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Ginger Baker

Ginger Baker
Baker behind an elaborate drum kit
Ginger Baker in 2011
Background information
Birth name Peter Edward Baker
Born (1939-08-19) 19 August 1939
Lewisham, South London, England
Genres Rock, jazz, blues
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Drums, percussion, vocals, piano
Years active 1958–present
Labels Polydor, Warner Bros., Island, Universal, Atlantic
Associated acts Baker Gurvitz Army, Ginger Baker's Air Force, Hawkwind, Public Image Ltd., Atomic Rooster, Masters of Reality, Ginger Baker Trio, BBM, Fela Kuti
Website .comgingerbaker

Peter Edward "Ginger" Baker (born 19 August 1939) is an English drummer, best known as the founder of the rock band Cream.[1] Baker's work in the 1960s earned him praise as "rock's first superstar drummer", although his individual style melded a jazz background with his personal interest in African rhythms. Baker is an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Cream and is widely considered one of the most influential drummers of all time, recognised by his induction into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2008.[2]

Baker began playing drums at age 15, and later took lessons from Eric Clapton in 1966. Cream achieved worldwide success but lasted just two years, in part due to Baker's and Bruce's volatile relationship. After briefly working with Clapton in Blind Faith and leading Ginger Baker's Air Force, Baker spent several years in the 1970s living and recording in Africa, often with Fela Kuti, in pursuit of his long-time interest in African music. Among Baker's other collaborations are his work with Gary Moore, Masters of Reality and Public Image Ltd, Atomic Rooster, Bill Laswell, jazz bassist Charlie Haden, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and another personally led effort, Ginger Baker's Energy.

Baker's drumming attracted attention for his style, showmanship, and use of two bass drums instead of the conventional one. In his early days, he performed lengthy drum solos, the best known being the five-minute solo from the Cream song "Toad", one of the earliest recorded examples in rock music. Baker is noted for his eccentric, often self-destructive lifestyle; he struggled with heroin addiction for many years, moved around the world often after making enemies, and has been beset with financial and tax troubles, partially as a result of his polo hobby. He has been married four times and has fathered three children.


  • Biography 1
    • Early life and career 1.1
    • Cream 1.2
    • Blind Faith 1.3
    • Ginger Baker's Air Force 1.4
    • 1970s 1.5
    • 1980s and '90s 1.6
    • 2000s 1.7
  • Documentaries 2
  • Style 3
  • Legacy 4
  • Discography 5
    • The Storyville Jazz Men and The Hugh Rainey Allstars 5.1
    • Graham Bond Organisation 5.2
    • Cream discography 5.3
    • Blind Faith discography 5.4
    • Ginger Baker's Air Force discography 5.5
    • Baker Gurvitz Army discography 5.6
    • Solo discography 5.7
    • Other 5.8
  • Instruments and sound 6
    • Drums 6.1
    • Cymbals 6.2
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Baker performing with Cream on the Dutch television program "Fanclub" in 1968

Early life and career

Baker was born in Lewisham, South London. His mother worked in a tobacco shop; his father, Frederick Louvain Formidable Baker, was a bricklayer and Lance Corporal in the Royal Corps of Signals in WWII who died in the 1943 Dodecanese Campaign.[3]

An athletic child, Baker began playing drums at about 15 years old. In the early 1960s he took lessons from Jack Bruce. The Graham Bond Organisation was an R&B/blues group with strong jazz leanings, .


Baker founded the rock band Cream in 1966 with Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton. An innovative and fusion of blues, psychedelic rock and hard rock, the band released four albums in a little over two years before breaking up in 1968.[4]

Blind Faith

Baker then joined the short-lived "supergroup" Blind Faith, composed of Clapton, bassist Ric Grech, and Stevie Winwood on vocals. They released one album.

Ginger Baker's Air Force

In 1970 Baker formed, toured and recorded with fusion rock group Ginger Baker's Air Force.


Baker lived in Nigeria from 1970 until 1976.[5] He sat in for Fela Kuti[6] during recording sessions in 1971 released by Regal Zonophone as Live! (1971)'[7] Fela also appeared with Ginger Baker on Stratavarious (1972) alongside Bobby Gass,[8] a pseudonym for Bobby Tench[1] from The Jeff Beck Group. Stratavarious was later re-issued as part of the compilation Do What You Like.[9] Baker formed Baker Gurvitz Army in 1974 and recorded three albums with them before the band broke up in 1976.

