Etta Baker

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Etta BakerEtta Baker (March 31, 1913 September 23, 2006) was an American Piedmont blues guitarist and singer from North Carolina, United States.


She was born Etta Lucille Reid in Caldwell County, North Carolina, of African American, Native American, and European American heritage. She played both the 6-string and 12-string forms of the acoustic guitar, as well as the five-string banjo. Baker played the Piedmont Blues for ninety years, starting at the age of three when she could not even hold the guitar properly. She was taught by her father, Boone Reid, who was also a long time player of the Piedmont Blues on several instruments. Etta Baker was first recorded in the summer of 1956 when she and her father happened across folk singer Paul Clayton while visiting Cone Mansion in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, near their home in Morganton, NC. Baker's father asked Clayton to listen to his daughter playing her signature 'One Dime Blues'. Clayton was impressed and arrived at the Baker house with his tape recorder the next day, recording several songs.

Over the years, Baker has shared her knowledge with many well known musical artists including Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal (musician), and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Baker received the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award from the North Carolina Arts Council in 1989, the National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship in 1991, and the North Carolina Award in 2003. Along with her sister, Cora Phillips, Baker received the North Carolina Folklore Society's Brown-Hudson Folklore Award in 1982.

Baker had nine children, one of whom was killed in the Vietnam War in 1967, the same year her husband died. She last lived in Morganton, North Carolina, and died at the age of 93 in Fairfax, Virginia, while visiting a daughter who had suffered a stroke.

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