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When I asked Jeanette some while ago what she most wanted to do at this point in her life, she said. "I Like working with children, and I hope one day to open a home for abused and neglected kids. My second most cherished occupation is to watch old movie musicals and mysteries - it's the only way I can feel totally relaxed, '' she said.

Johnny Flamingo, the great L.A. nightclub baritone singer who recorded for Huggy Boy's Caddy label during the 1950s and to whom Jeanette has been married for thirty five years, started complaining of intense pain at the small of his back. Cursory examination by his doctors led them to suspect a pinched nerve.

Jeanette, who had enjoyed a close and lasting relationship with her husband over all these years, was suspicious. Furthermore, she was annoyed by the fact that at the hospital emergency unit, the doctors tried to palm Johnny off with pills. Only after Jeanette explained to the physicians just exactly whom they were dealing with did they undertake tests, which resulted in the discovery of multiple cancers.

As many Americans, Jeanette is appalled by the health system, or lack thereof, and longs for the day when she will be able to pull up stakes and in retirement make a fresh life for herself either in Australia or Western Canada where health care, as in most of the world, is free and basic humanitarian values are respected. Jeanette Baker and Johnny Flamingo were the perfect couple. They adored one another and shared everything in life, the kind of relationship, which grew out of devotion and mutual respect. When it came time to pursue musical careers, they took their own directions although at times Jeanette had to rescue Johnny from crooked promoters.

Jeanette's lengthy and successful marriage probably had something to do with her having good family role models to build upon to begin with. She was born June 7th, 1938 in Denver, Colorado to Freddie Baker and Jane Catherine Martin. Freddie Baker was an actor who appeared in some of the earliest black Hollywood movies of the silent screen. The best remembered was a short entitled "Double Deal." Freddie was blessed with a magnificent baritone voice, with which he sang ballads from the Billy Eckstine songbook. Jane Catherine Martin was an intellectual who studied her way up to become Professor of Linguistics at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. The legendary Josephine Baker was Jeanette's great aunt, Bixie Crawford was Jeanette's mother's first cousin, and an uncle Eugene Jackson, appeared as one of the original "Our Gang'' child actors during the 1920s, under the direction of Hal Roach. The family soon moved out to Los Angeles.

At the age of six Jeanette made the first of many frequent trips out to Denver during the summer months, staying with favorite aunts. She made her acting debut as a 3 year old "extra" in George Marshall's "Star Spangled Rhythm." During the shooting Jeanette got sick and her baby sister Constance Baker took over the part. Other big parts included Tarzan films with Johnny Weismuller and Lex Barker. It was in Denver that she first met Vernon Green of the Medallions. Vernon and Jeanette did "The Showboat.'' The Showboat was a sort of summer talent contest held at City Park on a stage wagon. Would-be hopefuls from all over Denver entered the talent contest. During the first week's sing-off, Jeanette stepped up and sang Nellie Lutcher's 1947 Capitol hit, "He's a real gone guy'' and won first prize. The second week Vernon came on to do a solo and also won first place. The Green and Baker families knew each other well and were close friends.

A man by the name of Martin Talley got Vernon and Jeanette involved in film work. This lead to Jeanette getting a minor role as a kid in the background on Michael Curtis's 1950 tobacco empire- building drama, "Bright Leaf," starring Gary Cooper. Cameo roles in other Hollywood movies lead up to a minor role in Allen Reisner's 1958 musical drama "St. Louis Blues'' starring Nat King Cole and Eartha Kitt. Jeanette remembered Nat King Cole from her childhood when he appeared at the Fairmount Club in St. Louis. Growing up, Jeanette did all the things young, talented middle class girls usually do: sang in the Carver Junior High School Choir, was a member of the Herons of Jericho Methodist Youth Fellowship, served as band majorette, girl scout and camp-fire girl was a member of the YWCA and played both violin and xylophone in her high school band. She also had a talent for journalism and wrote columns for leading black tabloids. Her regular chat column was called "Teen Town USA." As a teen she was singing in night clubs from St. Louis to New York. She was under age and nobody knew it. She also performed in church gatherings, weddings, birthdays, along with many other events.

Jeanette became a member of The Wesley Methodist Church on Fifty-second Street and Main. She joined the church's Youth Choir under the direction of Marguerita Chapman, an accomplished vocalist who was under contract with the MGM studios. The Youth Choir's reputation was such that is gave programs at other Methodist churches. In the surrounding area "I remember," says Jeanette, "after choir practice, my friends and I would run down to Fifty-first and Main, to the coffee and malt shop on the corner. At other times I'd hang out at Jesse Belvin's house where Alex and Gaynel Hodge, Richard Berry, Bobby Day, Eugene Church and of course Jesse would hang out and we would all sing songs together.”

