Anthony Durante, who goes by the stage name Tony Baltimore, is in part responsible for Key West’s successful Beatles tribute band appropriately named the Beatle Band. The band performs to standing room only crowds whenever it plays at the Green Parrot Bar, which is about once a month or so to “keep it fresh.” It’s next performance will be Jan. 10 with a soundcheck from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and two shows at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Tony, along with local celebrity musicians Jeff Clark, Christ Thomas Guastelle and Harim Jarzaro, creates a 4½-hour set that consists of nothing but the Beatles music from Abbey Road, to Sgt. Pepper to tunes that were later influenced by Yoko Ono. Band members even dress, move and act like the Beatles when they are on stage, complete with the side-to-side head shaking that the Beatles were famous for.
“I ran into Jeff Clark one night and said ‘I’ve had this idea in my head for a while about a Beatles tribute band where I do Paul and you do John,’” Tony tells me. “The Beatles changed everything. Even to this day, they can light the way.”
Tony is also getting ready to release his second album, which will be titled “Hear Me In” on iTunes, SoundCloud, Amazon and YouTube. The album was professionally produced by London native Ian Shaw, and includes a variety of instruments from drums to bass, guitar, piano, organs and trumpets. “Hear Me In” is a followup to his first song collection, “Define the Blur,” which received a generous amount of local praise and recognition. But what makes this new album so special is that it was entirely written in Key West.
Since Tony has dedicated so much of his time to songwriting, he likes to incorporate his originals with the covers that he is willing to play when performing a gig. However, he will only play a request if it is a song that he likes as well.
“I try not to do what everyone else does. Some people just do the typical Jimmy Buffet playlist, but I don’t do any of it. You can still be a great musician here by just doing your own thing.”
Tony describes himself as sounding in part like Ryan, not to be confused with Bryan, Adams within a genre that is a cross between Americana and Brit pop. Walk into any bar on our 2-by-4-mile island and chances are that you will be hard-pressed to find a tune you’ve never heard of before. Unless, of course you have a musician like Tony, who is not afraid to sing something real and honest.
Tony has become a highly respected musician in the local community and his shows are in high demand. He currently performs across the island at places such as Conch Republic Seafood Company, Sunset Pier at Ocean Key Resort and Willie T’s. He also performs at private events and parties.
We discuss for a moment the next generation that unfortunately will never know the true genius of the Beatles. Or Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan for that matter. That one day all of yesterday’s music might all become a part of the unknown lyrical abyss of tomorrow, like gypsy jazz is to most people these days. But the Beatles, like any pivotal moment, will never be completely forgotten. At least there are a significant number of us who like to think so. For as long as there are artists like Tony and an audience to sing to, the allure of the Beatles will continue to stay alive and well.
“If you like music, it is ingrained in you,” Tony explains. “If there is a good form of heroin, it would be music. It will flow through your blood. I’ve only ever heard one person say that they don’t like music and I’m pretty sure that they were lying.”
Tony grew up outside of Baltimore, hence the name, and moved to St. Petersburg while still in college pursuing a degree in American history and English literature. Because he was so easily distracted by catching a wave instead of going to class, he ended up finishing the double major back home in Maryland. However, it didn’t take long for him to come right back to the Sunshine State where he has remained to this day. He initially thought that he would move to London or Paris, but a convincing phone call from a friend brought him down to Key West, where he has remained ever since. He doesn’t see himself leaving anytime soon.
In the meantime, we should all be anticipating another album after this one and when the time comes perhaps another article. Apparently, Tony Baltimore is just getting started.
Follow Tony Baltimore by visiting his Facebook page at tonybaltimoremusic or his website at www.tonybaltimoremusic.com. You can also follow the Beatle Band on Facebook at thebeatleband. ¦