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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Key West Summer Weather, New Album C/D In The Works Part 1, The Beer Show

Key West Summer Weather

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One of the great things about Key West is that predicting the weather is really not all that difficult. The seasons are different, but each season and sometimes months are the same year to year, for the most part. So easy, in fact, that baring the unusual oddities or, God forbid, a hurricane, it's pretty similar from one day to the next.

So easy in fact that I made this generic weather forecast for local station 104.9 The X radio station. It's not the first I've done for them. I did another a couple of years ago and it still works just perfectly!

As the recording mentions, it's going to be hot! t is summer after all and we're in the tropics as well, so what would anyone expect?

Every day I take note of the temperature. This year's been a bit hotter than last year. Back then we had a total of three days that hit 90 degrees. That's 32C for our metric readers. This year, I've lost count... back in June! It may sound like a big difference, but in reality, it's splitting hairs. Is there really a major difference between 89 (32.2C) and 90 (31.7C) ? Not at all.

When I first moved to Florida, several decades ago from New Jersey, where I grew up, I worked in Coral Gables (a city surrounded by Miami). I recall walking down the street at lunch time and while the ambient temperature was around 88 (31C), the same as New Jersey/NYC, the difference was in the power of the sun. Walking down the street, the power of the sun felt as though it was pushing you harder into the sidewalk. If I weighed 150lbs (68 kilos), it felt like I was carrying an extra 20 pounds and weighed 170 pounds (77 kilos). It's the power of the tropical sun and that's what it's like in the Key West. Consequently, what you do is walk on whatever side of the street that has the shade is! Pretty simple and common sense.

I'll hear people sometimes complain about the summer heat. I think that's pretty foolish, if you ask me. You're in the tropics, it's summer time, what do you expect? Of course it's hot. The true facts are that very often in the summer, it's hotter in New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, or Atlanta, than it is in Key West. Key West has never hit 100 degrees (38 C). I recall growing up thirty miles west of NYC and the summer hitting 106! (41 C). Additionally, the air there often wouldn't move for days on end. It would just sit there. In the town next to where I lived, Ridgewood, N.J. there was a scenic overlook in a section of the town refereed to as "the Hights". Right off this overlook, the land dropped maybe fifty feet (16.5 M) and there was a valley which stretched right to NYC. On a clear day, it was beautiful. However on these days where the air didn't move, it was a brown cloud of air pollution that just never moved out.

In Key West, we have the trade winds blowing through. 90% of the time, there's a breeze and that 10% when there isn't one, it doesn't last all that long.

There is no air pollution in Key West.

Humidity is high in the summer as well. Again, when people complain about it, it's the same here as it is in NYC, Chicago, or Boston. For someone who heads north for the summer, weather wise speaking, they are jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

For visitors, summer is the true deal, as far as visiting Key West and the smart travelers visit then. They already know all of the aforementioned weather I explained above, plus the hotel rates are, far and away, the lowest of the year.

New Album/CD In The Works - Part 1

I'm starting to put together ideas and songs for my next album, which I hope to start recording this fall. There is a big weight to follow up my last one "Shanghai'd and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)". When Miles Davis' producer writes from L.A. to say "Chris, I love your CD! It makes me feel like I'm back in the Keys!" it means this next project has extremely large shoes to fill!
For those of you who are not in the music industry, I'll share a few things that go into making a new project like this. I say project because I really don't know what the next name for these are going to be? Back when they had vinyl, it was an album. Then when CD's came out in the early 80's, it started being called a CD. Today? Who knows? Aside from live performers like myself and the Country music field based in Nashville, the music industry is all downloads. So I'm not sure what to call it, or what it will be called down the road. Maybe back to "Albums"?

Henceforth, that's what I'll refer to it as.

The first thing I have to deal with are the songs that will be on the compilation. It's like choosing favorite children. I was wrestling for a name for the album until I wrote a new song for it. It was a tricky song to write, in that in this case, it has to make you smile and hopefully laugh, yet continue to be fresh all the time, continuing to make one smile and laugh when they hear it, time after time. If it's done like a joke, it's funny at best the first few times once on hears it. After that, it's all over. So it can be a fine line. With this song, I gave it a wide birth because I don't need to be walking a tight rope, fifty stories over a mote of crocodiles.

The title song is called "Jump Into De Fire". Unlike "Shanghai'd and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)" this album will have a title track. Shanghai'd actually had a title track, but I never completed writing it, so it missed being on it. So, we have one song on it for sure! Another song that will be definitely on it will be the newest mix of Island Blue, featuring Misty Loggins on vocals and Dani Hoy on background vocals.

When I recorded Shanghai'd, one of my main objectives was to have every song sound different from any other song on the album. I can't tell you how many albums/CDs I've listened to over the years, where every song sounds like the song that preceded it. No thanks. One of the ways I achieved that was to write songs in different root genres. We had Afro/Cuban/Motown, Jazz, Country, Funk, Barrel House Blues, Brazilian, Bahamian, so on and so forth. In the end, nothing sounded like anything else on the album. In addition, I also used a lot of different musicians on different songs, so that contributed greatly to the album's diverse sounds.

