Kenny Baker

bluegrass fiddler, Cottontown
National Heritage Fellowship (1993)

Born and raised in the Eastern Kentucky coalfields, Kenny Baker (1926 – 2011 ) was immersed in old-time fiddling in his youth. After service in World War II, he began his career as a professional musician by pursuing more modern swing stylings on the fiddle. In 1957 he first joined the band of Bill Monroe, and in his career as a Bluegrass Boy until 1984, Baker became the most influential fiddler in the bluegrass genre. As Monroe’s popularity surged with festivals and touring in the 1960s, Baker relocated to the Nashville area. In later years, he performed in a partnership with resophonic guitar master Josh Graves, and lived in retirement in Sumner County. Through his prominence as Monroe’s all-time premier bandmember and his many recordings, Baker inspired a generation of players to emulate his smooth, signature longbow stylings, and his many challenging instrumental compositions.

More Information

  • Devan, Brett F., “Kenny Baker: One of the Masters,” Bluegrass Unlimited  25, #8 (Feb 1991): 20-24.
  • Foster, Alice, “Kenny Baker,” Bluegrass Unlimited  3, #6 (Dec 1968): 8-11. Reprinted in Thomas Goldsmith, ed., The Bluegrass Reader (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004), pp. 178-83.
  • Govenar, Alan, Masters of Traditional Arts: A Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2001), pp. 50-52, 704.
  • Kingsbury, Paul, ed.  The Encyclopedia of Country Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 25-26.
  • Michel, Robert, “Kenny Baker: A Week with a Bluegrass Legend,” Fiddler Magazine  1, #4. (Winter 1994-95):  4-10.
  • Rosenberg, Neil V.,  Bluegrass: A History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), pp. 306-7.
  • Willis, Barry R.  America’s Music: Bluegrass.  (Franktown, CO: Pine Valley Music, 1992), pp. 347-50.