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August 21, 1915: Jazz Singer Ann Baker Born

ann_baker.jpg
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia
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Jazz singer Ann Baker was born on August 21, 1915. She got her start performing in Pittsburgh jazz clubs and made her Broadway debut with Louis Armstrong’s band in the early 1940s.

She later joined the bands of Lionel Hampton and Count Basie. 

In 1946, she landed her signature gig, replacing Sarah Vaughan in Billy Eckstine’s band, which included, at different times, jazz legends Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, and Dexter Gordon.

As big bands faded from popularity in the late 1940s, Baker retired and married Charleston tennis star and restaurateur Delaney “Wag” Wagner, who owned a downtown Charleston hot spot. Baker began to perform in Charleston with local combos like The Earl Tate Trio, The Francis Taylor Trio, and the Billy J Trio. She and her husband also started The Shalamar club, where Baker sat in with a succession of big names from Nat King Cole to Errol Garner.

Before integration, the Shalamar attracted Charleston’s elite. In her 70s, Baker became a regular at the West Virginia Jazz Festival and performed several times on Mountain Stage.

She died in Charleston in 1999 at age 84.


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