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.