Women of the Piedmont Blues - Etta Baker
Etta Baker was born in the foothills of Caldwell County, in Morganton, North Carolina in 1913. She began playing guitar at the age of three. "I was so small, I had to lay the guitar on the bed, stand on the floor and play on the neck," she recalls. One of eight children, Etta quickly learned the guitar and joined her brothers and sisters playing for corn shuckings and other community events.
The story of her "discovery" is as extraordinary as her guitar mastery. On a summer day in 1956, Etta's father took the family to nearby Cone Mansion. Folksigner, Paul Clayton, happened to be walking the grounds with his guitar that day. "My daddy asked Paul to let me play One-Dime Blues. He was over the next day with his tape-recorder."
Paul Clayton issued Etta's renditions of One-Dime Blues and Railroad Bill on the landmark album "Instrumental Music from the Southern Appalachians" on Tradition Records. A young Taj Mahall was a college student in the early 1960s when he first heard those recordings. "I was immediately taken by her version of Railroad Bill. She is the greatest influence in my guitar playing."
In 1962, Paul Clayton brought his friends, Bob Dylan and Susie Rotolo to visit Etta at her home in Morganton to celebrate Dylan's 21st birthday. After his visit, Dylan rewrote Clayton's song Whose Going to Buy You Ribbons, When I'm Gone into his classic Don't Think Twice, It's Alright, in which you can clearly hear Etta's guitar influence.
A rare example of Etta's deft banjo picking.
From "The North Carolina Banjo Collection" available here
All of Etta Baker's music can be found at amazon.com