About Kenny Baker
One of several folks named Kenny Baker on the British music scene, this one baked loaves of psychedelic music as a member of the band Unicorn. In the scheme of things, this group's status would be somewhere between that of its mythological namesake and the goat with a horn glued to its head that a national circus put on tour one year. The group did attract the attention of at least a few big shots in the music business, namely the members of Pink Floyd. Baker and pal Pat Martin went to secondary school together in the early '60s, sharing an interest in the guitar and new pop sounds. The lads learned guitar together, then worked out on the latest songs, especially Beatles covers, in a garage -- as if there was anywhere else to carry out such activities.
Peter Perrier joined the jammers on drums, evolved into the lead vocalist and perhaps insured an endless supply of sparkling water to boot. Trevor Mee stepped forward and answered the question of who would be the group's bassist by shouting out his last name. Actually, however, it was Martin who switched to bass thanks to Mee's mighty muscle on guitar. Mee meant much to the group's evolving status, as he had been snagged away from fashionable Tony Rivers & the Castaways. Baker and friends began doing professional gigs in 1968 and were said to have changed directions somewhat the following year after exposure to Crosby, Stills & Nash. Now, they were a country-rock combo, pitching a demo in this style which appealed to the Transatlantic label.
Still unsure even about what the band should be called, the group went to work with producer Hugh Murphy. Before settling on Unicorn, the group tried out the name the Pink Bears, and might have had a different relationship entirely with the Pink Floyd crowd if that had wound up being the name spray-painted on the road cases. Unicorn's first releases were a tribute to an American songwriter, the single "P.F. Sloan" and the hiker-friendly album Uphill All the Way, the latter effort released on the Big T label in 1971. Subsequent recordings by the group were influenced by Traffic, the group and not the London congestion often described as "choc-a-bloc." The departure of Mee tilted the scales back toward country, replacement Kevin Smith, an ex-member of Camel but no relation to the film director, weighing in with his enthusiasm for the Byrds' Nashville leanings.
About a year later, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd met Unicorn when the band performed at the wedding reception of a mutual friend. This led to production possibilities at Gilmour's country retreat in Essex. There were several Unicorn sessions held in these posh surroundings, Gilmour himself chiming in with his pedal steel rig. The Gilmour connection helped secure a new record deal as well, and the resulting Blue Pine Trees album is generally the one critics pick as the band's best. Unicorn carried on, hardly extinct but usually relegated to the opening slot on concert tours. Gilmour continued working with the group as a producer, but Muff Winwood also became involved with sessions at London's Island studio. Winwood produced the group's 1977 One More Tomorrow album. By the late '70s, none of this group's range of interests -- from psychedelic to country -- were of appeal to a record-buying crowd enamored with disco. The pop charts were now an ark setting sail without the Unicorn on board. Baker made no further recordings on his own once the band broke up. The group's material was reissued in 2001 by the See for Miles firm. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi
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