Kenny Baker (trumpeter)

Last updated

Kenny Baker
Kenny Baker.jpg
Background information
Birth nameKenneth Baker
Born(1921-03-01)1 March 1921
Withernsea, East Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died7 December 1999(1999-12-07) (aged 78)
Felpham, West Sussex, England
Occupation(s) Trumpeter
Years active1941–1999

Kenny Baker MBE (1 March 1921 [1] – 7 December 1999) [2] was an English jazz trumpet, cornet and flugelhorn player, and a composer. [3]



Baker was born in Withernsea, East Riding of Yorkshire, England. [4] He joined a brass band and by the age of 17 and had already become a professional musician. After leaving his home town of Withernsea, in Yorkshire's East Riding, for London, he met and began performing with the already well-known jazz musician George Chisholm. [4] While serving in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, Baker was called up to do forces programmes.

Baker was first heard on record in a British public jam session in 1941 and quickly established a strong reputation in London clubs. He was brass band trained and had faultless technical command. The young Baker was lead trumpeter with Ted Heath's post war orchestra, [4] with "Bakerloo Non-Stop" recorded for the Decca record label in 1946. He played a tenor saxophone solo on "Johnny Gray", the piece recorded by both Baker and the drummer Jack Parnell. In the 1950s, Baker led his own group called Baker's Dozen for which he played lead and solos. [4] With this group he performed on the first regular jazz show on British radio, the BBC Light Programme series Let's Settle For Music. [4]

By the 1950s, he was regularly performing in studios with his numerous jazz recordings appearing as a quartet for Parlophone, and groups of all kinds for Nixa and others. 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. [2]

A notable appearance on soundtrack for Baker was a long hot trumpet solo mimed by Kay Kendall (who like Baker was a native of Withernsea, a small Yorkshire coastal town) in the 1954 film Genevieve . He regularly emerged to play at jazz clubs often with co-trumpeter John McLevey. Baker's skills brought him wider prominence, starting 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. Appearing on the BBC's Big Band Special in 1962, leading British jazzman John Dankworth said, "Everybody regarded him on a different level to any other trumpeter in the British Isles. He was a world class performer."[ citation needed ]

He formed the 'Best of British Jazz', [4] which was a show with Don Lusher and Betty Smith. This group toured regularly in 1976 and after the death of Harry James in 1983, he was asked by the James Foundation to take over their orchestra; a request he declined. [5]

His career saw him play with alongside Frank Sinatra, Petula Clark, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Tony Bennett. He also performed on James Bond soundtracks and with The Beatles.[ citation needed ] In addition, 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 1962, he recorded a light jazz set with Petula Clark at the Pye Studios at Great Cumberland Place, live and late at night with the Kenny Baker Trio. This has been re-issued on CD as In Other Words .. Petula Clark.

In the 1980s, he provided the music for The Beiderbecke Trilogy , starring James Bolam. [4]

His 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 (1994). [4]

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. He is survived by his third wife Sue and daughter Julie.

Jim Simpson, head of Big Bear Records, said, "It's not just the passing of good man and a wonderful musician, it's the end of an era musically." [6]

Related Research Articles

Withernsea Town and civil parish in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England

Withernsea is a seaside resort town and civil parish in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, and forms the focal point for a wider community of small villages in Holderness. Its most famous landmark is the white inland lighthouse, rising around 127 feet (39 m) above Hull Road. The lighthouse – no longer active – now houses a museum to 1950s actress Kay Kendall, who was born in the town.

John Dankworth

Sir John Phillip William Dankworth, CBE, also known as Johnny Dankworth, was an English jazz composer, saxophonist, clarinettist and writer of film scores. With his wife, jazz singer Dame Cleo Laine, he was a music educator and also her music director.

Ronnie Scott British jazz saxonophonist

Ronnie Scott OBE was a British jazz tenor saxophonist and jazz club owner. He co-founded Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, one of the world's most popular jazz clubs, in 1959.

Ted Heath (bandleader)

George Edward Heath was a British musician and big band leader.

Kenny Clayton is a British music producer, arranger, conductor and jazz pianist.

John Russell Parnell was an English bandleader and musician.

Guy Barker

Guy Jeffrey Barker, is an English jazz trumpeter and composer.

Alan Barnes (musician)

Alan Barnes is an English jazz saxophone and clarinet player.

Gerald Wilson American trumpetist

Gerald Stanley Wilson was an American jazz trumpeter, big band bandleader, composer, arranger, and educator. Born in Mississippi, he was based in Los Angeles from the early 1940s. In addition to being a band leader, Wilson wrote arrangements for Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Julie London, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, and Nancy Wilson.

Philip William Seamen was an English jazz drummer.

Ronald Thomas Verrell was an English jazz drummer. He played in two of the United Kingdom's "most famous" big bands, the Ted Heath Orchestra and the Syd Lawrence Orchestra. Verrell also worked extensively in television, including as a drummer in Jack Parnell's ATV Orchestra and Sunday Night at the London Palladium. He also provided the drumming for The Muppet Show's Animal, and was a "Skinnerette" on The Frank Skinner Show.

John Stanley Livingstone Harris was a Scottish-born composer, producer, arranger, conductor, and musical director. He lived in the United States from 1972 until his death.

Abram Wilson

Abram Wilson was an American jazz trumpeter and vocalist raised in New Orleans and based in London where he also taught music in schools.

Herbert Arnold Geller was an American jazz saxophonist, composer and arranger. He was born in Los Angeles, California.

Derek Smith was a British jazz pianist.

Derek Roy Watkins was an English jazz, pop, and classical trumpeter. Best known for his lead trumpet work on the soundtracks of James Bond films, Watkins recorded with British jazz bandleaders as well as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, and The Beatles. Dizzy Gillespie called him "Mr. Lead".

Kenny Salmon was an English keyboard player who played piano, organ and MiniMoog on many hit records, films, radio and television shows in the 1960s and 1970s.

Betty Smith was an English jazz saxophonist and singer. She began playing the saxophone at the age of nine and left school six years later to perform with the travelling all-female septet Archie's Juveniles. She performed in the Middle East in 1947 and flew to Germany the following year. Smith and her husband Jack Peberdy joined Freddy Randall's band in 1950 before leaving seven years later to form their own quintet. Her time with Randall saw her travel the United States with some success in the country's hit parade. Her newly formed quintet found regular work and Smith later performed with the Ted Heath Orchestra and alongside Kenny Baker. Her career ended in 1985 and did not recover sufficiently to resume performing.

Johnnie Spence, born John Spence Abrahams, sometimes spelt Johnny Spence, was a British musical arranger, director, and orchestra leader. He is credited with the arrangements and musical direction of numerous records and television light entertainment works throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction of a Variety, Musical or Dramatic Program for his work on the 1969 television series This Is Tom Jones.

Gregory Bowen is a Welsh trumpet player. His primary work was done in London before relocating to Berlin, Germany in 1976. Since 1961, Bowen has performed and recorded with jazz, pop artists and entertainers from Europe and North America on records, soundtracks and T.V. broadcasts. Most notable is his lead trumpet work on the James Bond film soundtracks Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice.


  1. "Jazz great Baker dies". BBC News. London. 9 December 1999. Retrieved 22 July 2008.
  2. 1 2 "Kenny Baker - Obituary from The Guardian (UK)". Retrieved 22 July 2008.
  3. "Kenny Baker". Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 28. ISBN   1-85227-937-0.
  5. "Obituary: Kenny Baker". The Independent . 11 December 1999. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  6. "Jazz great Baker dies". BBC News. 9 December 1999. Retrieved 7 May 2010.