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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Old-Time TOTW #219: Laughing Boy (9/4722)

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

FiddlerPaul71 - Posted - 09/04/2022:  08:12:47

Old-Time TOTW #219 is Laughing Boy from the playing of Kenneth "Kenny" Clayton Baker (26 June 1926--8 july 2011). He was born in Letcher County, KY, and was the son of Thaddeus Earl Roberson Baker (1897-1968) and Edith Myrtle Vanover (1897-1981). He married Audrey Sizemore (1923-2012) on 9 November 1946. Baker died in Sumner County, TN. (source for above, Ancestry and public documents)

His father and grandfather/s were coal miners in Wise County, VA, and adjoining Letcher County, KY, and played fiddle as well. Young Baker took up fiddle at age eight, but also learned guitar from his elder brother, Carl.

He left school early to serve in the U. S. Navy during WWII, This is when he began his musical career touring with the USO in the South Pacific. He later played with several small ensembles and then went on to play with Bill Monroe longer than any other member. He was known for his "long bow" style and was considered one of the most influential bluegrass fiddlers. In 1993 he received a National Heritage fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1999 he was elected to the Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor.

There is a great article online that was written by Alice Foster for Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine in December 1968. The article includes many quotes from Baker and was written from a taped interview with Baker in September 1968:

Regarding the tune Laughing Boy, Traditional Tune Archive states:

"Known as a Texas tune (played by Benny Thomasson and others in AEAc#), but popularised by Kenny Baker (standard tuning) in his 1968 recording so that it has become more widespread. The reel is usually played in the key of 'A', crosstuned, and features plucked or pizzicato notes. John Hartford remarked that fiddler Texas Shorty (Jim Chancellor) thought Thomasson may have composed it."

I will add that the tune sounds a lot like "Goin Down the River" to my ear, and was undoubtedly influenced by that tune.

My take on the tune is closer to what Baker played, but I play it in GDGD tuning whereas Baker played it in standard (GDAE) tuning. Benny Thomasson played it in calico (AEAC#) tuning.

Joining me are friends Jeanie Thieken on guitar (Hocking Hills, OH), Susan Sterngold on banjo (Suffern, NY), and Timm Reasbeck on bass (Clarendon, PA).

Jeanie, along with Nick Weiland and Mark Barsamian, play in the band Jeanie and the Dreamers.

Check them out at:

My Patreon:

Old-Time TOTW group on Facebook:

The recording of Baker playing Laughing Boy is from Larry Warren's Slippery-Hill:

Please consider making a donation to Slippery-Hill to help keep it going.

RichJ - Posted - 09/05/2022:  07:33:32

Love it Paul. See more comment on your YT channel.

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