LAVERN BAKER Biography - Musicians


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Name: LaVern Baker                                                                     
Born: 11 November 1929                                                                 
Died: 10 March 1997                                                                     
LaVern Baker (November 11, 1929 - March 10, 1997) was an American Rhythm & Blues       
She was born Delores Baker in Chicago, Illinois. She is occasionally referred to       
as Delores Williams because of an early marriage to Eugene Williams. She was the       
niece of blues singer Merline Johnson and was also related to Memphis Minnie.           
She began singing in Chicago clubs around 1946, often billed as "Little Miss           
Sharecropper", and first recorded under that name in 1949. She changed her name         
briefly to "Bea Baker" when recording for Okeh Records in 1951, and then became         
LaVern Baker when singing with Todd Rhodes and his band in 1952.                       
In 1953 she signed for Atlantic Records as a solo artist, her first release             
being "Soul on Fire". Her first hit came in early 1955, with the Latin-tempo "Tweedlee 
Dee" reaching #4 on the R&B chart and #14 on the national US pop charts. Georgia       
Gibbs scored the bigger hit with her version of "Tweedle Dee", for which Baker         
unsuccessfully attempted to sue her. LaVern did manage to get in a jab, however.       
When LaVern was flying to Australia, she took out flight insurance at the               
airport and sent it to Gibbs with a note: "You need this more than I do because         
if anything happens to me, you're out of business."                                     
Baker had a succession of hits on the R&B charts over the next couple of years         
with her backing group The Gliders, including "Bop-Ting-A-Ling" (#3 R&B), "Play         
It Fair" (#2 R&B), and "Still" (#4 R&B). At the end of 1956 she had another             
smash hit with "Jim Dandy" (#1 R&B, #17 pop). Further hits followed for Atlantic,       
including the follow-up "Jim Dandy Got Married" (#7 R&B), "I Cried A Tear" (#2 R&B,     
#6 pop in 1959), "I Waited Too Long" (#5 R&B, #3 pop, written by Neil Sedaka), "Saved" 
(#17 R&B, written by Leiber and Stoller), and "See See Rider" (#9 R&B in 1963).         
In addition to singing, Baker also did some work with Ed Sullivan and Alan Freed       
on TV and in films, including Rock, Rock, Rock and Mr. Rock & Roll. In 1964, she       
recorded a Bessie Smith tribute album, before leaving Atlantic and joining             
Brunswick Records, where she recorded as a duo with Jackie Wilson.                     
In the late 1960s, she became seriously ill after a trip to Vietnam to entertain       
American soldiers. About that same time, a friend recommended that she stay on         
as the entertainment director at a Marine Corps night club at the Subic Bay             
Naval Base in the Philippines, and she remained there for 22 years.                     
In 1988 she returned to perform at Madison Square Garden for Atlantic Records'         
40th anniversary. She then worked on the soundtrack to Dick Tracy and appeared         
in Black & Blue, a Broadway musical, and released a comeback disc that sold             
moderately well.                                                                       
In 1991, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her song "Jim           
Dandy" was named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped         
Rock and Roll and was ranked #343 on the Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Rock Songs       
of All Time.                                                                           
LaVern Baker died from coronary complications in 1997, and was interred in the         
Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, New York.