Blues Guitarist Etta Baker Dies at 93

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

North Carolina's Etta Baker, called the world's premiere Piedmont-style blues guitarist, has died at 93. Baker grew up in a family that was proficient in blues, hymns, and rags. She first gained notoriety in 1956 when she appeared on a compilation album called "Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians."


One of America's most influential guitarists has died. Etta Baker has been called one of the world's best blues guitarists. She grew up in a family that played blues hymns and rags. In a story broadcast on MORNING EDITION last year, Etta Baker described growing up playing music with her family.

(Soundbite of previous MORNING EDITION broadcast)

Ms. ETTA BAKER (Blues Guitarist): Myself and Cora - that was my sister - and Daddy, we'd play on Saturday nights for big, big dances.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. BAKER: At night they'd have big dinners. And then when dinner was over, they'd go back to playing and dancing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BAKER: I guess that's what they call the good old days.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: Etta Baker's unique sound was first recorded on a compilation album in 1956. It was this recording that helped shape the growing folk revival.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: After working for decades at a North Carolina textile mill, Etta Baker quit to pursue her music fulltime. She became known for playing Piedmont blues, a style of finger-picking guitar playing that mixes African-American blues, white country picking and English fiddle tunes.

Etta Baker released her first record when she was 78 years old and toured well into her 80s. A couple of years ago she collaborated on an album with blues man Taj Mahal, who was amazed by her endless ideas.

Mr. TAJ MAHAL (Musician): She always keeps coming up with new tunes that she'd forgot - oh, I forgot this one - and then sit down and play you something that you'd go, like, oh my. You know, I mean here's another, here's another old slice that goes back into what kind of music people sat around and played at one time.

MONTAGNE: Taj Mahal speaking about guitarist Etta Baker. She died on Saturday. She was 93.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Related NPR Stories



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from