1980s and '90s

In the early 1980s, Baker joined Hawkwind for an album and tour, and in the mid-1980s was part of John Lydon's Public Image Ltd., the latter leading to occasional collaborations with bassist/producer Bill Laswell.

In 1992 Baker played with the hard-rock group Masters of Reality with bassist Googe and singer/guitarist Chris Goss on the album Sunrise on the Sufferbus. The album received critical acclaim but sold fewer than 10,000 copies.

Baker lived in Parker, Colorado, a rural suburb of Denver, between 1993 and 1999, in part due to his passion for polo. Baker not only participated in polo events at the Salisbury Equestrian Park, but he also sponsored an ongoing series of jam sessions and concerts at the equestrian centre on weekends.[10]

In 1994 he formed The Ginger Baker Trio with bassist Charlie Haden and guitarist Bill Frisell. He also joined BBM, a short-lived power trio with the line-up of Baker, Jack Bruce and Irish blues rock guitarist Gary Moore.


On 3 May 2005, Baker reunited with Eric Clapton and Bruce for a series of Cream concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Garden. The London concerts were recorded and released as Royal Albert Hall London May 2–3–5–6 2005 (2005),[11] In a Rolling Stone article written in 2009, Bruce is quoted as saying: "It's a knife-edge thing between me and Ginger. Nowadays, we're happily co-existing in different continents [Bruce lives in Britain, Baker in South Africa] ... although I was thinking of asking him to move. He's still a bit too close".[12]

Baker on 21 March 1980, Zemun, Serbia, Yugoslavia

In 2008 a bank clerk, Lindiwe Noko, was charged with defrauding him of almost half a million Rand ($60,000).[13] The bank clerk claimed that it was a gift after she and Baker became lovers. Not so, insisted Baker, who explained, "I've a scar that only a woman who had a thing with me would know. It's there and she doesn't know it's there".[14] Noko was convicted of fraud and in October 2010 was sentenced to three years "correctional supervision" (a type of community service).[15]

Baker's autobiography Hellraiser was published in 2009.[1]

Baker has Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung disease.

In 2013 and 2014 Baker toured with the Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion, a quartet comprising Baker, saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth and percussionist Abass Dodoo.[16]

In 2014 Baker signed with record label Motéma Music to release a new jazz album. The album will feature members of the aforementioned quartet.[17]


In 2012, the documentary film Beware of Mr. Baker of Ginger Baker's life by Jay Bulger had its world premiere at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas where it won the grand jury award for best documentary feature. It received its UK premiere on BBC One on 7 July 2015[18][19] as part of the channel's Imagine series.

Ginger Baker in Africa (1971) documents Baker's drive from Algeria to Nigeria (across the Sahara desert by Range Rover), where in the capital, Lagos, he sets up a recording studio and jams with Fela Kuti.


Baker cited Phil Seamen, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones and Baby Dodds as influences on his style.[20]

His drumming attracted attention for its flamboyance, showmanship and his use of two bass drums instead of the conventional single one (following a similar set-up used by Louie Bellson during his days with Duke Ellington). Although a firmly established rock drummer and praised as "Rock's first superstar drummer",[21] he prefers being called a jazz drummer.[22]

While at times performing similarly to Keith Moon from The Who, Baker also employs a more restrained style influenced by the British jazz groups he heard during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In his early days as a drummer, he performed lengthy drum solos, the best known being the five-minute drum solo "Toad" from Cream's debut album Fresh Cream (1966). He is also noted for using a variety of other percussion instruments and his application of African rhythms. He would often emphasise the flam, a drum rudiment in which both sticks attack the drumhead at almost the same time, giving a heavy thunderous sound.