In the choir, Jeanette took the solo spots on traditional songs like "Get on board little children'' and let us break bread together on our knees," But Jeanette really wanted to break into the vocal group scene and wail like Jesse Belvin and his friends, Luckily, she had a supportive grandmother, Lilly B.R. Baker. She had been a fan of the Platters back when she was in St. Louis. She was determined to put together a group of her own modeled after Zola Taylor and the Platters. Like many young people she tuned into the local teen radio programs. One of these was Dick Hugg (Huggie Boy) show aired over KRKD from John Dolphin's Dolphins of Hollywood Record Store at Vernon and Central.

Jeanette who did not want to let it be known that she did not have a recording contract of a vocal group at all pretended that all she needed was a tenor singer for a group she called the Dots. When she drove over to visit with Hugg to have him put out over the all that she was looking to complete her quartet, his face lit up. “Huggy Boy” on his show had expressed interest in finding vocal groups to record as he was planning on starting up his own label, Caddy Records. He even insisted on having Jeanette's outfit audition for him before making records for anyone else.

The next day, Jeanette was flooded with telephone calls from aspiring singers. One of these was from husband-to-be Johnny Flamingo who passed the audition. Others chose from the pack were tenor Pete Smith plus a fellow named Ed whose last name Jeanette can’t remember. After hearing that Jeanette had finally put the Dots together "Huggy Boy'' asked if she had any songs to record. Although she told him she had songs ready to go, In reality the Dots hnd not hammered out arrangements on anything. In the car on the way to the studio, Jeanette and the Dots frantically struggled to work up material. They came up with a tune called "I confess," a romantic ballad lead with verve and gusto by Jeanette herself. She had finally managed to convince "Huggy Boy'' that the Dots had been together some while and that they were well rehearsed. According to writer/deejay Steve Propes, Jeanette Baker was the first artist ever to pull the wool over "Huggy Boy's" eyes.

The chart chosen for the flip, "I wish'' (I could meet her), was a rocking and stopin' jumper with unknown male lead Johnny Flamingo that tends the supporting ''Handsome Jim Balcom Band In full throttle, with shrieking sax and pounding piano "I confess'' made a little noise in the L.A. area but did not pick up too much notice until it was introduced by Ernie Freeman to the fourteen-year-old Paul Anka at Modern Records in September 1956 Anka, who had traveled south on his father's money from his hometown of Ottawa, Canada to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood garnered very little commercial success out of the record and promptly returned to Ontario. Paul Anka's version of  “I confess” was backed by Aalon Collins and the Cadets who recorded Stranded In the Jungle for Modern the same year.

When Jeanette and Johnny met It was love at first sight but they had to wait a while to get married as Johnny was already hitched to his first wife. Ray Brewster joined the Dots in Johnny Flamingo's place In 1957 and the quartet enjoyed two releases. The first was the sweetly sung, mid tempo ballad "Johnny" (dedicated to It not concerning Jeanette's romance with her new beau) backed by the breathy compulsive "I lost you'' (Caddy 107). Jeanette's high pitched soprano reminds one of the vocal timbres projected by Shirley Goodman of Shirley & Lee fame. "Johnny" made a fair bit of noise around Southern California but did not dent any charts.

The Dots' third and final single release was "Good luck to you'' coupled with "Heartsick & lonely'' (Caddy 111 ). "Good luck to you'' is yet another sulky, heartfelt ballad sung prettily to basic rhythm accompaniment. By now, the original Dots had gone their separate ways and had been replaced by singers with a good deal more professional experience. ''Good Luck to you" sounds very much as if Jeanette was backed by Pete Smith, Johnny Flamingo, Jesse Belvin, and Gaynel Hodge.

Due to poor sales, ''Good luck to you'' is an extremely rare record to find and today fetches an outrageous sum of money. Back in 1955, while still in St. Louis, Jeannette was taken by Oscar McLollie's November release on Modern of a string-pulling ballad entitled "Convicted." "Convicted," sung with an almost effortless, smooth delivery, put the Los Angeles-born Oscar McLollie and his band, the Honey Jumpers, on the map.

By the following May, Oscar McLollie was singing ''Convicted'' on Alan Freed's CBS network show, broadcast out of Hollywood. Jeanette wished and hoped she would someday get an opportunity to meet McLollie. As luck would have it, when she came out to Los Angeles, Leon and Oscar Rene asked her to record with Oscar McLollie for Class Records. "Leon was from the old school," says Jeanelte. He thought a worthwhile song needed a lot of work and a good set of complex arrangements, like back in the old days.

