Duck Baker

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Duck Baker
Birth name Richard Royall Baker IV
Born (1949-07-30) July 30, 1949 (age 68)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Genres Jazz, blues, ragtime, Celtic, swing, dixieland
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1972–present
Labels Kicking Mule, Acoustic Music, Day Job, Shanachie, Avant

Richard Royall "Duck" Baker IV (born July 30, 1949) is an American acoustic fingerstyle guitarist who plays in a variety of styles: jazz, blues, gospel, ragtime, folk, and Irish and Scottish music. He has written many instruction books for guitar.

Musical career[edit]

His reputation rests on his work as a solo fingerstyle guitarist in multiple genres: Irish and Scottish music, American folk music, ragtime, gospel, and blues.[1][2] He was born Richard Royall Baker, IV on July 30, 1949 in Washington, D.C.,[1][3] though he grew up in Virginia. As a teenager he played in rock bands before becoming interested in acoustic blues and jazz.[4] He listened to the Jazz Crusaders, Jimmy Smith, and Miles Davis, but Misterioso by Thelonious Monk got his attention most at the age of 16. He learned about ragtime from Buck Evans, his teacher and stride pianist.[3]

In the early 1970s, he moved to San Francisco and performed a wide range of material, which can be heard on his debut album, There's Something for Everyone in America, on Kicking Mule Records.[2] In addition to developing his solo style, he immersed himself in the local swing jazz and avant-garde jazz scene. He was in a swing guitar duet with Thom Keats and a bluegrass band. From the late 1970s to the middle 1980s, he lived in Europe, spending time among free jazz musicians in London. During these years, he played with Eugene Chadbourne, John Zorn,[3] Henry Kaiser, Woody Mann, and Jim Nichols.[1] He toured throughout the world and released an album of Scottish and Irish music before coming back to America in 1987.[3]

Baker has collaborated with musicians from different genres, including the Irish fiddler Kieran Fahy, singer Molly Andrews, trombonist Roswell Rudd, bassist Mark Dresser, guitarists Jamie Findlay, and Ken Emerson, fiddler and singer-flutist Maggie Boyle.

His solo recordings since 1980 have largely focused on his own compositions. Since moving back to England in 2004, Baker has formed several groups, with musicians such as Joe Williamson, John Edwards, Mike Piggott, and Giorgio Buttazzo.

Baker also frequently writes reviews for a variety of jazz publications, and is the author of several instructional manuals for guitarists. He has been a columnist for the UK guitar magazine Acoustic and has had articles published in two books, including John Zorn's Arcana series.[5]


  • There's Something for Everyone in America (Kicking Mule, 1975)
  • When You Wore a Tulip (Kicking Mule, 1977)
  • The King of Bongo Bong (Kicking Mule, 1977)
  • The Art of Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar (Kicking Mule, 1979)
  • The Kid on the Mountain (Kicking Mule, 1980)
  • Under Your Heart (Edition Collage, 1985)
  • You Can't Take the Country out of the Boy (Edition Collage, 1986)
  • Both Sides (Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop, 1987)
  • The Salutation (Fisher, 1988)
  • Paul Bunyan (with Leo Kottke) (Windham Hill, 1990)
  • A Thousand Words (Acoustic Music, 1992)
  • American Traditional (with Molly Andrews) (Day Job, 1993)
  • Opening the Eyes of Love (Shanachie, 1993)
  • The Art of Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar (Shanachie, 1994) (re-issue)
  • The Moving Business (with Molly Andrews) (Day Job, 1994)
  • The Clear Blue Sky (Acoustic Music, 1995)
  • Spinning Song: Duck Baker Plays the Music of Herbie Nichols (Avant, 1996)
  • The Complete Gospel Guitarist (Mel Bay, 1997)
  • Northern Skies, Southern Blues (with Stefan Grossman) (Shanachie, 1997)
  • Ms. Right (Acoustic Music, 1998)
  • The Fairy Queen (with Kieran Fahy) (Day Job, 1999)
  • My Heart Belongs to Jenny (Day Job, 2000)
  • Out of the Past (with Jamie Findlay) (Day Job, 2001)
  • Duck Baker's Fingerstyle Blues Guitar 101 (Mel Bay, 2004) (CD w/book)
  • The Expatriate Game (trio with Maggie Boyle, Ben Paley) (Day Job, 2005)
  • The Salutation 2006 (re-issue)
  • Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans (Day Job, 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)
  • Outside (Emanem, 2016)


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


  1. ^ a b c Kennedy, Gary (2002). Kernfeld, Barry, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 1 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 112. ISBN 1-56159-284-6. 
  2. ^ a b Duck Baker - Mel Bay Publications Profile
  3. ^ a b c d Yanow, Scott (2013). The great jazz guitarists : the ultimate guide. San Francisco: Backbeat. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-61713-023-6. 
  4. ^ Atkinson, David (September 2006). "Blues in London: Interview with Duck Baker, blues musician". Blues in London. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  5. ^ Mobius Washington University linking library entry for Arcana

External links[edit]