Kenny Baker

Kenny Baker
Clarence Bull / MGM Photo

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Kenny Baker
Radio: North side of the 6300 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Actor | Singer
Born Sept. 30, 1912 in Monrovia, CA
Died Aug. 10, 1985 of heart attack in Solvang, CA

Kenny Baker, a radio songster and daffy and muddled foil for Jack Benny on the comedian's old network show, also established a separate film and stage presence in a series of musical comedies.

He was a young music student at Long Beach City College when his pristine tenor voice won him a radio contest. His initial reward was an engagement at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, where he was brought to Benny's attention in the mid-1930s.

On the Benny show he succeeded Frank Parker as a slightly askew youth whose bemusing logic baffled Benny and listeners alike but whose music provided a pleasant interlude to the program's zaniness. It was a role that Dennis Day was to later perfect.

Baker left Benny for his own radio program and later sang on the air for Fred Allen. Just before World War II he toured with Frances Langford in theaters across the country.

He made his first film, "King of Burlesque," in 1936 and made 14 others before "The Calendar Girl" in 1947, his final picture.

He had also brought "The Mikado" to the screen in 1939. "A Wandering Minstrel," from that Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, was to become his signature song.

He also was the off-screen singing voice for many actors in various Paramount, 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney productions.

In 1943 he starred on Broadway with Mary Martin in "One Touch of Venus." His other stage performances included "Up in Central Park" and "Song of Norway."

Baker had retired in the 1950s, telling the Los Angeles Times in 1954 that personal appearances across the country had made him "almost a stranger with my children."

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