Leon told me that Oscar McLollie (who had just signed with Class Records) needed a flip-side for a release he was cutting with his son Googie's band called "Let me know, let me know,'' (a fast-paced rocker with ensemble chorus in the "My babe'' vein.) I told Leon to call my mother as she spoke several languages and could come up with words to suit our purpose. That's how we came up with the hook for the song “Hey boy, hey girl.”

"Hey boy, hey girl'' was written and recorded in May 1958. By June, Leon had reported to Billboard that "Hey boy, hey girl'' was moving fast. 250,000 copies were reported to have been sold in just three weeks. "I first heard the song while riding around in my car," says Jeanette. "Hunter Hancock, who was the first to break the B-side on KGBF, launched the song. He preferred the duet to the jumping side, and it seemed a lot of people went along with that. I couldn't believe it at first, I was shocked.'' says Jeanette. Jeanette Baker and Hunter Hancock later became firm friends. ''Hunter is a nice, genuine person," says Jeanette, "and he was always a man of his word."

"Hey boy, hey girl'' peaked at the number sixty-one spot in the Hot 100. "The song took me all over the world," says Jeanette, "and would have lead to bigger and better breaks had not been for the fact that McLollie was an extremely difficult person to work with." Jeanette was the song's co-writer but was never given credit. Nor did she receive royalties or payment for any of the many night club engagements she and McLollie filled. "He was a good congo player and all-round entertainer," says Jeanette, "but we just didn't get along.''

"Hey boy, hey girl'' is a bright, breezy jumper with a good beat and a catchy hook. McLollie is best known today for his hit "Convicted" which he re-recorded twice, one in 1958 for Class and again for Chess in the 1970s. "Hey boy, hey girl'' was picked up by Louis Prima and Keely Smith in the 1950s. Louis and Keely used the song for the title of their low budget movie made for David Lowell Rich in 1960. Surprisingly, the Louis and Keely version of "Hey boy, hey girl'' sounds almost like a carbon copy of the original but unlike the original, it did not set the world on fire. Jeanette's version of the song was used recently in a T.V. commercial for Mervyn's Department Stores.
 

Dick "Huggy Boy'' Hugg at Caddy Records, like most young, enterprising, small record label owners, sold masters on his artists to major or larger independent record companies. Johnny Flamingo's April 1957 Master Recorders session was certainly sold to Ed Mesner at Aladdin who put out two single releases, including Johnny's extremely popular "So long." This might also have been the case with Jeanette Baker whose November 1958 Master Recorders session (which included "Everything reminds me of you'' and "Crazy with you") ended up on a December 1958 release schedule as Aladdin 3443 (billed as by Jeanette & Decky.) Billboard Magazine's (week of December 8) new release column awarded both sides a top four-star rating as indeed the record sounded like a winner but subsequent sales did not match the hype.

Aladdin 3443 resurfaced as by Jeanette Baker in 1963 on Imperial 5964. In November 1959 Jeanette recorded "He really belongs to me'' / "Moonbeam" for Class Records. Although "Moonbeam" remains Jeanette's favorite record it failed to generate much sales action. Right after this, Class let her go. Office staff told her that she was dropped because she was not a Catholic which of course was quite ridiculous. Jeanette subsequently recorded for a variety of labels.

Jeanette continued to work as singer around the worls during the 1960s, for the USO in Alaska and Viet Nam. One proposed Viet Nam trip did not work out as expected. "I had a premonition one day that I wouldn't make it back alive," says Jeanette. At the very last minute, she decided not to go. Sure enough her replacement was killed by an enemy bullet in the temple.

Jeanette saved wisely and bought real estate namely in Eagle Rock, California and a house on the desert near the Joshua Tree National Park between the Mojave and California desert regions. Later she opened a night club at Arlette and Van Nuys Boulevard called Miss B's. The nitery served as a showcase for her group, Miss B & the Stingers in which Jeanette held forth on vocals and piano. Apart from planning to build herself a home in San Felipe, Baja California, she is also striving to promote young talent.

In 1984 Jeanette opened Miss B's Chicken Supreme Restaurant in Eagle Rock. The place was opened for several years. She was president of LACRA (Los Angeles Club  of Recording Artists) and has worked hard for artists' rights.

Johnny Flamingo died as a result of cancer and emphysema on Christmas Eve, 2000. Jeanette is currently working on her new CD that will be released soon with her producers Ron Steele and son Clarence Steele who is also her engineer with Studio 79.

Miss Baker has had two hit records "Hey Girl, Hey Boy" and "Johnny" and has entertained throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, Korea and Japan.
For the perfect evening don't miss this legendary performer who has acheived international fame. Set aside an evening for the pursuit of top entertainment and place Miss Baker first on your list.

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