie Scott’s in Birmingham, releasing an album of the set on Big Bear Records, The Boss Is Home.
He was presented with the best trumpet player title for the third time at the BT British jazz awards in 1999. He was also awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1999.
He died in a hospital close to his home at Felpham, West Sussex at the age of 78 after suffering from a viral infection for more than three weeks.