By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times
December 3, 2012
Mickey Baker, an exceptional 1950s session guitarist who played on hundreds of recordings, helping to transform rhythm and blues into rock 'n' roll, died Tuesday at his home near Toulouse, France, according to French media reports. He was 87.
A cause of death was not disclosed.
Baker "was the first great rock and roll guitarist," rock historian Dave Marsh wrote in 1989 in "The Heart of Rock and Roll: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made." The sassy "Love Is Strange" was one of them.
Rolling Stone once called the recording Baker's "crowning achievement." He performed the 1957 hit as a duet with Sylvia Vanderpool, who took guitar lessons from him and soon determined they could succeed as a duo.
As Mickey & Sylvia, they came up with the million-selling "Love Is Strange" at their second session. Bo Diddley had written the song but passed it along to them because he was angry with his music publishers because they never paid him enough, Marsh wrote.
Since the late 1960s, Baker had mainly devoted himself to writing instructional guitar books and CDs, including a widely used two-volume book on jazz guitar. A biography on Frank Zappa said the guitarist had learned to play from one of Baker's how-to books.