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Ray Sanders, turkey baster virtuoso, showed up in Fredericksburg recently to demonstrate his mastery of the kitchen utensil. Sanders has appeared on national television playing his instrument. Photo by Phil Houseal

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 Learn more at www.turkeybaster.net.

More detailed description of playing the baster, along with other "weird" instruments.


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Turkey Baster: Out of the kitchen

Phil Houseal
July 27, 2011

There was a new grease slinger in town.

He pulled up to the local speakeasy. Walked in carrying a violin case. A very, very tiny violin case.

He sized up the musicians on stage, then placed his violin case on the glass-topped table. Experienced fingers unlatched the catches and lifted the lid. Inside lay his instrument. Three of them, actually.

Turkey basters. All loaded, tuned, and ready to blow.

“I’m Ray Sanders. I play the turkey baster. And I’m going to play a song for you.”

That is how the world was introduced to the foremost authority on performing with the turkey baster.

The Bryan, Texas, band teacher first picked up the “instrument” about 10 years ago.

“I’m often asked how I came to play the baster,” he explained. “I have several stories. But the true story is that I was on a mission trip in charge of music and also working in the kitchen. One little girl said, what are you going to do - play the spoons? So I said something smart back: No, I’m going to play the turkey baster.”

So he took it out of the drawer, and launched his unlikely career.

Sanders started playing simple tunes such as Jesus Loves Me and Beethoven’s Ninth. This actually works, he realized. So he moved on to the William Tell Overture, Stars and Stripes Forever (on piccolo baster), and his signature piece - Flight of the Bumblebee. (Watch video)

Success came literally overnight. He saw a small blurb in his local newspaper that said, “Talent needed.”

“I said, hey, that’s me! I have talent.”

So he set up a camera, dressed in a dirty T-shirt, affected a thick, hick accent, and submitted a song.

To his surprise, they called him back.

“They called and said, we’ve been having a ball watching your tape, and we want you to be on our telethon. I said, OK, I’ll come over.”

To Sanders’ bigger surprise, they said, no, this is the MDA Telethon and we want you to come to Los Angeles. They flew him out to the show, where he appeared with the Muppets. Three weeks later, he was featured on Stupid Human Tricks on The Late Show with David Letterman in New York.

“In one month I went coast to coast playing a kitchen utensil,” he said, shaking his head.

Sanders picks up his instrument and begins playing his set. So many people asked him questions, he began weaving his answers in between songs:

“The most pure, natural sounds are produced with warm turkey grease. However, that does get a little foul smelling. I use peach tea. People can see it, and it works better if I need to tune the instrument.” (he swallows a mouthful as the audience goes, “Eeeewww!”)

“Some say the turkey baster is not a musical instrument. I say if you play music on it, it’s an instrument.”

“Musical history is unclear whether anybody played it or nobody admitted playing it. I can understand that because I played about a year before I came out of the kitchen.”

“It takes such little movement squeezing the bulb, that you must have a good ear. I do; I can hear when I play the wrong notes.”

“If I’m nervous, that’s vibrato.”

“Give me a break; I’m playing a kitchen utensil here.”

“Sometimes I get paid one thousand dollars; sometimes I get paid one hundred dollars; sometimes I get chicken-fried steak.”

“Like any musical talent it is a wonderful gift from God; but I’m not trying to make it look like I’m blaming God.”

Behind the bluster, Sanders admits to an ulterior motive.

“I promote good music; I promote school music. School music is on the fringe of getting cut out. Then where will our musicians and composers come from? That is my motive, but this is fun, and it should be fun for the listener.”

Sanders packed up his basters and picked up the violin case. As he headed for his car, he paused, and looked back at the bemused crowd.

“I’m not a geek,” he said softly. “I’m just a musician.”