At the age of 11 Gene’s love for guitar took precedence over youth hockey. He started building guitars in junior high, and after moving from hometown Detroit to sunny California he attended GIT – all the while playing in garage bands and gigging at every opportunity. At age 20 Gene set up shop in his parents’ garage and began doing repairs as well as building and selling “Mean Gene” guitars. He also gave guitar lessons, and created a 100-page instructional book and video entitled “Mean Gene’s Insane Lead Guitar.”
Only 24 years old, Gene got a call from storied luthier Roger Giffin, who headed Gibson’s west coast custom shop. After serving as Roger’s apprentice, Gene operated the shop alongside Roger for nearly two years. In 1993 Gene moved to the Fender Custom Shop in Corona, during what many consider one of that shop’s golden periods. Gene’s mentors and colleagues at Fender were and still are among the leading craftsmen in the industry; including George Amicay, Jay Black, Larry Brooks, Jason Davis, John English, Kenny Gin, Alan Hamel, Yasuhiko Iwanade, Mark Kendrick, Todd Krause, the great John Page, Alex Perez, Steve Stern, Fred Stuart, John Suhr and Art Esparza who also joned forces with Gene and the PBG crew in 2013 to help manage the D’Angelico USA Master Built line.
Gene rose to Senior Master Builder at Fender. Highlights include his close collaboration with Robben Ford and Jeff Rivera (Robben’s tech) on three new models; a series of original Gene Baker pieces; the prototyping of the first contemporary carved Strats; the reissue of mid-late ‘60’s big peg head Strats; and collaboration on the production of round-lam necks, twelve strings, double necks, bajo sexto’s, the Showmaster Strat and the John Jorgenson signature model.
Gene eventually left Fender in order to apply his unique expertise to his own nameplate, Baker Guitars USA. Though no longer involved with Baker Guitars and the Baker Guitars name, Gene along with production manager Gil Vasquez led the company as it grew to fourteen employees producing up to 40 guitars per month, with an emphasis on high quality custom builds.
The original Baker Guitars shop closed in early 2003 after spanning 5 years beginning in 1999 due to a machinery related lawsuit. This landed Gene at Ernie Ball/Music Man for a year as engineer and production trouble shooter. This relationship was just not meant to be so in 2004 Gene opened Fine Tuned Instruments which gave birth to b3 Guitars as we know it today. FTI managed to deliver over 200 instruments with a very small crew including original Baker employee Justin Abernethy. FTI was also a job shop offering CAD work to building guitars for other brands such as Wilkins Guitars, LA Guitars, Luca Zanini Guitars and more…. The economy crash in 2009 almost brought an end to FTI so Gene went fishing for better business ideas…..