Baker's style influenced many drummers, including John Bonham,[23] Peter Criss,[24] Neil Peart,[25] Stewart Copeland,[26] Ian Paice,[27] Terry Bozzio,[28] Tommy Aldridge,[29] Bill Bruford,[30] Alex Van Halen,[31] Danny Seraphine[32] and Nick Mason.[33]

AllMusic has described him as "the most influential percussionist of the 1960s" and stated that "virtually every drummer of every heavy metal band that has followed since that time has sought to emulate some aspect of Baker's playing".[21] Modern Drummer magazine has described him as "one of classic rock's first influential drumming superstars of the 1960s" and "one of classic rock's true drum gods".[34]

Drum! magazine listed Baker among the "50 Most Important Drummers of All Time" and has defined him as "one of the most imitated '60s drummers",[35] stating also that "he forever changed the face of rock music".[36] He was voted the ninth greatest drummer of all time in a Rolling Stone reader poll and has been considered the "drummer who practically invented the rock drum solo".[37] According to writer Ken Micalief in his book Classic Rock Drummers: "the pantheon of contemporary drummers from metal, fusion, and rock owe their very existence to Baker's trailblazing work with Cream".[38]

Neil Peart has said: "His playing was revolutionary – extrovert, primal and inventive. He set the bar for what rock drumming could be. [...] Every rock drummer since has been influenced in some way by Ginger – even if they don't know it".[25]


Ginger Baker's Handprints at the Hollywood Rock Walk of Fame

The Storyville Jazz Men and The Hugh Rainey Allstars

  • Storyville Re-Visited (1958) also featuring Bob Wallis and Ginger Baker

Graham Bond Organisation

  • Live at Klooks Kleek (1964)
  • The Sound of 65 (1965)
  • There's a Bond Between Us (1965)

Cream discography

Blind Faith discography

Ginger Baker's Air Force discography

Baker Gurvitz Army discography

Solo discography

  • Ginger Baker at His Best (1972)
  • Stratavarious Polydor (1972)
  • Ginger Baker & Friends Mountain (1976)
  • Eleven Sides of Baker Sire (1977)
  • From Humble Oranges CDG (1983)
  • Horses & Trees Celluloid (1986)
  • No Material live album ITM (1987)
  • Middle Passage Axiom (1990)
  • Unseen Rain Day Eight (1992)
  • Ginger Baker's Energy ITM (1992)
  • Going Back Home Atlantic (1994)
  • Ginger Baker The Album ITM (1995)
  • Falling off the roof Atlantic (1995)
  • Do What You Like Polydor (1998)
  • Coward of the County Atlantic (1999)
  • African Force (2001)
  • African Force: Palanquin's Pole (2006)
  • Why? (2014)

With Fela Kuti


Instruments and sound

Baker's current kit is made by Drum Workshop. He used Ludwig drums until the late 1990s. All of his cymbals are made by Zildjian; the 22" rivet ride cymbal and the 14" hi-hats he currently uses are the same ones he used during the last two Cream tours in 1968.[39]


  • 20" × 14" Bass (right foot)
  • 22" × 14" Bass (left foot)
  • 12×8" & 13×9" top toms
  • 14×14" & 16×14" floor toms
  • 1940s 6.5" × 14" black finished Leedy Broadway wood Snare

Snare tuned high, toms and bass tuned low

In May 1968 Baker purchased a new Ludwig drum kit with 20" × 14" and 22" × 14" bass drums, a 14" × 5" metal Super-Sensitive snare and the same-sized toms for Cream's farewell tour.

Current drums
  • 10" × 8", 12" × 9", 13" × 10", 14" × 12", Toms on front rack stands
  • 20" × 14" & 22" × 14" Bass Drums
  • 13" × 5.5" DW Craviotto Snare
  • 14" × 6.5" Leedy Snare (Spare)
  • DW 5000 Accelerator Bass Drum Pedals
  • 4 DW cymbal stands
  • 1 DW 5000 HiHat Stand
  • 1 DW Snare Stand
  • Zildjian Ginger Baker 7a sticks


1963–present made by Zildjian[40]

  • 16" crash left upper
  • 13" crash left lower
  • 14" hi-hats left
  • 20" ride right front lower
  • 14" crash right front upper
  • 22" rivet crash/ride right back upper
  • 18" crash right back lower
  • 8" which Ginger once called a "joke effect" splash right of middle
  • 16" K Dark Thin Crash
  • 15" A New Beat Hi Hats
  • 8" A Splash
  • 8" A Fast Splash
  • 10" A Splash
  • 8" A Splash
  • 13" Top Hat
  • 22" A Series Medium Ride Rivet Ride
  • 18" China
  • 18" A Medium Crash
  • Cow bells front right