"Jump Into De Fire"s goal will be much along the same lines of having nothing sound like anything else on the album. How it will be executed remains to be seen. Unlike Shanghai'd, there could very well be songs of the same root genre on this album, for one thing. Logistics may also come into play. Last year, after performing with Misty Loggins at the Key West Songwriter's Festival (and her doing "Island Blue" for me) I wrote a new song, a duet for the two of us to do, "Sometimes We Tote The Load". the logistics being that if she's not available to fly down to Key West from Nashville when we record it, "we're up the creek", as they say.

(Misty Loggins and I doing Island Blue)

Dani Hoy and I are in progress of putting a song together, "Smile". I have the music pretty much done and a fair amount of the lyrics. Dani's looked at it a few times so far, looking forward to  seeing what she will add!

Meanwhile, there's a bunch of songs I have to weed through and figure out what goes and what stays. Then, on the one's that stay, band arrangements must be put together. Trust me, it's a whole different animal from playing it solo live and playing it in a studio.

Updates on this will follow in each blog, as I think readers might like having some insight on how making an album all comes about.

Beer Show!

The beer show is stepping up it's game big time! This week we had a live studio audience in the form of Tiffani and Mike Green, which was a first. At this time, Dave Sr. who owns the Cork and Stogie with his wife Leslie, has approved having guests. We're very limited in space and the guests must agree to not talk. We already have five personalities babbeling away and that's really the total limit we can have for a radio audience. However, for a nominal fee, you can be in our audience!
We've also have a Facebook page:

A Twitter page:

Here's the schedule, All times are EST (a.k.a. Same as NYC)

KW Beer Show Airing/Stations Schedules:

KWOM - 10am and 10pm

Trop Rock Radio - Sundays 5 - 6

Radio A1A - Monday's at 7 and last week's show at 7 every day of the week other than Mondays

The Shore - Friday at noon

Tiki Island Radio - times TBA

Tiki Beach Shop -                                         Monday, Wednesday, Friday  -  2 PM

More to come on this as we go!

 Thanks again for reading the blog everyone!

To obtain my music:
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My CD is available on iTunes, CD Baby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio.

Search: Key West Chris

Thank you everyone!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Radio Show and Some Bad Business in Key West

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                          (Looks like an electric palm tree!)

As I mentioned in a previous blog, my girlfriend Dani Hoy and I are doing not one, but two radio shows all of the sudden!

Stop by our pages on Facebook for each show, which will have airing schedules listed. I know a lot of you are in Europe, the times posted are Eastern Standard Time, which is -5 hours GMT and -6 hours for the continent.

For the Key West Beer Tales - The Sum of All Beers:

For the The Key West Music Show - Conch Rockin in the Keys:

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I really don't care what people do behind closed doors. That's their business, not mine and frankly, I have a lot more to be concerned about than being a busy-body, sticking my nose into other peoples personal affairs.

However, if it's a business and when the buisiness is being unethical, that's where I draw the line, especially if it's a detriment to the town of Key West.
The Key West Adult Entertainment Club ( formally The Scrub Club) at 1221 Duval St. seems to always be in the news... albeit not so much in the LOCAL news and the news is ALWAYS bad. Very, very bad.

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Lets set the stage: The Key West Adult Entertainment Club is a strip club that features only private rooms.

The story here is always exactly the same. A customer goes in, must sign a waiver and is charged something in the range of about (hence to referred to as "@")$200. After that runs out, everybody is naked and the guy hasn't achieved what he went in there to begin with for. They have an ATM, but it's down the hall. The guy being naked, takes the advise of the girl there and gives her his card to take out an additional amount of agreed money. Lets say it's another @ $200, for arguments sake. He stays in the room and she goes and gets his @ $200 from their ATM. Naturally, he doesn't see that the ATM fee is not$2.50, $3.00 or $4.00, but rather@ $50.00! The girl will NEVER come back with a receipt either. "Oh! I forgot to get your receipt and the transaction's already closed" Of course if they did the customer would see the @$50 ATM charge.

 Now here comes the fun part. Every report carries the same M.O. Only the amounts are different. What they are said to do next is put in for another withdrawl! There's another $50.00 fee and the ammounts withdrawn reports say are $600.00, $800.00, $1000.00, $1,500.00, $6,000.00... and so on! Meanwhile, the guys, more often than not, find out about this after they get back home, to Chicago, New York, Atlanta, New Orleans... You'll see it in their local papers and once in a blue moon, maybe, just maybe, in a Key West paper, albeit, just in passing. Every report says that it cases are being investigated, but that no charges have been filed.

It does seem odd that all of these cases that pop up continuously, from all around the country, never have anyone charged. While I grant you for thinking that the clientele are pretty stupid for giving out their ATM codes to begin with, one has to consider the fact that A) the establishment knowingly is stealing their money and no doubt violating the trust and responsibility issues of having an ATM, a.k.a. a remote bank, there on premiss and in their control in first place B) The clientele is usually inebriated to some extent or another, C) At this stage of the game they are 75% - 99% of achieving nirvana and in their condition, clearly not thinking rationally. I'm amazed that the city of Key West doesn't have the owners tared and feathered, then run out of town. However, they continue to operate.

