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Legendary Bluegrass Fiddler Kenny Baker has Died

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Kenny BakerLegendary bluegrass pioneer fiddler Kenneth Clayton Baker (Kenny Baker) died yesterday at age 85. Baker was one of the finest fiddlers in bluegrass and performed with the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe, for a quarter century as a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys.

Baker's style was influenced by jazz-inflected fiddler Stephane Grappeli. Baker's western swing style was picked up early on by country artist Don Gibson who hired Baker as part of his band. Baker left Gibson's band in 1957 to join Monroe's Blue Grass Boys where he remained until 1984.

After 1984, he was part of a partnership with another bluegrass musician, Josh Graves. Graves is credited with introducing the Dobro to bluegrass music. Graves performed with Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys in the mid '50s.

Baker's style became the style others tried to emulate as his style became known as "the bluegrass style" by many. Many subsequent bluegrass fiddlers credit Baker as their influence indicating Bakers impact on the genre.

Bakers contribution to recordings including Monroe's Blue Grass Boys spanned over 30 years. His "long bow' style and breaks were his trademark of fiddling. All told, he was featured on over 250 different recordings; composed over 100 fiddle tunes; and was on over 100 different albums. His contribution to bluegrass music is immeasurable. Even today, fiddlers line up to learn Baker's style.

In 1999, the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) recognized Baker's significant contribution to Bluegrass and inducted Baker into their "Hall of Honor". He was the only inductee that year. Baker's memorable works include "Jerusalem Ridge," "Spider Bit the Baby," "Denver Belle," "Cotton Baggin' 2000," and "Road to Columbus" to name a few.

Baker's passing was yet another major loss to the genre. Few of the original pioneers of bluegrass remain. The International Bluegrass Music Museum has been working feverishly to capture these artists to preserve their legacy with their Video Oral History Project (VOHP). This project seeks to to professionally film each living member of the original 232 musicians known as "Bluegrass Music's First Generation," as well as those who carried this music to other areas around the world. Baker is part of their archives as his interview has been captured for future generations to enjoy.

Kenny baker was born Kenneth Clayton Baker on June 26, 1926 in Jenkins, Kentucky. His father was also a fiddler. He will be greatly missed by an entire community of bluegrass artists, fans and those he influenced.

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