Bonnie Baker

aka "Wee" Bonnie Baker

Photo of Bonnie Baker
  • Birth Name

    Evelyn Nelson
  • Born

    April 1, 1917
    Orange, Texas
  • Died

    August 11, 1990 (age 73)
    Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Orchestras

    Orrin Tucker

Diminutive big band singer “Wee” Bonnie Baker is best remembered today as vocalist on the 1939 Orrin Tucker hit “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!” Born Evelyn Nelson, she earned her nickname due to her short stature and a singing voice that made her sound very young. Baker also looked young. At only five foot tall, she weighed less than a hundred pounds and wore a size four shoe. Baker peppered her vocals with coos and sighs and a hint of innuendo, once prompting Billboard magazine to describe her voice as “sex-in-a-high-chair.”

Baker grew up in Houston and attended a private high school in Macon, Georgia, where she sang with a local bandleader. After graduation, she spent time working in Houston nightclubs before meeting Tucker, then a relatively unknown bandleader, in St. Louis in 1936. Tucker hired her on a recommendation from Louis Armstrong.

Baker’s career with Tucker was uneventful until the runaway success of “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!” a twenty-year-old World War I-era song which sold over a million-and-a-half copies. Baker’s singing style made her wildly popular in her own right, and she began to receive equal billing with Tucker. In 1940, she was voted most popular female band vocalist in Billboard’s annual college poll. Throughout the 1940s, she remained the most highly-imitated singer in show business. Baker made two Hollywood appearances while with Tucker’s orchestra, including the feature film You’re the One. She shared the cover of Down Beat magazine’s February 15, 1940, issue with pianist and bandleader Joe Sanders.

Post-Band Years

After the success of “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!” rumors constantly flew that Baker would leave Tucker. That moment finally came in January 1942 when Tucker announced a shake-up of his entire vocal staff, with Baker leaving to go solo. Out on her own in February, Baker’s popularity soared. When Tucker enlisted in the Navy in mid-1942, she turned down an offer to front the band in his absence. As a solo act traveling with her own vaudeville unit and singing with various orchestras, she was making far more money than she could on a band salary.

Baker remained extremely popular through the mid-1940s. On January 30, 1943, she made the cover of Billboard and later that year sang several numbers in the Monogram feature film Spotlight Scandals. Baker’s popularity began to decline slightly after the war, though she continued touring and performing on the theater circuit as well as on radio and occasionally television. She recorded solo for the Memo label in 1946 and on Universal in 1948. In 1952, she recorded with Mel Blanc and Billy May on Capitol, singing opposite Blanc’s Porky Pig, Tweety and Sylvester characters, and in 1956 she provided vocals for two Chilly Willy cartoons.

Baker married four times during the 1930s and 1940s, the first to a man named Lakey in 1937. In October 1940, she and Tucker announced plans to wed. Even after she had left the band, in fall 1942, they apparently still intended to marry. How much of this was just the dreams of a publicity agent is unknown however. In interviews while with Tucker’s band, Baker typically insisted that she had no romantic interests in Tucker. In October 1943, she legally changed her name to her stage moniker and became engaged to a soldier, Lieutenant Johnnie Morse. The two married in December and were still together two years later. In March 1948, she married her manager, Frank Taylor. The couple had a child in October 1948 and divorced in October 1949. In spring 1950, Baker married comedy writer Bill Rogers. The pair teamed up, with Rogers playing guitar and writing specialty songs for her.

Baker and Rogers continued performing as a team into the 1960s. Baker came to hate her signature song, as audiences always called for it. She grew tired of singing it, estimating that she performed it two thousand times each year.

By 1975, Baker had married a fifth time, to a man named Gailey. Bonnie Baker passed away in 1990, age 73.


