Richard R. “Duck” Baker IV, an Episcopal minister's son, was born in Washington, DC in 1949 and grew up in Richmond’s Fan District. While in high school (Thomas Jefferson) he became a regular at the Cary Street Coffeehouse and played guitar in various local bands. In 1973 Baker moved to San Francisco. His first album, “There’s Something for Everyone in America,” was released by Kicking Mule three years later.
For most of the 1980s Baker toured and lived in various parts of Europe. His act featured a variety of musical styles, which included: American rags, jazz, bluegrass and folk, plus traditional Celtic tunes, as well as his own compositions. Although Baker’s penchant for exploration has made him somewhat difficult for the critics and retailers to pigeonhole, it has earned him an intriguing niche. A short list of musicians with whom Baker has been associated includes: Charlie Musselwhite and Jerry Ricks (blues); Tim O’Brien and Dan Crary (bluegrass); J. J. Cale (rock ‘n’ roll); Jim Kweskin (jug band); avant-gardists John Zorn and Eugene Chadbourne; legendary jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd, and, among guitarists -- Leo Kottke, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, and Woody Mann.
To date Baker has released 15 albums and played on another 25 as a collaborator or sideman. Today the pleasantly sarcastic Baker lives as close to San Francisco as his temperament and budget can stand. Once or twice a year he performs in the Richmond area.
SLANT: What are your three favorite cities?
Baker: Paris. How could it not be? New York; Vancouver in the 60's, or San Francisco in the 70's, or just Venice.
SLANT: Since you are a baseball fan, with a decided leaning toward the San Francisco Giants, who are your all-time three favorite everyday baseball players from any team?
Baker: Willie Mays; Orlando Cepeda; Barry Bonds. I know Bonds isn't very cuddly and doesn't always hustle, but I've seen him win so many great games.
SLANT: How about your three favorite cars, which you’ve owned?
Baker: 1981 Datsun SW. Bought for $800 with 280,000 miles, sold three years later with 340,000. The only repairs were tires and brakes; 1970 Plymouth Duster -- oh, that slant-6! The others were just wheels.
SLANT: With war in the air, what are your three favorite feature films with war/anti-war backdrops or themes?
Baker: Tarkovsky's "Ivan's Childhood"; Kubrick's; "Doctor Strangelove"; Renoir's "The Grand Illusion."
SLANT: Who are your three favorite female vocalists that you’ve heard perform live?
Baker: Betty Carter -- by a mile; Molly Andrews; Dolores Keane.
SLANT: Name your all-time three favorite stand-up comedians?
Baker: In the late '80s, my manager worked mostly with stand-up. In fact he ran the famous Holy City Zoo club where Robin Williams got started, and I saw and shared shows with a lot of very funny guys, including some, like Rob Schneider, who have gotten to be big names. So, this would be a hard choice if I had to limit it to people I've seen live. Since I don't, it's going to be: Lord Buckley; Lenny Bruce; Robin Williams
SLANT: OK, let's hear your three favorite novels, or short stories, if you prefer?
Baker: "Joy of Man's Desiring" by Jean Giono; "Moby Dick"” by Melville; "The Sound and the Fury" by Faulkner, followed very closely by "The Crock of Gold" by James Stevens, "A Good Man is Hard to Find" (the whole collection, not just the title story) by Flannery O'Connor, "The Little Sister" by Raymond Chandler, "The Third Policeman" by Flan O’Brien, and "The Memory of Old Jack" by Wendell Berry
SLANT: And, your all-time three favorite sandwiches -- type and from what restaurant?
Baker: Pastrami on rye from Second Avenue in New York City; Any authentic North Carolina barbecue; Ahi at the Paradise Lounge, Princeville, Kuiai, Hawaii.
SLANT: OK, to wind it up, who are your three favorite American politicians, or cartoon characters, if you prefer.
Baker: R. Crumb's Mr. Natural; Justin Green's Binky Brown; William Douglas, not exactly a politician, but an office holder.
Wisely, Baker opted for a couple of ‘toons and one Supreme Court justice. A virtuoso guitarist, Duck Baker is among Richmond's most effective ambassadors at-large, traveling the world to reveal the Virginia he remembers with his music and dry wit.For more information visit Duck Baker's web site.