Vocalist King Ernest came
up singing in the lively Chicago Blues club scene of the 1950s and '60s,
sharing stages with the likes of Tyrone Davis,
Syl Johnson and Little
Born and raised
in Natchez, Mississippi, he learned basic blues from his father, a
sharecropper who used to play guitar at local juke joints. After a year
at Southern University in Baton Rouge, he moved to Chicago, where he
found his inspiration in clubs that hosted the likes of
Muddy Waters and
Chester Burnett, better known as Howlin' Wolf. His first professional
shows in Chicago were with guitarist Byther Smith. Later, he discovered
the soul-blues stylings of singers like Syl Johnson and Tyrone Davis.
These singers made a bigger impact on his own singing style, and he
established a reputation in Chicago's club scene in the early 1960s as
Good Rockin' Ernie.
In 1964, Baker left Chicago for New
York City, where a new band he formed there gave him the nickname
"King" for his wild dancing antics on stage. In 1965, Baker recorded his
first single, "I Feel Alright" b/w "I'm So Tired," for the Old
Town label, and enjoyed modest success through the 1960s on the East
Coast's R&B club circuit until returning to Chicago in 1967. He remained
in Chicago for another ten years, recording a number of singles for
Chicago labels, including Sonic, Barry and his own Blue Soul Records.
But recognition on a national level still eluded Baker, who moved to Los
Angeles in 1980. After a record deal he had there failed to come to
fruition, he dropped out and took a job with the L.A. County Sheriff's
Department, doing most of his singing in church as a member of the
Crenshaw Christian Center Choir.
After retiring from his day job, he
began playing shows again at L.A. nightclubs, and his powerful vocals
and still-energetic stage persona quickly attracted a small legion of
dedicated fans to his club shows. After being discovered by promoter and
producer Randy Chortkoff, he began touring up and down the California
coast and into Canada.
His debut album for Evidence Records, King of Hearts, released in 1997,
has helped to expand his audience from a regional following in New York,
Chicago and Los Angeles to an international following. On his recording,
Baker offers up his interpretations of songs by
Hound Dog Taylor,
Junior Parker and Harold Burrage. He also tackles
"Better Days," a track co-written by guitarist Jimmy Rip and vocalist
Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. Appropriately, Rip accompanies King
Ernest on this track on the album.
Skelly, All Music Guide