Carroll Baker, the Canadian country music icon with more than 20 number one records, will be performing at the deCoste Centre on November 1st.
Most of that statement becomes all the more remarkable when you know that Baker never really intended to have a career in music and certainly never set out to dominate the charts.
“I didn’t choose it,” Baker said. “Getting in the music business, that was never something I planned on. I used to play guitar and sing at house parties but never had any hopes or designs on becoming a singer, it never entered my mind. But one night my husband and our friends went to a little club in Oakville and I wasn’t old enough to be in there. In those days you had to be 21 and I was 19…”
While she didn’t get ID’d she did get called up to sing with the band, a country band and sang the one country song she knew at the time – “Stand by Your Man”. The band then offered her a gig, which proved to be short lived when Baker, a Beatlemaniac, failed to expand her country repertoire beyond Tammy Wynette’s signature song.
Baker’s career continued to ebb and flow until she planned to pack it in in the early 70s.
“When I got to Nashville I had already decided not to sing anymore,” Baker said. “I was pregnant and I didn’t see myself being a mother and singing. I thought being a mother was going to be a huge job. My record producer (Don Grashey) asked me would I go to Nashville and make one more recording. He said, ‘You write a song about the baby and I’ll write a song about the baby’.”
Baker, hoping for a girl but expecting a boy, wrote ‘Little Boy Blue’ while Grashey wrote ‘Ten Little Fingers’ and suggested that if Baker’s baby was a boy they’d release her song and if it was a girl they’d release Grashey’s song.
‘Ten Little Fingers’ was released and hit #3 in the charts soon after.
“It was just a breakout moment in my career,” said Baker. “I still can’t believe it. It was such an important time in my life because I had a baby, and I had a top 5 record on the record charts.”
While Baker has written or co-written more than 50 songs, she’s never been too hung up on her own material to record someone else’s.
“For me it’s never been about whether I write the song or anything, it’s just been about the song,” Baker said. “It was always about what song hits me and I never, ever looked at the song from a recording artist point of view. I always looked at it as a fan.
“There’s been singers who can’t sing very well,” Baker said, “who’ve had great songs and number one hits but you rarely hear great singers record a bad song and get a number one hit. If the song is not there there’s not going to be a hit song and that’s the bottom line.”
Baker said she would often pick songs written by or intended for a male singer so she wouldn’t be influenced by or emulate other female singers. This idea was proven to be a successful one when her gender-flipped take on Conway Twitty’s ‘You’ve Never Been This Far Before’ became her first of 12 straight number ones. The cover not only kick started her chart success but sparked a long lasting friendship with Twitty as well.
“I was on tour with Conway,” Baker said. “Not a lot of Canadians were lucky enough to do that but I was. Conway and I had a great friendship for many, many years. There were not a lot of Canadians at that time who were having a great success. We didn’t have the chance to go out there and go on the road and fill concert houses ourselves. And most Americans brought their own opening acts. I think I got lucky with Conway because I recorded a song and had a smash hit with it that he wrote.”
Carroll Baker will bring opening act Andrew Frelick (Baker’s nephew) to the deCoste show.