Before Ray Charles, There Was W.C. Baker, and He’s “Going Back Home”

W.C. Baker (bass guitar) and the Co Ops at Tobacco Road in Miami, FL 1985 – FL Archives – Photo by Laurie K Summers (public domain)

W.C. Baker’s “Rumors About My Baby” is the first known release on Henry Stone’s Rockin’ Records label from 1952, good old GR-170-1, a 78rpm slab of history worth double and triple digits at auction today.

But his best song is “Going Back Home Today” which came out a few releases later.

 

 

W.C. Baker is a blues man from Live Oak, FL. In the early 50’s, he worked as a shipping clerk for Henry Stone from the same Miami warehouse and studio where Stone recorded Ray Charles. Baker called himself a musician and so Stone recorded him. Thanks to Stone, Baker also wrote a song for Hank Ballard and The Midnighters.

In the 1980’s, Baker found himself the leader of one of the house bands at Tobacco Road, and this is back when the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton were partying there.

 

 

W.C. Baker outside his Miami home – FL Archives photo by Nancy Nusz

“I’ve been here in Miami since 1950,” W.C. told Miami Dade Folklife fieldworker Laurie K. Sommers in a mid eighties interview. The recorded half-hour interview is presented below.

You can tell that Baker is so proud of his recorded work, he even plays it back for Sommers to hear, and despite the interviewer’s misconceptions in general about the music business, it is only because of Henry Stone that Baker’s work was recorded, manufactured, and distributed to the point that she could find it or care about it decades later.

It’s all in the official archives of the State of Florida, where it is described below. Check out this great interview where W.C. talks all about it.

 

 

“Two reel to reel tapes. (Copied onto C86-132/133.) Interview with blues singer and Dixieland jazz musician William C. Baker. Born in Live Oak, Florida, Baker was a blues singer known as Big Boy Baker in the 1930s-1950s. He recorded numerous records in Florida, and even won Amateur Night at the Apollo in 1948. He moved to Miami in 1950. After a car accident in the 1950s, he switched to Dixieland jazz, and formed the Dixie Cooperates. He discusses starting out in music in Live Oak; his musical influences; black life in North Florida; moving to Chicago; life in Pompano Beach; appearing on radio in Fort Lauderdale (WFTL); recording 78rpm albums in Miami; various Florida night clubs; forming his band; his car accident; and Dixieland jazz. For a performance by Baker and his band, see S 1576, T86-88 – T86-90. For more information, see the fieldnotes on W.C. Baker in S 1628, Box 1, folder 10. The Dade Folk Arts Survey was conducted in 1986 by folklorists Tina Bucuvalas, Nancy Nusz and Laurie Sommers in order to identify folk arts and folk artists for the special folklife area at the 34th Annual Florida Folk Festival. The traditions are mainly Haitian, Jamaican, Mexican, Bahamian, Cuban and Jewish and cover a wide range of skills and art forms.”

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