Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mickey "Guitar" Baker, one-half of the duo of Mickey & Sylvia, died Tuesday (November 27) at his home in Toulouse, France at the age of 87. Born MacHouston Baker in Louisville, Kentucky in 1925, he ran away from the orphanage he lived in while still a teenager and supported himself as a dishwasher and pool hustler in New York City. 

Buying a guitar in a pawn shop, he learned how to play from a street musician and by 24 had formed his own combo. He recorded on sessions for several artists on Savoy, King and Atlantic Records (Including Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle & Roll" and "Money Honey" from the Drifters) before deciding to form a duo of his own with Sylvia Vanderpool. Mickey taught her to play guitar and paired up with her in 1955 on a series of recordings- eight of which charted pop, including "Love Is Strange" (#11-1957), "What Would I Do" (#46-1961) and "There Oughta Be A Law" (#47-1957). 

By 1962 their recordings stopped charting and Mickey moved to Paris, where he continued recording in the jazz vein that was his first love. Sylvia had a successful solo career in the mid-70s including "Pillow Talk" (#3-1973). Mickey received the Pioneer award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1999. Rolling Stone magazine named him the 53rd greatest guitarist of all time.