Feeling the blues: Thanksgiving tour and Charles Baty’s missing home

by Nov 24, 2016Charles Baty Collection

The Charles Baty Traveling Blues Wisdom collection. HI Travel Tales ran regular travel essays from our friend Charles Baty during his Golden State-Lone Star Revue tours in 2016. They were always a treat for us to read — his writing was as full of life as his music. Sadly, Charles passed away at the age of 66 on March 6, 2020. We will deeply miss seeing him at local gigs, but feel so grateful for the time we were able to share with him. We hope you enjoy his writing and observations of life on the road as much as we do. 

Blues guitarist Charles Baty (“Little Charlie and the Nightcats”) and his fellow musicians with the Golden State-Lone Star Revue are feeling the blues again and have been on tour since Nov. 14, continuing through Dec. 9. Charlie tells us it is likely his last tour with the group.

November 10. As I prepare for the last road trip of the year (and probably my last road trip for a long time), I have been spending a lot of time re-tackling the solos of Charlie Parker and trying to learn more chords, arrange Christmas tunes for the holiday season and learn a few new jazz tunes. Of course, I try to play as much as I can anytime during the year. But during certain periods I try to achieve specific goals as a personal challenge.

Feeling the blues with a magic moment on stage.

November 23. I wouldn’t normally start my day off eating at a place called Donut Dip, but today I had no choice. The old diner that used to be adjacent to the motel that we stayed in last night was demolished and replaced by a couple of chains, mostly featuring burgers. No breakfast options there. I risked my life and crossed the busy turnpike road with no pedestrian light and headed into this den of doughnuts.

Feeling the blues at the Donut Dip.

I had been told that they made a mean breakfast sandwich so I ordered one on a bagel. The coffee seemed diluted and had no body. The bagel however was excellent. I noticed the wide array of occupations in the doughnut culture. There was an AAA driver, a school bus driver, a UPS driver, some office workers, some construction workers and an itinerant musician (me) all lingering around staring at those donuts.

Staring at rows of doughnuts at the Donut Dip

I could see the doughnuts being produced by men in white outfits through the kitchen door. Then I just couldn’t stand it anymore — I broke down and ordered a chocolate cake doughnut. And it was incredible. We left our motel at noon fearing more Thanksgiving traffic. But we were lucky today and made our brief 96-mile drive in about 2 hours, arriving in Warwick, RI, with a fair amount of free time available. So the Pup and I headed out on a walk searching for food and just out of sheer curiosity. What treasures might lie ahead in the strip mall a quarter mile away? The Pup (i.e. Anson Funderburgh) and I ventured into a little music store. The kind of mall store that only sells off brands and has no Gibsons or Fenders and caters to beginners. Feeling the blues, I picked up a pink parlor guitar (probably a girl’s beginner guitar) and started playing Robert Johnson tunes on it. Anson played a little Lightnin’ Hopkins on it. The store clerk sensed that we weren’t the normal clientele, but he still tried to make a sale. Then we hit the Dollar Tree and an Army Navy Surplus store for giggles. I wanted to buy a box of grenades, but didn’t have enough cash (Ed. Note: Grenades? Really???). Anson tried on sailor hats. We headed back to the hotel.

Feeling the blues with a girls pink guitar - more Charles Baty traveling blues wisdom.

Thanksgiving Eve was in a Chinese restaurant – for the food and the gig at Chan’s in Woonsocket, RI. Normally I would spend this night making dressing with my 88-year-old mother in law. I have done this for the last 11 years, and before that my deceased wife did it for decades. It is a long-standing tradition. I was sick thinking that I let her down. I chowed down on Kung Pao chicken and played some whacked out music. Anson and I went for it tune after tune. The crowd was enthusiastic, and the time flew by. So I’m back at the hotel, feeling the blues, drinking a beer and reflecting that Thanksgiving is not a good time to be away from home. I don’t mind playing music on a holiday. I love playing music. I just dig the tradition of being around family on these special days too much to give it up, especially when the family is old. Call me old-fashioned. Call me a square. But I would have rather made dressing than played music tonight. Happy Thanksgiving. 

Don’t miss Little Charlie’s CD, “Little Charlie and the Organ Grinder Swing: Skronky Tonk


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new CD for Charles Baty

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