by Lola Rossi-Meza

Bill Baker performs in TV commercial for The Star Hotel and Casino in Australia.

Pianist and vocalist Bill Baker performs every Saturday, from 8 p.m. until 12 a.m., in the Purple Room at Club Trinidad located at 1900 East Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. (760) 327-1161 ext. 230. For anyone going to the mountains to escape the heat, he also performs every Sunday from 12 until 3 p.m. on the outside patio of Boo Bear’s Den located at 572 Pine Knot Avenue in Big Bear Lake. (909) 866-2162.

Originally from Fairfield, Connecticut, Bill Baker started playing the guitar when he was nine years old. His father owned a landscaping business and played guitar in a band with his uncle who played the fiddle. In high school he played football as a wide receiver and after the games he’d go home, grab his gear and then play the dance that night, but it was always for fun.

He was a math major in college and would perform at all the dances and parties there. After graduation he worked as a test engineer for helicopter engines doing mathematical calculations during the day, go home, take a shower, grab his guitar and go out to play until one in the morning, five nights a week.

Finally, he left the day job and started performing with pianist Gene Cipriano as a bass player and singer in his trio. He later started his own bands. They performed in venues all over the United States and Canada. He started working as a single in the late 70s and started including some of his original compositions during his show.

He liked writing funny songs and was fortunate to have some of his music heard by Sam Lovullo, the producer of the HeeHaw TV Show. This opened lots of doors for Baker and through Lovullo, he met the legendary Sammy Cahn, who invited him to his home in Beverly Hills where Baker co-wrote several songs with him.

Baker moved to Big Bear Lake and has been performing in the Coachella Valley for over 10 years. “This past February, Zac from Shane Casting called The Purple Room and spoke to Suzie. They told her they were looking for a lounge singer in their sixties to do a commercial, so she called me,” said Baker, continuing, “I called Zac and he told me about a commercial that was being done in Australia for nine days and that they needed someone who could sing “Welcome to The Jungle” by Guns and Roses in a lounge style.”

They requested a video, so Baker put on a tux and asked his wife to video tape him singing the song. However, the production company was still auditioning musicians in Las Vegas, New York and Atlantic City and Baker thought he didn’t really have much of a chance. Three days later he received an e-mail from the casting company with the great news, “You got it, Bill.”

“They sent me the script and Carol and I had to be ready to fly to Australia within two weeks. It was the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me, I won’t ever forget it. After the fifteen-hour flight, we arrived on a Friday and were treated like celebrities and stayed the entire time at The Star Hotel and Casino. I recorded the song on Saturday with some great musicians there and had a wonderful time. We started filming on Monday at 5 p,m. until 8 a.m. for three days, all for a ninety second commercial. They had a very professional production crew.”

He rolls through the casino singing with lots of people around having fun, a motorcycle comes out of the pool, he separates from the piano and rolls by the bar for a dirty martini…there is so much more to see, lots of funny crazy things. The commercial is currently on YouTube, but can be seen on his web-site; or call (909) 936-1177.

”God has truly blessed me with this opportunity and I am very grateful. One of the most important things I learned from Sammy Cahn was that it’s not about the money, it’s about doing something you truly love, and I truly love playing music.”