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Musician Profile

Band Info

Johnny Baker – Drums and Vocals. I started playing violin in the school orchestra when I was twelve. When I left school, I started playing trombone with other school friends, and formed a jazz band when we were about sixteen. We were quite successful partly due to my friend’s elder brother who was the drummer, Chris Marchant. Towards my twenties I started playing drums as well; this was because there were very few drummers that new about New Orleans style of drumming. In 1962 I went to New Orleans and learned an incredible amount about all aspects of jazz, about the Blues and the relaxed New Orleans style. I met and played with all my heroes such as George Lewis, Jim Robinson, Kid Howard, and Kid Thomas Valentine. I played trombone with Harold Dejans brass band. I spent many hours with the best New Orleans drummers you could imagine, wonderful lessons from the likes of Lois Barberin and Cie Frazer. I went to churches to hear gospel singing and this was probably the biggest spark to start singing for myself. On my return to England I started my own band on trombone, and I led this for five years, also at this time I was playing drums, and one night at a gig in London the band leader of Mike Casimeirs Iberia Stompers came in and at the end of the session offered me the drumming chair in his band. I took the job, every Friday night we played in the White Hart Drury Lane in the west end and of cause lots of jazzers came and sat in, such as Ken Colyer, the Bozo Dog Dooda Boys, Larry and even Mark Knophier. These nights were just about as good as it gets. Mike Casimier played Trombone and he was a very good business man. He promoted New Orleans musicians from America to come to London and tour with the band; they included Kid Thomas, Preston Jackson, Alvin Alcorn and many more over the whole seventies. After Harold Dejans came to England and played at the 100 Club. I left the band and joined a fantastic young trumpeter called Colin Dawson. We took his band to Germany and did a grand tour, the band included the great Scottish piano player Graham Peterson, and he could play just like Alton Parnell. On my return from Germany I got a call from Ken Sims, John Petters had just left his band and Ken was looking for a drummer, Arthur Bird told Ken about me and I was in. I was with Ken Sims Dixie Kings for about eight wonderful years; we played the 100 Club once a month on Saturdays for more than two years. During this period Hugh Rainey was looking for a drummer after his drummer died suddenly and that was over thirty years ago and I have been with Hugh all this time.

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