N.B.'s Kidd Baker played his way into the hearts of Canadians from coast to coast
For generations, the Maritimes had a reputation for producing some of the biggest names in old-time, country music; like Don Messer and Hank Snow.
There was another country artist who also became a headliner: Kidd Baker, who ruled the country music scene.
Within New Brunswick's provincial archives, there is a document from a different era in country music, an era when musicians from the Maritimes were household names. Though, long ago, those names and faces, faded from the limelight.
It's a program for the Kidd Baker show with the various musicians and entertainers who were part of the show.
The program speaks to the Maritime music scene of the 30s, 40s and 50s.
“It is a valued piece in part because it’s kind of, one of a kind,” said Fred Farrell, the New Brunswick provincial archivist. “Despite the fact that there were probably hundreds or even thousands of them produced at the time, because he toured for years.”
Baker headed up a hugely popular travelling show called the Maritime Ranch Boys.
Years after he retired, baker spoke with ATV's Dave Wright about those early days on the road and how he learned to build a loyal audience.
“Never once thought of the money was at the gate down there if you know what I mean,” Baker said in the interview with Wright. “What I was doing was playing for next year, you know what I mean, you put the show on for next year.”
Baker’s shows mixed music with a Maritimer's sense of humour.
“Some people call this the violin,” Baker said. “Others call it the fiddle, I stuck to the fiddle, cause I never figured I could play the violin.”
The walls of the New Brunswick Country Music Hall Of Fame are covered with the faces and names of decades of entertainers, including one for Baker's induction in 1983.
Baker was among the first inductees and he went in with good company, alongside Messer, Ned Landry and George Hector.
But the people who chose to put Baker on the wall of honour say it was an easy decision to make.
"Well he was so well known. He was somebody who lived all across Canada, even in British Columbia for a few years, and had a TV show out there,” said music columnist Gerry Taylor.
Taylor, who is also in the hall of fame, was on the committee that nominated Baker.
He says Baker's touring entourage of cars, trucks and trailers, was the talk of every town he visited.
“He took sound equipment and everything with him,” Taylor said. “Most of these people relied on the place where they were playing to provide that sort of thing, but this guy brought his own, and that made him so different from your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, on-the-road musician touring.”
“I had a sound truck even,” Baker told Wright. “Like you have there. A truck like that with loudspeakers on it, and names all over it. My brother would go ahead of me, and in the afternoon he'd broadcast all afternoon, play the records and announce where we were gonna be.”
It was a time when even big-name musicians had to be their own promoters and publicists, and rise above humble beginnings.
“He comes from a pretty small place, North Tilley, up in Victoria County,” Farrell said. “He was a talented musician; played multiple instruments.”
Baker was a musician who played his way into the hearts of Canadians from coast to coast.
“It harkens back to a time period that lots of people have forgotten about,” Farrell said.
It was a time when Maritime musicians ruled the radio, and were the stars of stages well beyond the region.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron.