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Little Charlie & The Nightcats

One of the hardest-working barroom blues bands on the West Coast, Little Charlie & the Nightcats started out in the mid-'70s, began recording around a decade later, and just kept on going strong. The two constants over the Nightcats' long history were co-founders Little Charlie Baty (guitar) and Rick Estrin (harmonica, lead vocals). Baty's biting licks were the perfect complement to Estrin's devil-may-care swagger and wryly humorous, storytelling lyrics, and that combo was enough to maintain a decades-long career as a popular live act all across the blues circuit. The band's music relies chiefly on electric urban blues of the Chicago variety, but mixes in bits of many other compatible styles, including early rock & roll, soul, surf, swing, jump blues, and Western swing.

Charlie Baty was attending U.C.-Berkeley and studying mathematics when he formed Little Charlie & the Nightcats with Rick Estrin in 1976. Initially, both of them were harmonica players and singers, but Baty happened to play guitar as well, and he made the switch permanently when Estrin established himself as the stronger of the two. Joined by bassist Jay Peterson and drummer Dobie Strange, the band moved to Sacramento and made a living playing the local blues clubs. Eventually, they sent a demo tape to the prominent blues label Alligator, and despite the unsolicited nature of their submission, Alligator immediately signed them after catching their live act. After just over a decade in existence, Little Charlie & the Nightcats issued their debut album, All the Way Crazy, in 1987. The record helped establish them on the blues festival and club circuits, and they began touring the country extensively, playing a number of international venues as well. Follow-ups Disturbing the Peace (1988) and The Big Break (1989) consolidated their status, and the gigs poured in.

In 1990, the group had their first personnel change; Peterson departed and was replaced by Brad Lee Sexton, who debuted on the 1991 concert set Captured Live. 1993's Night Vision featured "My Next Ex-Wife," a witty blues-rocker that won Estrin a W.C. Handy Award for Song of the Year, highlighting his steadily growing reputation for songwriting prowess. Estrin's material was soon being covered by artists like Koko Taylor and Robert Cray. Sexton left in 1994, and Ronnie James Weber joined up as the band's third bassist, debuting the following year on Straight Up. Original drummer Dobie Strange left in 1996 after 20 years with the group, and his spot was taken by June Core. Core debuted on 1998's Shadow of the Blues, and that year the group also backed John Hammond, Jr. on his album Long As I Have You. Little Charlie & the Nightcats returned in 2002 with a new album, That's Big, and a new rhythm section, bassist Frankie Randall and drummer Joey Ventittelli. Nine Lives, released in 2005, saw yet another rhythm section, this time with J. Hansen on drums and Lorenzo Farrell on bass. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Anyone know when Little Charlie is going to play with the band again and where?
My 7th graders were all wound up today so I told them I would play the blues in the background if they worked quietly. I put on That's Big. and the class was quiet but not because they were doing classwork but because they really dug the sound. Move over Rap the next generation will be movin' and grooving' to the Blues.
Love the blues.
Come to Indiana for a Blues weekend and see these guys Sooo good. Bean Blossom blues fest. You will not be disappointed .
granthog
First time I have heard these cats.......d a m n good........ .
Thats is blues..... !
so good blues
bngeorge9
Saw the band at Biscuits and Blues. Front table.Blew me away! Little Charlie played and Rick Estrin was Dyno Mite! Leave it on pandora/ Nightcats myself.
digitalbaben y c 2
My favorite SF Bay area band in late 70's/early 80's. Never missed a bar. Major crush on harp player
I got to see little Charlie at The Fort Lauderdale blues fest back in 1995
hodgdons7
WHO'S the harp player??? Awesome!
I HAVE THIS CD , PLAY ING AIR GUITAR
slriverman
A few years ago, Rick and Charlie split, I heard that Charlie retired. I lived in Sac when they were forming the band. The bio is incorrect. Charles started the band, playing both harmonica and guitar. He wanted to focus on guitar, hiring frontmen until hooking up permanently with Rick. This was a few years after the band formed. Charlie still sits in with other bands in CA; Rick Estrin and the Nightcats are continuing the Nightcats legacy. Correct me someone, if my memory is off...
jheramb
this album is a must have if you like great blues
Rick wants you to dump that chump!
These guys really lay it down. I'd love to see them live.
Are they still around? I want to see them.
tomthefox
I used to go see these guy all the time in Baltimore years ago. They were pretty damned good live! This song Lottery is a nice one.
Very Good Live show seen in the the clubs around Sacramento.. If you ever get the chance to see them live DO IT
without a doubt! These guys just made my night!
thanks again pandora for playing something that i had never heard before.smoki n ' blues.
jon122476
Never heard of these guys. Def thumbs up. These guys are crazy good.
sivansix
Saw these guys in a little club in Brigatine NJ in 1993 and I was blown away by how incredible they were. Little Charlie is one of the best blues guitarists I've ever heard.
holy crap thats good.
braillepro
If this comes anywhere near your town ... Don't Miss Them!
Nice
One of my all-time favorite bands! Too bad Charlie is now retired, but thank God Rick still carries on.
pandora19107
I moved to Sacramento in 1986. The first Friday night I was there I saw an ad for Little Charlie and the Night Cats at Melarky's. The name sounded good, so I went. The cover was $5, the beers were cheap, and the band was unbelievably good. A pretty woman came up and asked me to dance. I soon found out that this was as good as Sacramento gets. Little Charlie played Melarky's one weekend a month. I went to every show. I made it through two years in Sacramento thanks to Little Charlie.
Happy to meet u!!!!!!!!
halritenour
A great blues band, lots of great music.
This is a great blues bar band with several good albums that really should be added to Pandora. Rick Estrin is one of the top five harp players today.
there is nothing better than Little Charlie and the Nightcats!

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