Nearly two decades ago, music teacher/studio musician Stuart Baker joined the cast of a Charlotte, N.C., public access sketch comedy program called The Wild Wild South, performing as a character he invented and christened “Unknown Hinson.” Darkly patterned after Country stars of the 1950s, with a loudly embroidered and rhinestoned wardrobe and black string tie, Baker enhanced the effect even more with pasted-on sideburns, blacked-out front teeth, slicked-back hair (exposing a gravely serious widow’s peak) and a wildly exaggerated Southern drawl. His performances as Hinson featured equally exaggerated Country songs detailing his stereotypically illegal and immoral lifestyle, which included baby-making, vampirism and murder. Baker ultimately created The Unknown Hinson Show and then took his act on the road and into the studio, resulting in five weirdly wonderful albums, including his 1999 debut, 21 Chart-toppers, and his most recent, Unknown Hinson: Live and Undead.
Hinson’s “back story” includes convictions for numerous nefarious deeds and a 30-year prison sentence, which concluded with his release in 1993. Since then, Hinson has been a constant presence on the road and briefly flirted with major label status after being signed by Capitol Records, which released 2002’s Rock n Roll is Straight From Hell and reissued The Future is Unknown. Hinson self-released 2006’s Target Practice, going so far as to distribute it only through his website and at shows; the album featured the track “Torture Town,” which was voted Best Alternative Country Song at the Independent Music Awards in 2009.
Baker also provides the voice of Early Cuyler on the Adult Swim cartoon Squidbillies and is the bass and lead guitarist for Billy Bob Thornton’s band, Boxmasters. Just as Tony Clifton claimed no connection to Andy Kaufman, Unknown Hinson has no idea what Stuart Baker does with his life. He just wants to rock, man.
UNKNOWN HINSON plays the Southgate House Saturday, Dec. 3 with THE LEWIS BROTHERS. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.