My Traveling Blues: A life on the road with Charles Baty
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”) is a friend of HI Travel Tales. Although Baty semi-retired in 2008 (his co-founder continues with the award-winning Nightcats band), he stills steps into a gig or a tour now and then which takes him on the road. The life of a touring musician isn’t always glamorous, but Baty breaks up his many hours in the van or in hotels by writing about what he sees. And from small towns to big towns, he sees a lot out of that van or diner window. He has offered some of his personal journal entries to HI Travel Tales during this Golden State-Lone Star Revue tour with Mark Hummel and the Blues Survivors — a bit of Baty traveling blues wisdom.
April 8, 2016. What are the perks of being on the road? Everyone in the music business would probably have a different response, but personally I enjoy the scenery, the food, running into friends, and the overall quirkiness of the situation. You’re always running into unusual situations and odd people and it’s the polar opposite of day-to-day life at home. For instance, I love diners — there are few real diners in California but tons of them on the East Coast. I could have had a free breakfast at the hotel this morning in Bethel, Conn., but I opted for the New Colony V diner instead. The youngest waitress there was about 69….
Shortly after my diner fix, we planned to take I-84 to get to Rhode Island, but traffic was terrible. We took an alternate route leading us into Naugatuck, Conn. We saw 2 police pull over a man driving a banana…. I am content now because I saw the banana car, saw some really nice people who mean a lot to me too, and because I heard Joe Turner in a diner. And because I heard Wes Starr play a 48 bar press roll in Sheik. I am a person of simple tastes. I am surrounded by beauty, goodness, and the surreal. Life can be good. Today it was great.
April 2, 2016. I woke up after a refreshing 5 hours of sleep to a mediocre breakfast at a French Quarter motel in New Orleans. Being that I am often a half-glass-full kind of optimist, I made small talk with a fellow hotel guest by the toaster about the long toasting turnover. She returned my breakfast banality with an uncomprehending stare. Her biker boyfriend explained to me that she didn’t speak English very well. It turned out that said couple was part of a German motorcycle gang based out of Miami, Fla., also on the road and on a New Orleans tour.
When I came back to the front desk after eating what was called breakfast, I saw the same biker reporting one of his biker brethren missing-in-action to the front desk clerk. It turned out that a German named Hermann or Hans was missing. He had been last seen at 3 in the morning drunk in some club and hadn’t returned to the hotel. The clerk called the police and gave a description of a tall biker in black leather pants, Harley t-shirt and yellow cowboy hat. As if they haven’t heard that one before? As soon as the report was filed, in walks a tall biker matching Hermann’s description without hat and without wallet. He had been mugged. He was a tough customer, but he was robbed. At least he was alive.
We booked out of New Orleans in the heavy thunderstorms towards Mobile and Montgomery, Ala., and then Atlanta. Stopped for lunch at a turkey cafeteria in Greenville, Ala., called “Bates House of Turkey.” Only out here do you find this. Reminded me of eating Swanson’s TV dinners when I was young though.
Arrived at our hotel in the ‘hood in Atlanta. It was way beyond funky and scary, just plain dangerous. One band member spotted a giant cockroach waiting for him in his room. At Blind Willie’s Blues Club in Atlanta, we had a great night of music despite the difficulties of fitting on stage. Imagine solving Chinese puzzles on a miniature submarine. Our equipment was too big for the small space, but we made it work. Smoking is still allowed there, unlike California. We breathed second-hand smoke, played three sets, and we survived.
On the road tomorrow we travel to hilly North Carolina and play in a casual club in Brevard, N.C., called 185 King St. The atmosphere will be clean, safe and fun. I love Atlanta, but next time I don’t want to stay in the ‘hood. I have mugaphobia.
The Charles Baty Traveling Blues Wisdom collection
- April 12: My Traveling Blues: A life on the road
- April 19: My Traveling Blues: Diner tour and driving tips
- April 28: My Traveling Blues: Dirty blues and Italian ice
- June 24: Red Eye to hot blues: Off to Mishawaka and the Midwest
- June 29: Singing the blues: Charles Baty Lone Star Revue tour winds down
- July 5: No polka for Charles Baty and the traveling blues band
- August 10: ‘You don’t go to Tucson to eat pizza’ – Charles Baty blues wisdom
- September 5: Traveling blues on tour: ‘Be the road,’ says Charles Baty
- November 24: Feeling the blues: Thanksgiving tour and Charles Baty’s missing home
Don’t miss Little Charlie’s CD, “Little Charlie and the Organ Grinder Swing: Skronky Tonk”