Etta Baker - Honoring Black History

Etta Baker (1913-2006) masterfully played the Piedmont blues on multiple instruments for nearly 90 years. Etta was born Etta Lucille Reid in Caldwell County, North Carolina. By age 3 she had already begun to play the guitar, learning from her father, Boone Reid. He was her only musical instructor and taught her how to play the 6- and 12- string guitar in addition to the 5-string banjo. Growing up Etta, her father, and her sister, Cora, would play as a group for local dances but Etta herself wasn’t actively performing until she was a bit older. Her first formal recording took place in 1956 after a serendipitous encounter with folk musician Paul Clayton while Etta and her husband, Lee, were on vacation. Baker’s recordings appeared on Clayton’s album ‘Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians’ and is said to have inspired other prolific artists such as Taj Mahal and Bob Dylan during the folk revival of the 1960s. Etta further cultivated the classic two-finger picking style of guitar playing that has often defined Piedmont Blues, following in the footsteps of fellow North Carolina native Elizabeth Cotten. She beautifully played familiar rhythms with warm, intricate picking until her death at 93.