DICK TWO TON BAKER
The Music Maker of Chicago
Dick Baker was a big man in Chicago.
Of course, at 6'2" and 350 pounds, he'd have been a big man
anywhere. But he was born in Chicago on May 2, 1916, and was in
front of the public there in bands, in night clubs, on radio and
on television for nearly fifty years. His recordings for Mercury
and his nationally syndicated radio show in the late 1940s won
him fans from coast to coast.
The cliche of the jolly fat man could well have started with
Dick Baker. By all indications he was a thoroughly pleasant and
contented person who was happy with his lot in life and who
radiated that happiness to others. "The only thing I've ever
wanted to do in this world," he said in a 1949 interview in the
Chicago Tribune, "is play the piano and sing on the radio.
This isn't work, it's play--and I'm getting paid for it! . . . I
like to think my radio show helps make people a little more
friendly. The world is full of petty stings. I hope my
monkeyshines and songs make people forget the barbs for a little
In interviews from the late 1940s until as late as 1972,
Baker described his start in music quite consistently: "It all
started when I was three. I always stood beside my mother and
banged along on the piano when she played church music. Once,
when she was out, I was plucking away at ‘Yankee Doodle' and my
uncle thought it was her!"
By the time he was four, "little Dick" (needless to say, the
"Two Ton" nickname came later) was accompanying his mother, a
semiprofessional singer, at church, Knights of Columbus and other
fraternal doings, playing jazz and popular music of the day. A
year in a harmony class in high school was the extent of his
musical training. "I never had lessons," Two Ton confessed, "but
the Lord blessed me with a good ear."
His first band, and perhaps the only one he led himself,
came a few years later: "I was 11 or 12, living in Berwyn,
playing with neighborhood orchestras at ethnic doings and
fund-raising events when we formed a group called Dick Baker and
Hot Buns," he said. "We played all around the west towns
By the time he got to high school, he was playing piano in
various bands and even cutting school to go on road trips with
groups such as the Royal Ambassadors, a 14-piece stage band. He
also played vaudeville houses in something called the "Charlie
Mack reviews," presumably managed by famed vaudevillian Charlie
This photo was sent by Joseph Bukovsky, Jr., son of the trombonist at right,
who recalled only that his father “spent at least one season traveling the eastern
seaboard with Dick” in the 1930s. Indeed, an old autograph book of Two Ton’s
shows that he and Joe Bukovsky were in shows called “Melody Rambles” and
“Tick Tock Revue” in 1933–4. Which explains all the clocks.
Part 2: Radio Days
Return to Two Ton Baker home