Jazz Great Dr. Margie Baker

Margie Baker

Artist Biography by William Ruhlmann

Jazz singer Margie Baker pursued her musical career part-time for many years while maintaining a full-time job in the San Francisco school district and raising a family. She was born in Center, TX, in about 1937. During World War II, she moved with her mother to San Francisco, where her mother worked as a riveter in the shipbuilding industry. At 15, she graduated from high school and went to the University of California at Berkeley on a scholarship, transferring after two years to San Francisco State University, where she got her bachelor’s degree in education. She taught elementary school while taking night classes to get her master’s and, later, Ph.D. degree. She spent decades working in the administration of the San Francisco school district, ultimately as Director of Compensatory Education, in charge of disbursing federal funds to help students at risk, and remained at the job until her retirement.

Meanwhile, Baker maintained a very different moonlighting career. In the 1950s, she chaperoned her younger sister-in-law, Mary Stallings, a jazz singer, at nightclubs where she encountered and befriended musicians like Dizzy Gillespieand James Moody. Always a jazz and blues fan, she began singing professionally in 1973. She was employed primarily by the Hilton hotel chain, performing at Henri’s Room in the San Francisco Hilton two nights a week during the school year and five nights a week during the summer, also traveling to Hilton hotels in other parts of the country and around the world. After her retirement from her day job, she was able to devote more time to performing. In 2003, a concert she gave in San Francisco’s Jazz Preservation District was recorded and released locally as her debut CD, Live at Rassalas. In 2005, at the age of 68, she had her first national album release with Live at Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, issued by CAP Records.

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