Studio Owner Prepares For Osmond Tour
by Russ Corey
August 20, 2011
Submitted by Diane Leigh
Gary Baker jokes that he’s ready to get on the road again so he can get some rest.
He’s been spending long hours at his downtown Florence recording studio, working on projects with former Shooters member Walt Aldridge and recording the debut album of 10-year-old piano prodigy Ethan Bortnick.
“I don’t want to be on the road all the time, but I do like it sometimes,” Baker said, sitting in his office at Noiseblock Music Group.
Baker is preparing to embark on a tour with Marie Osmond, where he will serve as band leader, a position that carries quite a bit of responsibility.
“I recruited the band; I arranged the songs with Marie,” Baker said.
“We had to pick the right songs for the tour. I’ve recorded what’s going to be played behind the videos. It has to be perfect.”
Baker is playing bass and some guitar, and providing background vocals and male vocals with Osmond for the show’s duets. His son, Shane Baker, joins the band as guitarist and Josh Haselton is playing drums. The only non-Shoals member of the band is keyboard player Dave Wilbur of Utah.
“Shane and Josh don’t have any idea yet how good this will be,” Baker said.
The first leg of the tour begins next week.
After rehearsing in New York City, the “A Little Bit Country ... and a Whole Lot More” tour will commence there before traveling cross country, touching down in Pennsylvania, Boston, Cincinnati, Colorado, Tulsa, Okla., Biloxi, Miss., and Santa Barbara, Calif. A second leg of the tour will take Osmond and the band to the Southwest in October.
“She hasn’t been out for a long time, but the show is completely sold out,” Baker said. “There’s a big audience that wants to come see Marie.”
In a telephone interview Thursday, Osmond said it has been several years since she’s been on tour.
“I just wanted to hang with Gary,” she joked.
Actually, she’s been getting requests via Twitter to get out and play songs such as “Meet Me In Montana,” “There’s No Stopping My Heart” and “This Is the Way That I Feel.”
“If there’s ever going to be a time, this is going to be it,” she said. “We’ve talked about doing it for a year.”
Because it would be cost prohibitive to take a large multi-instrumental group on the road, Osmond had to select songs that could be played by a four-piece band.
Particular elements of the show had to be sampled, such as string arrangements for certain songs, another task that falls on the band leader.
As a 48-year veteran of the music business, Osmond has moments she can share via video, which adds flavor to the show.
“I have some things that people will enjoy, some humorous moments,” she said. “I have a lot of footage from different eras of hits.”
The Osmond family has a history in the Shoals dating to 1970 when Mike Curb brought his new group, The Osmonds, to Rick Hall’s FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals. The Osmonds’ Muscle Shoals recording sessions produced hits including “One Bad Apple,” “Yo-Yo” and “Down By the Lazy River.”
In 1974, Marie Osmond recorded her “This is the Way That I Feel” album and did some additional work at FAME in the 1990s. Her eldest son, Stephen Craig, also did some recording at FAME.
Baker said he’s known Osmond for about 21 years.
“She’s like a sister to me,” he said. “She’s like family.”
Baker has written songs that appear on Marie Osmond’s latest solo album and her latest release with brother, Donny Osmond.
Baker met Osmond through a song-writing partner, Frank Myers, who at the time was the guitarist in Marie Osmond’s band. Through his contact with Myers, who is co-writer on the hit, “I Swear,” Baker played bass in Osmond’s band for three years.
“It was the only sideman job I’ve ever had,” Baker said.
Osmond said she needed musicians who can play a variety of music to accompany her wide vocal range and the musical genres she will cover during the show.
“My country is kind of a groove country,” she said. “I do some 40s music, some legit Broadway. I do a legit opera piece. You don’t pluck those out; you have to play those.”