  1. ^ a b c Baker, Ginger and Ginette. Hellraiser The autobiography of the World's Most Famous Drummer. John Blake Publishing. 
  2. ^ "Modern Drummer’s Readers Poll Archive, 1979–2014".  
  3. ^ See the notes to the 1994 Atlantic Records album Going Back Home by the Ginger Baker Trio
  4. ^ Ginger Baker interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1970)
  5. ^ Jay Babcock (2 November 2009). "GINGER BAKER on Fela Kuti (1999) | Arthur Magazine". Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  6. ^ Dougan, John. "Fela Ransome-Kuti". Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  7. ^ "Ginger Baker. Live with Fela Kuti". Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  8. ^ "Stratavarious". Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  9. ^ "Ginger Baker compilations". 
  10. ^ Hooper, Joseph. "Harmonic Convergence? Ginger Baker's Crazy Story". The New York Observer. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  11. ^ "Cream, The Royal Albert Hall London May 2–3–5–6 2005 album". Retrieved 2015-10-07. 
  12. ^ "The Devil and Ginger Baker". Retrieved 2015-10-07. 
  13. ^ "Bank clerk defrauds drummer". 31 August 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2008. 
  14. ^ "Cream drummer may flash ginger nuts in court". The Register. 11 June 2008. Retrieved 11 June 2008. 
  15. ^ Laing, Aislinn (20 October 2010). "Ginger Baker's assistant avoids jail over theft". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  16. ^ "Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion". The Apex, Bury St Edmunds. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ Murphy, Mekado (14 March 2012). Beware of Mr. Baker' and 'Gimme the Loot' Win Grand Jury Prizes at SXSW"'". New York Times. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  19. ^ Hann, Michael (15 May 2013). "Meeting Ginger Baker: an experience to forget". Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  20. ^ "Ginger Baker interview November 2010". Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  21. ^ a b "Ginger Baker". Retrieved 15 October 2010. 
  22. ^ Baker, Ginger (2006). Cream: Classic Artists (DVD). Image Entertainment, Inc. 
  23. ^ Hugh Jones (30 July 1998). "Zeppelin in Jazzland: Their Jazz Influences". Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  24. ^ "Peter Criss Interview 8/5/97". Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  25. ^ a b Jay Bulger (20 August 2009). "The Devil and Ginger Baker".  
  26. ^ "Stewart Copeland: Interview". July 1997. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  27. ^ "Ian Paice: Q&A". 5 November 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  28. ^ Hugo Pinksterboer, The Cymbal Book, Hal Leonard Corporation, p.22
  29. ^ "Interview with Tommy Aldridge". Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  30. ^ "Interview:Bill Bruford (Yes,King Crimson,Genesis,Earthworks)". 10 April 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  31. ^ Ken Micallef (15 January 2008). "Alex Van Halen: Bashing and Crashing In the Here and Now". Modern Drummer. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  32. ^ "Danny Seraphine: Interview 1997". Retrieved 25 August 2014. 
  33. ^ Phil Sutcliffe (July 1995). "The 30 Year Technicolor Dream". Mojo Magazine. Retrieved 23 July 2011. 
  34. ^ "The Greats: Ginger Baker". 12 March 2010. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  35. ^ "50 Most Important Drummers of All Time". 16 August 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  36. ^ Brad Schlueter (August 2007). "Hot Licks: Classic Ginger Baker '60s Drum Parts". Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  37. ^ "Rolling Stone Readers Pick Best Drummers of All Time". Rolling Stone. 
  38. ^ Ken Micalief, Classic Rock Drummers, Backbeat Books, 2007, p. 10
  39. ^ "Ginger Baker's drum kit". Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  40. ^ "Ginger Baker Artist Page". Retrieved 22 April 2014. 


  • Baker, Ginger and Ginette. Hellraiser: The Autobiography of the World's Most Famous Drummer. John Blake Publishing (2009). ISBN 978-1-84454-817-0,

External links

  • Official Site and Online Store
  • The Ginger Baker Site
  • Beware Of Mr. Baker site
  • Biography & Discography at
  • Ginger Baker at the Internet Movie Database
  • Ginger Baker Article by Jay Bulger
  • "Ginger Baker: 'I came off heroin something like 29 times'", Edward Helmore, The Observer, 5 January 2013
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