Kenny Baker

Tenor vocalist Kenny Baker, sometimes credited as the more formal Kenneth Baker, had a lengthy career on Broadway and in television and radio, including associations with performers such as Judy Garland, Jack Benny, and Fred Allen. He is no relation to other performers named Kenny Baker which include a bluegrass fiddler, a British jazz trumpeter, and an R&B saxophonist, not to mention to the dimunitive actor famous for his portrayal of the robot R2-D2. This Kenny Baker was involved was many productions that are arguably just as entertaining as the Star Wars series, most notably several variety series involving the aforementioned comic geniuses Benny and Allen. The singer himself, believe it or not, replaced the cigar-chomping Groucho Marx on a series entitled Blue Ribbon Town because the producers thought Baker would be more entertaining. Baker joined the Benny brigade in the 1935 season, and was the third singer to be featured on the show, replacing James Melton. The character he played was an early version of the role eventually made famous by Dennis Day. The part was for a vocalist, sure, but it also involved lampooning said crooner. Baker left following the 1938-1939 season, moving on to the Allen show. Speaking of things Marxian, Baker also appeared with the Marx Brothers in the film The Big Circus, and on Broadway in shows such as One Touch of Venus with Mary Martin and The Harvey Girls with Garland. He was also a logical choice for the cast of films about Broadway, including Canteen starring Katherine Hepburn. On his own, Baker also recorded several albums of show tunes as well as a religious album that was tied into his devout background as a Christian Scientist. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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