  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. Walker, Leo. The Wonderful Era of the Great Dance Bands. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1972.
  3. “Bonnie Baker.” IMDb. Accessed 24 Dec. 2015.
  4. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 10 Apr. 1937: 16.
  5. “The Reviewing Stand: Orrin Tucker.” Billboard 29 Oct. 1938: 22.
  6. “Vaudeville Reviews: Chicago, Chicago.” Billboard 29 Oct. 1938: 22.
  7. “Vaudeville Reviews: Chicago, Chicago.” Billboard 5 Nov. 1938: 24.
  8. “Vaudeville Reviews: Empire Room, Panther House, Chicago.” Billboard 19 Nov. 1938: 21.
  9. “Record Buying Guide.” Billboard 18 Nov. 1939: 64.
  10. Toll, Ted. “Tucker-Baker Hit New High.” Down Beat 1 Feb. 1940: 21.
  11. “Tucker, Bonnie Baker at Variety's Ball.” The Milwaukee Sentinel 1 Feb. 1940: 6-D.
  12. “On the Cover.” Down Beat 15 Feb. 1940: 1.
  13. “It's 'Queen' Bonnie Baker Now.” The Milwaukee Journal 25 Feb. 1940: 11.
  14. “Night Club Reviews: Hotel Waldorf-Astoria Empire Room, New York.” Billboard 13 Apr. 1940: 28.
  15. “Who's Who in Music: Orrin Tucker's Band.” Down Beat 15 Mar. 1940: 18.
  16. “Vaudeville Reviews: Fox, St. Louis.” Billboard 25 May 1940: 22.
  17. “Vaudeville Reviews: Paramount, New York.” Billboard 13 Jul. 1940: 24.
  18. Willse, Bill. “Bonnie, Orrin Still Kill 'Em.” Down Beat 1 Sep. 1940: 19.
  19. “Wee Bonnie Baker to Wed Maestro.” Spokane Daily Chronicle 18 Oct. 1940: 14.
  20. “Tucker-Baker Hitching.” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1940: 8.
  21. “Bonnie Baker Turns Towhead.” Spokane Daily Chronicle 13 Nov. 1940: 10.
  22. Advertisement. “Holiday Greetings.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1940: 15.
  23. “On the Air: Orrin Tucker.” Billboard 1 Feb. 1941: 12.
  24. “Night Club Reviews: Biltmore Hotel, Bowman Room, New York.” Billboard 1 Feb. 1941: 18.
  25. “Ho Hum, Bonnie Leaves Tucker.” Down Beat 15 Jan. 1942: 2.
  26. “O. Tucker Shuffles Chirpers Wholesale.” Billboard 24 Jan. 1942: 13.
  27. “Talent and Tunes on Music Machines.” Billboard 24 Jan. 1942: 59.
  28. “Campus Picks Top Chirps.” Billboard 2 May 1942: 19.
  29. “Collegiate Choice of Female Vocalists.” Billboard 2 May 1942: 21.
  30. “Radio Talent.” Billboard 6 Jun. 1942: 7.
  31. “Vaudeville Reviews: Oriental, Chicago.” Billboard 6 Jun. 1942: 16.
  32. “Wee Bonnie and Prager on Tour.” Down Beat 1 Aug. 1942: 4.
  33. “Chicago Band Briefs.” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1942: 5.
  34. Cover. Billboard 30 Jan. 1943: 1.
  35. “Kenton Revisits St. Louis.” Down Beat 1 Feb. 1943: 9.
  36. “Wee Bonnie and Herb Miller.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1943: 11.
  37. “Bonnie Adopts name Legally.” Billboard 16 Oct. 1943: 15.
  38. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 15 Nov. 1943: 5.
  39. “Marriages.” Billboard 18 Dec. 1943: 31.
  40. “Tied Notes.” Down Beat 1 Jan. 1944: 10.
  41. “Bud Johnson Sends Detroit.” Down Beat 15 Jan. 1944: 5.
  42. Manners, Dian. “Men, Maids & Manners.” Down Beat 14 Jan. 1946: 7.
  43. “Bonnie Baker Records.” Down Beat 28 Jan. 1946: 6.
  44. “Agencies Push Disk Deals with Indies.” Billboard 1 Jun. 1946: 39.
  45. Holly, Hal. “Los Angeles Band Briefs.” Down Beat 29 Jul. 1946: 6.
  46. “Wee Bonnie Baker, Manager Married.” The St. Petersburg Evening Independent [St. Petersburg, Florida] 19 Mar. 1948: 16.
  47. “Marriages.” Billboard 10 Apr. 1948: 50.
  48. “Tied Notes.” Down Beat 21 Apr. 1948: 10.
  49. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 14 Jul. 1948: 5.
  50. “Music as Written.” Billboard 23 Oct. 1948: 41.
  51. “Lost Harmony.” Down Beat 16 Dec. 1949: 10.
  52. Harris, Pat. “Chicago Band Briefs.” Down Beat 30 Dec. 1949: 4.
  53. “Music as Written.” Billboard 18 Nov. 1950: 18.
  54. “Little Bonnie Baker Is Tired of 'Johnny.'” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 7 Jun. 1951: 13.
  55. Advertisement. Billboard 26 Dec. 1952: 23.
  56. Advertisement. The Southeast Missourian [Cape Girardeau, Missouri] 15 Jun. 1961: 10.
  57. “United States, Social Security Numerical Identification Files (NUMIDENT), 1936-2007,” database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2023), Evelyn Nelson Lakey.