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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Edythe Baker born 25 August 1899


Edythe  A. Baker (August 25, 1899 – August 15, 1971)** was an American boogie-woogie pianist.
Baker was born in poverty in Girard, Kansas to Asa and Sophronia Baker. After her mother died around 1910 she was sent to Kansas City, Missouri to live, and attended a convent. There she was trained in piano fundamentals, eventually working for a music store. After touring with a vaudeville troupe in 1918, Edythe moved to New York City in 1919. There she made piano rolls (for Aeolian and Duo-Art) between 1919 and 1926; these included ragtime and pop pieces. She worked on Broadway in musicals and performed with vaudeville troupes such as the Ziegfeld Follies. 
In 1926, Baker relocated to England, and recorded twenty two pieces there between 1927 and 1933. She became a star there after appearing in revues in 1927. She married into the banking family of Gerard d'Erlanger in 1928.  While Edythe would not appear on the stage in public again, she was not through with her career, which was simply on hold. With Gerard she traveled the world from time to time. The couple was seen on a few passenger lists, including one returning from Durban, South Africa, in September, 1930.
In late 1931 Edythe went back to the recording studios, for Decca, where she started on a series of 16 sides that are still regarded as fine performances of otherwise average pieces. Mrs. d'Erlanger was successful in maintaining her social status and that of her husband's while playing jazz at some functions as well as the recordings. Her last session was in February 1933, the height of the Great Depression, and little more would be heard from the fingers of Edythe Baker d'Erlanger.
 
 


Trouble had been brewing at home as both Edythe and Gerard - more Gerard according to some reports - had been stepping out from time to time. The childless couple finally divorced in 1934. He soon remarried, but she remained at large. Among those she was often seen with, and commented on in the press, was Edward, Prince of Wales and his younger brother George, the Duke of Kent. The speculation raged in January 1936 when Edward was finally crowned King Edward VIII, still a single man.
The pianist and some companions took a trip to Trinidad in the spring of 1938 on the Simon Bolivar. After that, by 1939 virtually all mentions of Edythe disappeared from the press, and she had settled to a quiet life in London. She was listed in directories from 1936 through 1944 with the same phone number throughout, MAYfair 5852, at two different addresses.
 In August 1945, just at the end of World War II, Edythe sailed back to New York on the George H. Pendleton, and evidently resettled in the United States, likely in New York City for a while. Some sources state that whilst there shebecame a piano teacher in Wurstboro, New York. She made another trip to England in 1958 aboard the United States, and now at nearly 59 years, listed herself as retired.
Little is known about Edythe past that point, she had possibly resettled in Southern California. As it turns out, she had married Maine native Girard S. Brewer in Orange, California, on December 2, 1961. The couple resided there through the time of Edythe’s death, which was on August 15, 1971. Girard Brewer survived her until October of 1978.
Fortunately through the efforts of dedicated piano roll collectors and record restorers she is not totally forgotten. Hopefully her recordings will bring the lovely Ms. Baker the recognition she deserves for her unique style of piano playing and her overall presence in the world of music.
A selection of Baker's piano rolls, recorded by Dave Jasen, were reissued on an album released by Folkways Records in 1983.  
** Previously recorded dates of August 3, 1895 to November 22, 1965, were erroneously applied from another Edythe Baker who was born in Michigan and died in New York.
(Info Wikipedia and ragpiano.com) 

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