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She was born in Lamar, Missouri on December 11, 1912. She was an entertainer and musician most of her life. Her career spanned from the 30's through the 90's. During the depression her folks couldn't afford to pay for piano lessons so she never learned to read or write music, but relied totally on her ears and her talent. When she was 15 years old she played piano for silent pictures in the Bijou Theater in Atchison, Kansas. She played at barn dances all over the state with her band.

Under the professional name of Ann Baker, she broke into the entertainment field as a winner of a Fox Theatre Talent contest in Topeka, Kansas, as a blues singer, accompanying herself at the piano. She hosted her own radio programs on KFEQ in the Ribadeux Hotel, St. Joe, Missouri. In 1932 she moved over to KGBX just before the broadcast facilities were moved to Springfield.

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

She played places like the State Line Tavern which sat on the Kansas-Missouri border. On one side of the club you could drink but not gamble, and on the other side you could gamble but not drink. She sat in the middle and played. The establishment ran a public address speaker outside in the parking lot. A tour bus containing Frank Bailey and his Orchestra happened to pass by and they heard her singing inside. Bailey ordered the bus to turn around and he offered her a job on the spot, which she accepted. Sitting at her Steinway, she fronted the Frank Bailey Orchestra in the Casey Acey Club of the Sky Cool Roof Garden of the Hotel Kansas Citian, which later became the Hotel Continental in Kansas City, as well as at other hot spots like the Baltimore, the Plaza, the President, the Bellerieve, and the Muehlebach. A favorite attraction was 2 grand pianos with Ann playing swing piano and Bailey as the band pianist.

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.

Click on the picture above to play a Real Audio file of Ann at the piano

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.

Go To Blackberry Hill Lodge

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.

You might not have ever heard of Ann Baker Ketchum, but she was as "Big Time" as it gets in the hearts of those who knew and loved her....

Mom's infectious laugh (RealAudio)
A Torch Song (RealAudio)
Boogie Woogie Piano (RealAudio)

My Dad
The Family

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