Duck Baker

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Duck Baker
Birth name Richard R. Baker IV
Born July 30, 1949
Washington D.C.
Genres Jazz, Blues, Ragtime, Celtic music, swing, New Orleans jazz
Occupation(s) Guitarist
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1972–present
Labels Kicking Mule, Acoustic Music Records, Day Job Records, Shanachie Records, Avant Records

Richard R. "Duck" Baker IV (born July 30, 1949, in Washington D.C.)[1] is an accomplished and influential American fingerstyle guitarist, who in his playing combines genres as varied as rags, blues, country, gospel, cajun, bluegrass, Celtic music, ballads and jazz, swing, New Orleans jazz and free jazz.

Biography and career[edit]

Baker grew up in Richmond, Virginia.[2] As a teenager he played in rock and blues bands before becoming interested in acoustic blues.[2] In the early seventies he moved to San Francisco, and was performing a wide range of material which can be heard on his first record on the Kicking Mule label, There's Something for Everyone In America.[1] In addition to developing his solo style, he immersed himself in the local swing jazz scene and avant-garde jazz/improv scene.

In the late seventies Baker released four more records for Kicking Mule, including two devoted to jazz and a solo guitar record of Irish and Scottish music. He also began touring as a solo artist throughout North America, Western Europe and Australia. He eventually moved to Europe before returning to San Francisco in 1987. As of 2009, he resides in Reading, England.

Baker views himself as an exponent of the full tapestry of vernacular American music and of its tributary traditions, especially the Anglo-Irish strain. His collaborators in the 1990s and 2000s reflect the breadth of his interests, including the Irish fiddler, Kieran Fahy, and the traditional singer, Molly Andrews, trombonist Roswell Rudd, bassist Mark Dresser, guitarists Jamie Findlay, Woody Mann and Ken Emerson, fiddler Ben Paley and singer-flutist Maggie Boyle. His solo recordings since 1980 have largely focused on his own compositions, which reflect the influence of the great jazz pianists/composers as well as the breadth of his other interests. Since moving back to England in 2004, Baker has formed several groups with whom he performs when possible, including a modern jazz trio with Alex Ward on clarinet and either Joe Williamson or John Edwards on bass, a swing trio featuring Ward and violinist Mike Piggott and, most recently, a duo with Italian guitarist and percussionist Giorgio Buttazzo.

Although he plays flat-top steel string guitar with some frequency, Baker is nearly unique among fingerstyle guitarists in emphasizing the nylon string flamenco guitar. A good many other pickers like Jerry Reed, John Knowles, and Buster B. Jones have used classical instruments, but Baker's use of the less familiar flamenco instrument is notable.

Baker also frequently writes reviews for a variety of jazz publications, and is the author of several instructional manuals for guitarists. He has recently become a columnist for the UK guitar magazine Acoustic. He has also had articles published in two books, including John Zorn's acclaimed "Arcana" series.


  • There's Something for Everyone in America (Kicking Mule Records 1975)
  • When You Wore a Tulip (Kicking Mule Records 1977)
  • The King of Bongo Bong (Kicking Mule Records 1977)
  • The Art of Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar (Kicking Mule Records 1979)
  • The Kid on the Mountain (Kicking Mule Records 1980)
  • Under Your Heart (Edition Collage Records 1985)
  • You Can't Take the Country out of the Boy (Edition Collage Records 1986)
  • Both Sides (Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop 1987)
  • The Salutation (Fisher Productions 1988)
  • Paul Bunyan (with Leo Kottke) (Windham Hill Records 1990)
  • A Thousand Words (Acoustic Music Records 1992)
  • American Traditional (with Molly Andrews) (Day Job Records 1993)
  • Opening the Eyes of Love (Shanachie Records 1993)
  • The Art of Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar (Shanachie Records (re-issue) 1994)
  • The Moving Business (with Molly Andrews) (Day Job Records 1994)
  • The Clear Blue Sky (Acoustic Music Records 1995)
  • Spinning Song (Avant Records 1996)
  • The Complete Gospel Guitarist (Mel Bay Publications 1997)
  • Northern Skies, Southern Blues (with Stefan Grossman) (Shanachie Records 1997)
  • Ms. Right (Acoustic Music Records 1998)
  • The Kid on the Mountain (Fantasy Records (re-issue) 1999)
  • The Fairy Queen (with Kieran Fahy) (Day Job Records 1999)
  • My Heart Belongs to Jenny (Day Job Records 2000)
  • Out of the Past (with Jamie Findlay) (Day Job Records 2001)
  • Duck Baker's Fingerstyle Blues Guitar 101 (CD w/ book) (Mel Bay Publications 2004)

"The Expatriate Game" (trio with Maggie Boyle, Ben Paley) (Day Job Records 2005)

  • The Salutation (re-issue) 2006
  • Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans (Day Job Records 2006)

"The Roots and Branches of American Music" (Les Cousins 2009)

"Everything That Rises Must Converge" (Mighty Quinn 2009)

"The Waltz Lesson" (Duck Baker Trio) (Les Cousins 2009)

"The Ducks Palace" (Duos and Trios, with Roswell Rudd, Derek Bailey, John Zorn, Cyro Baptista) (Incus 2009)

'Amnesia In Trastevere' (Duck Baker Trio) (Les Cousins 2011)

'When You Ask a Girl To Leave Her Happy Home" (duo with Dakota Dave Hull) (Arabica 2011)


  • Masters of Ragtime Guitar (Kicking Mule Records 1977)
  • Advanced Fingerpicking Guitar Techniques (Kicking Mule Records 1978)
  • Contemporary Guitar Workshop (Kicking Mule Records 1978)
  • Irish Reels, Jigs, Hornpipes and Airs (Kicking Mule Records 1979)
  • Blues Guitar Workshop (Kicking Mule Records 1979)
  • Northwestern Folklife Festival (Voyager Records 1979)
  • Second Lizard Convention (Lizard Records 1983)
  • Music of O'Carolan (Shanachie Records 1986)
  • Music of Ireland (Shanachie Records 1988)
  • Irish Reels, Jigs, Hornpipes and Airs (tracks from The Kid on the Mountain and Irish Reels, Jigs, Hornpipes and Airs on Kicking Mule) (Shanachie Records (re-issue) 1993)
  • The Entertainer: Music of Scott Joplin for Fingerstyle Guitar (tracks from various Kicking Mule records) (Shanachie Records (re-issue) 1993)
  • Fingerpicking Delights (tracks from various Kicking Mule records) (Shanachie Records (re-issue) 1994)
  • Acoustic Routes (Demon Records 1993)
  • Ramble to Cashel, Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar, Vol. 1 (Rounder Records 1998)
  • The Blarney Pilgrim, Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar, Vol. 2 (Rounder Records 1998)
  • Studio For Experimental Art Sampler Vol. One (Studio For 1998)
  • 156 Strings (Cuneiform 2002)
  • Acoustic Guitar Highlights Vol.1 (Acoustic Music Records))


External links[edit]