Later, in Kansas City, she was involved with an experimental Television station, W9XBY, which lated became KXBY. She started at the telephone switchboard as an assistant staff member in Production and Auditions at KXBY. Gradually she became known as "Ann Baker, Everybody's Sweetheart" and hosted her own program of piano and song three times a week. At about the same time she appeared regularly on the popular "Staff Frolic" program featured on Kansas City station WHB: "The World's Happiest Broadcasters", rubbing elbows with the likes of John Cameron Swayze, Ann Southern, Pee Wee Reese, Buddy Rogers, Blue Steel and Ted Weems. At KXBY she ran remotes live from the Sunset Club, featuring no less than Count Basie and his Orchestra.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE HISTORY OF W9XBY, GO HERE
Her first marriage failed because of her hectic career and performance schedules. It was at the Muehlebach that she met her future second husband. He was wining and dining the mayor and some other officials when she caught his eye from the stage. He sent a note up to the bandstand inviting her over to their table on a break using the guise of "meeting the mayor" and unsuccessfully tried to persuade her to accompany them on their tour of the town. He kept after her until she finally consented to go to St. Louis one weekend to meet his folks. While in St. Louis he secretly employed a moving crew back in Kansas City to move the entire contents of her apartment to a house in St. Louis, where she began performing on radio station KMOX as a featured entertainer at the "Victorian Restaurant".
The following excerpt was taken from her scrapbook of the times. In her own words in a letter dated July 22, 1937 addressed to her mother in Monette, Missouri: "There is a fellow here that is a big shot in the Barrett Tar Company and he has fallen hard for me. He wants me to marry him. He has plenty of money and a nice car (which I drive a lot) but of course I just can't see him.... Dean met him and liked him a lot. He was a very good friend of Senator Robinson that died. He lives in St. Louis and he went to Principia and knew Lloyd. He has been through Annapolis too. Very well educated and throws money away as fast as I can get my breath."
Needless to say, he turned out to be the "real McCoy" and they were married. He eventually persuaded her to move off to the Ozarks with him to operate their own resort and raise their little boy.
They called their place Blackberry Hill Lodge in Mountain Home, Arkansas. It was a beautiful place with a lodge, 5 cottages, a barn, and a boat dock located on newly-formed Norfork Lake. Guests poured in from all corners of the country. He was the World Champion Skeet shooter with a reputation as an expert marksman and hunter/fisherman, as well as teller of Tall Tales. While he took the guests out for the time of their lives in the Wilds, she stayed at the Lodge directing the housekeeping crew and overseeing the preparations for the meals.
Each evening after a huge dinner, they would all sit around in the dining room smoking cigars and keeping close to their little brown bags while she entertained at the Steinway. And always there was their little boy sitting there each night watching his mother bring smiles to everyone's faces and listening to her beautiful voice singing songs into the night. Sometimes it was so quiet after a particularly moving song that you could hear a pin drop or see someone brush away a tear. She had a musical portfolio by this time of hundreds of song titles that she could perform immediately upon request. Each tune would be easily recognized to the listener, yet no sheet music ever cluttered her piano.
The resort business was good to them, and in the late 1950's he decided to get into real estate development. Suddenly having more free time on her hands, she started playing piano and organ around the area at bank openings, private parties, and special events. She even started up her own radio program on local radio station KTLO. With the added financial assistance of his parents, they could afford to send their teen-age son to military school in order to take advantage of the additional scholastic and social benefits unavailable in Arkansas at that time.
Her husband of 29 years died of a heart attack one night in 1967, leaving her with the estate, the bills, and a lake-surfing son turned musician fresh out of military school who was not applying himself very much to furthering his education and with a wake of colleges trailing off behind him as he attempted to avoid the draft by staying in college. As it turned out he was 4-F due to injuries sustained from a spectacular accident where he drove a jeep off a 45-foot cliff a few years before. Without even thinking about it, the son followed his mom's footsteps by becoming a musician and getting into radio (as an announcer).
Throughout the 60's, 70's, and 80's she struggled to keep the house her husband had built for her by supplementing her social security checks with extra money earned by playing whenever and wherever she could. She married a couple of more times, once to a marine mechanic and sort of mechanical genius but he wasn't the Real McCoy so it only lasted a few years. Husband #4 was believe it or not a former guest of theirs at Blackberry Hill many years before who had become close friends of the couple and stayed in touch throughout the years. The first thing he did when they got married was to pay off her house for her so she would not have to worry about it any more. She could finally relax and "settle down" and play whenever she wanted to. She played for the Heart Fund each year and performed weekly at one nursing home or the other. But she never did really slow down.
She died of a heart attack September 26, 1993 in her home at 80 years of age. It was quick, which is the way she would have wanted it. She had an appointment that very day to be interviewed for the retirement page of one of the local newspapers. Anyone who had spent any time at all with her was deeply touched by her spirit and giving nature.
Mom's infectious laugh (RealAudio)
A Torch Song (RealAudio)
Boogie Woogie Piano (RealAudio)