TWO TON BAKER, A RIGHT
Maker of Peppy Music Is Lazy at Home
JOLLY PIANO PUNCHER
BY ANTON REMENIH
Producers call him the One Man Show. Radio announcers
introduce him as the Behemoth of the Keyboards. But thousands of
W-G-N-Mutual listeners from coast to coast know hin best as Two
Ton Baker, the Music Maker.
Richard Evans Baker, piano and song stylist, is a big
He weighs close to 350 pounds, wears a size 18 collar, and his
tailor uses a special tape to record his girth. Weight
distribution on the jolly piano puncher is such that his favorite
theater in Roseland, where he lives, has removed an armrest
between two seats to accommodate him.
One of The Happiest
But if Baker is one of the biggest entertainers in the
nation, he is also one of the best of his type and one of the
"The only thing I've ever wanted to do in this world," he
said, "is play the piano and sing on the radio. This isn't work,
it's play--and I'm getting paid for it!"
That Two Ton likes what he is doing is obvious. He rides
the keyboard, slapping and kicking the piano with all the whoop
and holler of a cowpuncher breaking in a wild horse. When Baker
digs his spurs, the studio quivers. There is a standing rule in
W-G-N studio 6 that the big man confine his cutups to the piano.
"Laziest Guy I Know"
This super-abundance of energy is restricted to his work,
however. In his home, Two Ton, according to his pert 117 pound
wife, Ruth, is "one enormous hunk of relaxation and good humor."
Baker puts it another way.
I'm the laziest guy I know," he admits. "I bought a car in
which I don't have to shift gear."
If there is any suggestion of bustle around the house when
he returns from a stint at the studio, Baker tells his family to
"relax and be happy." Consequently, Mrs. Baker arranges her
housework so all is finished before her husband returns.
Two Ton's pride and joy are his two children, Richard, 10,
whom he refers to affectionately on the air as Jughead, and
Deborah Lynn, 2 1/2, dubbed Flutterbug.
Eats One Meal a Day
He may be found almost any day making like an oversize St.
Bernard on the floor, giving a ride to Deborah or wrestling with
Richard. That constitutes his exercise. He eats only one real
meal a day, consisting usually of broiled meats and salads.
Much of his time is spent listening to recordings by Duke
Ellington, whom he admires, knows personally, and considers his
musical "teacher." Two Ton owns virtually every record the Duke
Despite his piano skill, Baker never took a music lesson.
To this day (he's 32), he can't read more than the top line of a
piano score. A master of improvisation, he plays by ear. His
mental library is so stuffed with tunes it is almost impossible
to stump hm.
Plays Piano at 2 1/2
Baker, who weighed almost 13 pounds at birth, was a piano
prodigy. At 2 1/2, he startled his family by playing Yankee
Doodle with two hands (he was told) on the piano. At 4, he
accompanied his mother, a semi-professional singer, at community
gatherings in the Halsted-Van Buren sts. area.
Two Ton attended Morton and Fenger High schools and
periodically interrupted book learning to play two or three day
After school days, Baker played night spots with a 12 piece
band, traveled with a road show in the south and east, and
occasionally picked up solo chores as a combination master of
ceremonies, singer, and piano player. In 1938 he struck out for
himself and toured the night club circuits. A year later he
became a disc jockey at WJJD. He came to W-G-N five years ago
and now plays about 15 quarter-hour shows a week.
"Happy Day to You"
The key to Two Ton's philosophy on life is found, he
contents, in his opening line, "Happy day to you, friends."
"I like to think my radio show helps make people a little
more friendly," he said. "The world is full of petty stings. I
hope my monkeyshines and songs make people forget the barbs for a
Baker, whose calm unruffled disposition is a constant source
of amazement to his wife, is worried about nothing except an
unforseen change in his present routine.
"If I ever have to go to work," he confessed, "I don't know
what I'd do. I probably would lose a lot of weight, not from
exercise but from unhappiness."
© Chicago Tribune, April 17, 1949
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