Etta Baker statue to be unveiled on Thursday

inNewson May 24, 2017


On Thursday, one of Morganton’s most legendary musicians will receive a tribute years in the making.

A statue of the late Etta Baker, who gained fame later in life as a Piedmont Blues guitarist, will be unveiled at CoMMA on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Tickets to the event can be purchased at for the price of $18.14. Those who attend will be able to see the statue’s dedication and a concert honoring Baker’s legacy afterward.

The public unveiling of the statue will take place at 5:30 p.m. following a VIP reception. CoMMA Director Emeritus Bill Wilson will give the opening remarks for the ceremony. Deborah Jones, executive director of the Burke Arts Council, will recognize sculptor Thomas Jay Warren for his work and Warren will talk about the process of creating the sculpture.

Lamesha Wittington will sing and Baker’s granddaughter, Nakia Baker, will present a biography of her grandmother. Baker’s son, Edgar Baker, also will speak at the revealing. The dedication will be finished out with a song about Etta Baker.

A concert, entitled “Forever in our Hearts,” will take place from 6-7:45 p.m. Laura Blackley; Larry Moore and the Crowns of Light; a group consisting of Ed Phifer, Bobby Denton, Allen VanNoppen and Alex Berhardt; and David Holt and the Lightning Bolts will perform in memory of Baker.

Baker was born in Caldwell County on March 31, 1931, before becoming a resident of Morganton for years. She is credited with helping to shape the music industry in North Carolina as one of the creators of Piedmont Blues, though she didn’t receive notoriety for her musicianship until she was in her 60s. She met privately with respected musicians Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and once opened for Ray Charles in Morganton. She previously was honored by CoMMA in 2004-05 for her contributions shortly before her death.


Wilson and Jones, along with Phifer, Cecelia Surratt and former Morganton mayor Mel Cohen, helped lead up a group that oversaw the process of funding and creating the statue. In February, Wilson described the statue as a continuation of the honors Baker received more than 10 years ago. Wilson said he believes it is important to undertake a large project such as the Baker statue every 10-12 years.

Warren, an artist from Rogue River, Oregon, created the statue that will sit on the left-hand side of the CoMMA building. Warren is a member of the National Sculpture Society and was commissioned after a nationwide search. The group in charge of the project said Warren was chosen due to his professionalism and artistic approach to the project.

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