Kenny Baker

Not to be confused with the singer or the trumpet player, bandleader Kenny Baker led an exciting West Coast swing outfit during the last half of the 1930s and into the mid-1940s. Though only a territorial band, Baker toured as far east as Kansas City and proved popular with crowds wherever he went. His band featured talented musicians, often serving as a sort of minor leagues for big name bandleaders in search of new blood. Many of his musicians went on to form the nucleus of Stan Kenton’s orchestra.

Baker’s band proved the starting point for a few vocalists as well, including Betty Van, who sang with Baker in early 1937, and Liz Tilton, who was with the band in mid-1938. Baker occasionally recorded over the years, on the Keystone label at some point and on the Tono label in the mid-1940s.

Baker played saxophone and doubled on drums. He married actress Dorothea Kent in 1941. The couple “engaged divorce attorneys” in 1942. In 1944, he was expelled by the musician’s union and fined $500 for violating regulations, which he blamed on his agent.


  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. Zolotow, Maurice. “Night Club Reviews: Club Tivoli, Juarez, Mexico.” Billboard 11 Dec 1937: 22.
  3. “Noted Orchestra At Casa del Rey.” The San Mateo Times and Daily News Leader 17 Jun. 1938: 14.
  4. Hyltone, David. “'Lizabeth Tilton Joins Baker.” Down Beat Aug. 1939: 27.
  5. Parsons, Louella. “In Hollywood.” The Cedar Rapids Gazette 22 Jan. 1941: 9.
  6. Fiddler, Jimmy. “In Hollywood.” Joplin Globe [Joplin, Missouri] 17 Jul. 1942: 8B.
  7. “Kenny Baker Made Kaysee Jump Around.” Down Beat 1 May 1943: 18.
  8. “LA Leaders Hit By Union Fines.” Down Beat 1 May 1943: 18.