Mickey “Guitar” Baker



By Chip Taylor

Mickey was a leading session player in the late 50s for Atlantic, Savoy & King Records. When I was signed to King Records, he played lead guitar on all my recordings. (I think we recorded eight single sides). Mickey was amazing! I remember listening to the playbacks and getting so moved when his solo would come up. He had a sound that could make you shiver.

I remember Mickey as a very cordial, heartfelt guy… and he wasn’t a clock-watcher. Back in those days you had three hours to record four songs. If you went overtime the union overtime rule would kick in and the musicians were supposed to be paid more money. But Mickey & Panama Francis (legendary drummer, also on my sessions for the King singles) and the rest waved that rule – they cared more about getting it right And they loved hanging around and listening to the playbacks when the session was over.

In 1956, with a girl named Sylvia Vanderpool, Mickey had a huge duet hit. Billed as Mickey & Sylvia, their record, “Love Is Strange”, went to the top of the charts.

Because great session musicians, particularly in the U.S., seldom get the respect they deserve from the general public, Mickey is most remembered for that hit. But when I told jazz great Bill Frisell that Mickey had played on my early sessions, he just about fell on the floor. He’s on Bill’s high pedestal.. just maybe his rock & roll guitar hero of all time.

For Bill and the rest of us, Mickey is certainly a deserving Rock & Roll Joe.

Posted in Guitarists

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