MUSICIAN TONY BALTIMORE FINE TUNES HIS STYLE IN KEY WEST
The past decade has defined Tony Baltimore as a performer, songwriter and musician.
Baltimore (whose last name is really Durante) moved to Key West from Baltimore, Maryland in February 2011. Like many who love our hometowns, he had grown tired of his and was looking for a change. His longtime friend Nick Doll had recently moved to Key West and suggested Tony come down.
I also moved to Key West in 2011 from Columbus, Ohio, only a month after Tony. We met soon thereafter, and I became a friend and a fan. His journey has been both remarkable and inspirational to me. I recently had occasion to sit with him and his lovely fiancée Andreea and their two loving pit bulls. The interview took place between dips in their pool and a fantastic home-smoked and grilled meal prepared by Tony.
Baltimore had been playing music and tending bar in Baltimore for years. He worked briefly in the family real estate business and even attended college and grad school, but found his heart was not in business. Music was his passion.
Shortly after coming to Key West, Tony walked into Bogart’s, having heard they were looking for bartenders. He didn’t fit the bill for that, but the manager did ask if he knew any musicians.
“Well, I know me. What do you have in mind?” Tony recalled saying. “That’s where it all started in Key West for me. I played two days later and was hired to play full time.”
Networking within the music community and with some help from friends, Baltimore began to expand his gig schedule. He took his solo act to places like Island Dogs and Lazy Gecko that first year.
“I remember thinking I had actually backpedaled musically,” he said. “I had been a lead guitarist back home in Baltimore. I was only playing mostly acoustic solo gigs and only really playing rhythm.”
One Wednesday evening Baltimore was performing solo at Lazy Gecko when he looked up to see Key West icon Caffeine Carl peering through the window.
“I remember Carl telling me he liked to listen to me play during his breaks from playing across the street. He told me he had noticed how my guitar work was really great,” said a smiling Baltimore. “When a guy like Caffeine Carl compliments your playing, it can truly inspire you. I decided then to refocus on my guitar work.”
Baltimore began playing in multiple bands with various local musicians, even performing a weekly gig with Caffeine Carl. In 2015, he had an idea to perform a tribute to his favorite band, The Beatles. He joined forces with his dear friend, another extremely talented local musician, Jeff Clark. The Keys Beatle Band became a huge hit and put Tony’s name on the map.
In 2016, Baltimore released his debut album, “Define the Blur.” The album, produced by Ian Shaw, received rave reviews from his peers and music junkies like me. Many tracks received airplay on radio. In 2019, Baltimore released his second album, “Hear Me In,” also a huge success. Both albums are proof of Tony’s excellent musicianship, but also showcase his talent as one of the best songwriters in Key West. He expects to release his third studio album in 2022.
Tony’s career has been spectacular to follow. From his memorable performances at The Sunday Ramble concert series and his dual album release party with Jeff Clark at the Key West Theater to his now-iconic Beatle Band performances at the Green Parrot, Baltimore has truly come of age.
He now has his own band, Tony Baltimore & The Wilde Awake featuring himself on lead guitar and vocals, Vince Bergamo on keys, Henry Lysy Jr. on bass, and Randy Stindt on drums. The Wilde Awake is a phenomenal rock band that performs covers most other bands do not, as well as Baltimore’s original music.
They can be seen at 9 p.m. this Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 6-9, at Hog’s Breath. Go enjoy a unique Key West rock experience, and as Tony says at the end of each show, “Take care of yourself and someone else.”
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