Chris Ballew, aka Caspar Babypants, will bring his kid-friendly music to the THING festival this weekend. (Brian Kasnyik)

Chris Ballew, aka Caspar Babypants, will bring his kid-friendly music to the THING festival this weekend. (Brian Kasnyik)

He wears the Babypants in the family

Performer set for THING festival appearance

PORT TOWNSEND — This is exactly who Chris Ballew wanted to be when he grew up.

Caspar Babypants is a singer, guitarist, arranger, maker of 20 records.

He is well-known on the North Olympic Peninsula, having played libraries, community centers and fairs.

This weekend, he also will perform at the THING festival at Fort Worden State Park as one of more than 50 acts.

His musical revue will start at 1 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday in the Wheeler Theater; information about the two full days of shows and activities awaits at https://thingnw.org.

Ballew/Babypants is beloved among children for albums such as “Hot Dog!,” “More Please!,” “Sleep Tight!,” “Keep It Real!” and “Beatles Baby!” Yet when he composes and adapts songs, he thinks of the moms and dads.

“I joke that I really make parents’ music,” he said, but since there’s no genre called that, he labels his art “music for families,” and takes it from there.

Known for inspiring shy kids to get up and dance, he starts his performances without a set list. Then he reads the audience, offering energetic or mellow songs depending on the room.

“I go into my own personal mode of feeling like a kid,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Seattle.

“I love kids age zero to 5, the way they interact with the world; their freedom,” and how when he does a show, the crowd becomes the “band.”

Most of all, Ballew/Babypants wants everyone to know that with him, they can be themselves.

The key, he said, is “being in the moment, not executing a plan. They’re telling me what they need, and I’m trying to respond,” with songs that fit.

Often those are Beatles songs. Ballew/Babypants is a longtime admirer of the Fab Four, having been 2 1/2 when he heard the brand-new “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album in 1967.

To his mind, the Beatles’ music perseveres “because it’s vivid. When I was a little kid, that ‘Sergeant Pepper’s’ album took me on an imaginative journey,” one that inspired him to make his own music.

When he chooses Beatles songs, he picks the ones that are visual, painting a picture with story and characters. And yes, he writes royalty checks to several agencies for those songs — “a spreadsheet nightmare, but it’s worth it.”

Ballew started piano lessons at age 4. He formed a number of bands in the ensuing years, the most famous being the Seattle alternative rock group The Presidents of the United States of America.

Singing lead and playing bass guitar with them, he traveled the world. After he and his wife, artist Kate Endle, had a son and daughter, and he wanted to stay home in Seattle more. Thus began his life as Caspar Babypants.

The surname comes from what he calls a hippie clothing co-op in Boston. In that city many years ago with one of his bands, he was having trouble dealing with the frigid weather. He found a pair of knitted baby trousers at the co-op and put them on his head like a stocking cap. People started calling him Babypants. He added Caspar just because he liked it.

“I like having names that disarm people,” he said.

“With Presidents of the United States of America, people would go, ‘What?’ When people hear Caspar Babypants, they smile.”

________

Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.

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