Real people are playing real music on real instruments in real time

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Tony Baltimore     Real people are playing real music on real instruments in real time

By Ralph De Palma

Tony Durante was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland.  His stage name, Tony Baltimore, came from his hometown.  He started playing drums when he was four. His parents were very tolerant and understanding.  Later, when he had a full drum set, they would sometimes let him practice as late as nine o’clock in the evening. He played drums in the high school jazz band and a rock band. One night, the lead singer was intoxicated, and Tony was promoted to guitar and vocals.  He never played the drums in a band again.

Several bands influenced him while he was growing up: Jerry Garcia, Freddy Mercury and Queen, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and The Clash.  He was admittedly all over the board, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

His mother moved to Clearwater Beach, Florida, in 1999.  Twenty-year old Tony moved there and briefly went to St. Petersburg College. His mother asked him one day where he was going, and he told her to class – with surfboard on top of his car. He realized that he would never finish school if he stayed in Florida. He quickly returned to Baltimore and began playing with a band called Skip, Hop, and Go Naked. They were almost signed by MCA Records in 2001 but the 9/11 attacks happened – the band was never signed. Tony graduated from University of Baltimore in 2002 with a degree in history and English literature. In 2005, he completed a master’s degree in creative arts and publication.

In 2007, Tony visited England after reading the 1200-page biography of John Lennon by Philip Norman. While in Liverpool, he wanted to have a drink in Ye Cracke, a bar that John Lennon frequented. Tony was struggling to find the pub, walking all over the older part of Liverpool at night and asking for directions. Ironically, he saw a sign on a building called Baltimore Street and just behind it was a sign for Ye Cracke. He went inside and ordered a pint. They were getting ready to close so he had to be quick. He trotted back to the restroom, giddy as a schoolboy, because he got to pee where John Lennon had peed. Baltimore describes this as then a top musical highlight of his young career.

In 2009, close friend Nick Doll, who was living here, called and suggested he try Key West. Tony visited and, like many other musicians, fell in love with the place. Instead of techno and DJ’s, Tony found real people playing real music on real instruments in real time. He said the Key West music scene is a bit old school like the “Land that Time forgot.”

One memorable night in 2013, Tony Baltimore, Larry Baeder, and Jeff Clark performed a tribute to Jimi Hendrix at the Green Parrot. It was a wild guitar festival. Tony and Jeff hadn’t even been born when Hendrix was ripping up Woodstock, but they knew every note. They played every song Hendrix wrote. Larry Baeder started a guitar competition on stage with the younger players, playing with his teeth, over his head, and playing their guitars. Baltimore responded by showboating equally. The audience loved it.

 Tony and Andrea Mihalcea met in Key West and initially started talking about music and New Orleans, where Tony travels often. Their relationship immediately blossomed. They were married June 30, 2021.

Tony has released two CDs: “Define the Blur” was well received in 2016, and “Hear Me In” was released March 16th, 2020 and the whole world shut down the next day.  He signed with Conch Town Music. On December 1st, they will release a single, with a music video, of a very cool Tony Baltimore song, “Let’s All Go Insane”. Good friend and longtime collaborator, Jeff Clark, will help Tony celebrate the release of the album (of the same name) at the Key West Theater on February 24, 2022. Don’t miss this one.

At another Green Parrot gig with Baltimore, Baeder, and Claire Finley, a five-piece New Orleans style marching horn band walked in, along with a troop of folks in New Orleans second line costume, carrying parasols.  The band jumped on stage with them and started playing classic songs, finishing with “The Saints Go Marching In”. Baltimore looked at Finley and said, “There’s something you don’t see every day.” All he could think was, “It’s Key West.”


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