Charles Baty
Follow Me

Charles Baty

Born in Alabama, Charles Baty started as a mathematician but ended up a blues guitarist. Baty and Rick Estrin formed Little Charlie and the Nightcats, which went on to tour and release numerous albums, including Night Vision (1993) with guest musician and producer Joe Louis Walker. “Lil’ Charlie” drove more than a million miles during this era, traversing the continental United States dozens of times prior to the GPS era. Maps and memories with a good dash of diner food steered him right. Although “softly” retired in 2008, he can’t help but join a tour now and then, penning a journal as he stares out the van window. Check out out “Lil’ Charlie” on occasional tours at http://www.markhummel.com/calendar.html.
Charles Baty
Follow Me

The diner tour and traveling blues continues for blues guitarist Charles Baty (“Little Charlie and the Nightcats”), 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. Take a look at the tour calendar here  to track down some seriously good blues music. (BIG thank you to Bob Sekinger of the Baltimore Blues Society for permission to use the cover photo, above, taken April 15, 2016. Left to right, Baty, Anson Funderburgh, Mark Hummel, R.W. Grigsby, Wes Starr.)


April 16, 2016. The official “Diner Tour” continued today at one of our favorite spots – Dove Diner in Newcastle, Del.

The diner tour at Dove Diner.

Anson Funderburgh recovering from his Dove Diner meal. (Photo by Charles Baty)

It has an amazing assortment of cakes and pies that I have never tried because I am always too full after finishing a breakfast there to even attempt a bite. They have half off dessert weekend prices – a mere two bucks for a piece of cake about 10 inches high.

The diner tour as our band drools in front of a rack of cakes.

Cakes on the rack at Dove Diner. “The cake vault at Dove Diner is guarded by snipers and pit bulls,” Charles claims. (Photo by Charles Baty)

But enough about food. The Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club (shown in the cover photo) is a huge art deco club with lots of tables, good food, and is located conveniently across the street from our hotel. Our friends brought about 100,000 calories worth of cookies, brownies and carrot cake. I did not see any famous politicians in the house…. That’s too bad because blues could help change the political focus of this country. Blues is a policy that does not favor any economic or racial strata. And good blues ought to make the poorest or the richest person smile and tap their feet and move to the groove. Maybe we need a Blues Political Party. Sign me up!!

The diner tour and potato chips go hand in hand.

Enough about politics…. Let’s talk sampling potato chips…. Diving into famous Utz chips, from left to right, drummer and singer Big Joe Maher, Charles Baty (standing), Bill Wax (former head blues DJ at XM radio) and Anson Funderburgh.

April 14, 2016. New Jersey is an enigma. There are beautiful landscapes and coastlands, great neighborhoods with real family owned restaurants and delis, lots of pine trees, and some industrial sprawl. We headed over to a thrift store in Tuckerton N.J., this morning…and then we ate at a diner (again) and headed down U.S. Route 9. About 10 miles into the ride, we stumbled onto some bizarre Twilight Zone-like compound of 6 acres or so with statues of tanks, planes, Jesus, elephants, aliens, and tons of other unrelated things with signs saying things like “God Bless America.” I was curious about this strange ranch of the absurd and bizarre and found a story about it on a website called weirdnj.com by searching for stories on weird houses on Route 9. It evidently is the summerhouse of a man named Mr. Kim, the site says, and it is has an interesting history.

Diner tour as we drive by a very weird compound in New Jersey.

Charles made them turn around and go back to size up this “weird compound” in Jersey. (Photo by Charles Baty)

We drove by groves of pine trees and swamps that looked like great dumping grounds for mob hits. Definitely was reminiscent of the Sopranos. We made it to Delaware and I actually had time for a nap.

April 12, 2016 – I once told a friend that I could write a book about things like going to the grocery store. All of the little dramas that you witness and imagine, all of the chance encounters that you make. Today was one of those types of book-worthy days, but I will make a small attempt at brevity. We left rainy, cold and miserable Springfield, Mass., and headed down a patented “Little Charlie shortcut” and toll-avoidance route through Connecticut via I-84, a sharp left at 684 on the NY state line, down the Saw Mill Parkway by the Reader’s Digest headquarters, over the Tappan Zee bridge, the ring road through New Jersey called 287, I-78 West to Allentown Pa., and then down 309 South also known as the Bethlehem Pike. So many beautiful and poignant sites decorate this route. But you have to be careful. New Jersey State Police are both sneaky and relentless. You had better stick to the speed limit there.

Doing laundry on the diner tour.

It’s not all glamour and diners on the diner tour with professional musicians. Charles and Anson catching up on laundry just outside of Utica, N.Y. (Photo by Wes Starr)

One of the many things a road musician or in fact any traveler should know are the colors of each state’s highway patrol, which states you can make a right on a red light, the relative tolerance in each state for going over the limit, and finally where the good coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores are. Oh, and the diners. When you’re in a hurry and need a quick sandwich, nine times out of 10 you can get a cheaper yet better sandwich at a neighborhood deli or store than the boring and tasteless Subway. Anson (Funderburgh) and I scored great turkey sandwiches at a Shop Rite in Southbury, Conn…. Headed through Jersey into Amish country. The Pennsylvania Dutch are not Dutch but “Deutsch” — in other words German. I spoke a few words in German to a hotel guest in the elevator who asked for floor “drei” (three).

Diner tour looking at the Sellersville Theater plaque.

Sellersville Theater historic plaque. (Photo by Charles Baty)

Sellersville Theater is historic and sounds great inside. The adjacent restaurant called Washington House has incredible food, and we ate in style — no insulting “band menu.” My short ribs melted in my mouth. As long as this report is, I skipped many things such as the postal employee who asked if R.W. and myself were in a punk band, and the cat that brought down some rare photos of Little Walter. Our diner tour continues with breakfast in a German diner tomorrow, gig near Atlantic City, more car repairs. Now you’re caught up.


Keep up with Charles’ journal:


Check out Mark Hummel and the Blues Survivors for ongoing tours all over the country. HI Travel Tales can’t wait for them to get back to California! The CD release party on Aug. 9 at Yoshi’s in Oakland or the Tahoe Blues Days on Aug. 29 at Lake Tahoe will be on our calendars!