Etta Baker is Known for Her Mastery of the Guitar, But Every Now and Then She Sang Too

February 10, 2019


Etta Baker is one of North Carolina’s most famous Piedmont blues guitarists. Born in Caldwell County, she started learning guitar from her father when she was three. Her masterful, emotive pickin’ first appeared in 1956 on the album Instrumental Music from the Southern Appalachians, but it took 35 years before her next recording - and first solo record - One Dime Blues appeared. That album arose from many years of recording sessions produced by Wayne Martin, our host of “Director’s Cut.”

“I felt like she was one of the most extraordinary expressive musicians who I had ever met,” says Wayne Martin. “I remember hearing her play John Henry with a slide and I can remember my thought: I’m in the presence of a musical genius.” 

Etta Baker’s sound and style influenced the likes of Bob Dylan and Taj Mahal.  In this episode of Director's Cut, Wayne Martin shares "Broken Hearted Blues,” a rare recording that features Baker both playing guitar and singing. “Most of the time she would let the guitar do the talking for her,” says Wayne. “But just very occasionally she would sing.” 

Director's Cut is a special music themed season of Arts Across NC, curated in celebration of Come Hear North Carolina, a campaign for the 2019 North Carolina Year of Music. In each episode NC Arts Council Director Wayne Martin will unearth a field recording from the archive he built during his 30+ year tenure with our agency. Each song represents a different region of North Carolina.

"These pieces that I've chosen are part of the fabric of who we are as a people," says Wayne. "They are pieces that tell the story of North Carolina.

Arts Across NC is a podcast by and about the North Carolina Arts Council.


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