There are police cars, often two or three, there responding to  issues there at minimum of once a day.

The word of mouth is perhaps the worst. What happens here is that these people go back home after being fleeced by this rat's nest, and allow me to ask the question: Do you think they're thinking of coming back to Key West? I doubt it. Likewise, can you imagine what they might be telling friends and acquaintances  of their overall experience in Key West? Granted, they may refrain from where they had their disastrous experience at this slut hut, but believe me, they're not trumpeting the fabulous virtues this town actually does have to offer.

Additionally, having known a previous manager,  I was brought up to speed on a few things. They put up for housing a lot of their female employees. There are "requirements" they have to follow in the business and if they didn't fulfill these "requirements" in any way, they are "fined". The fines would be levied on them for being late, not hanging out on their front porch hoping to lure in customers, not doing their required one hour strut down Duval St. in attempt to solicit additional  business ( this is against city code, by the way,) , and for not moping up the floor after their customers achieved what they went there to begin with for.


(Regarding the required hour long strut down Duval attempting to bring back business to the hovel, you may have noticed that it's mentioned that this is against city code? Well, they were cited for it in 2012. They had court date after court date postponed and put on to continuance until this week when it was all supposed to finally be heard. I'm not sure what happened, but the docket no longer has any record whatsoever of there ever being any kind of a hearing, or it ever even being on the record books at all. Unusual, to say the least.)  

There were cases when said previous manager worked, where some of the girls owed more than they actually made! Additionally, as they actually housed the women, they had them entirely over a barrel, so to speak. The girls didn't have any money, as they had to pay off their fines and the establishment applied and deducted them against their earnings. How can they leave? They can't. So they're stuck there. Yes, this is happening in the United States, not a back alley brothel, where the streets smell like urine, in Bangcock, Calcutta, Shanghai, or Mumbai. It's happening in Key West folks. This is a problem. This is a major problem.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sir Peter Anderson

Sir Peter Anderson

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Thirty years ago a man named Peter Anderson arrived in Key West and Key West has been the benefactor ever since. Several years after his arrival, Peter Anderson  was appointed by the mayor, saloon owner Captain Tony, as the Secretary General of the Conch Republic. He was also knighted by the King of the Conch Republic, Mel Fisher, thus carrying the title of "Sir Peter Anderson", of which he was very proud indeed.

His first main focus in being the Secretary General first was to ensure the floundering Conch Republic Days, the celebration of the independence of the Conch Republic, would continue on. This he did extraordinarily well and because of his gallant efforts over the years, to this day the festival is booming! He also started the Conch Republic Days Parade! Yahoo!!!

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(Sir Peter Anderson leads the 1998 Conch Republic Parade. Picture by Rob O'Neil)

My first introduction to Sir Peter was in 2006, I think it was? Because of the idiotic rules that the U.S. has for Cuban immigrants.( if they come here by boat or raft as immigrants, they must land on U.S. soil. If intercepted on water, they are repatriated to Cuba) In this case, a group of Cubans sailed on a raft to the U.S. and landed on one of the abutments of the Seven Mile Bridge here in the Florida Keys. Because they didn't reach dry land, but rather one of the supports for the old bridge, they were collected and sent back to Cuba. Sir Peter consequently went to the Seven Mile Bridge and declared it Sovereign Conch Republic Territory. The rest of the Conch Republic territory, from the Dry Tortugas through all of the Keys, is joint U.S.and  Conch Republic. However, as the U.S. did not recognize the old Seven Mile Bridge as territory and sending the Cubans back, Sir Peter claimed is as sovereign Conch Republic. Additionally, his proposal was to build affordable housing on top of it! Apparently, somewhere there are architectural plans drawn up for it!

For me, a songwriter living in Miami at the time, with a serious eye on moving to the Keys, this was too good to pass up, so I wrote a song about it! It actually was supposed to be on my album "Shanghai'd and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)" but on the day we were completing the rhythm section of the tracks on the CD, I was just completely out of gas, so to speak and when Richard Crooks said "Ok! What do we have next? The Seven Mile Bridge" I was just too tired and it never was recorded.

I do have a demo however and here it is:

While writing the song, I contacted Sir Peter for the first time. What I found was a man who possesed the very rare combination of a completely off the wall sense of humor, combined with an intelect that was very clearly far into the genious level. Now, take these two very uncommon attributes and add to it the fact that the man was anchored, as solid as concrete, with, get this: common sense and logic. Plus, he was a great proponent of having fun and incorporating fun into everything he did. 

After I moved here, one of my first order of business was to meet Sir Peter Anderson in person. This didn't take too long as he was a part of the 2008 Phlockers Gone Wild party at the Blue Heaven restaurant's outside stage area. He swore in the entire crowd there , with beer in hand, as Conch Republic citizens! The lead off picture of this blog, is him doing so that day.
Here's another picture from that day, Sir Peter can be seen in white at the bar.

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Sir Peter also came up with all of the utterly fantastic sayings you'll hear regarding the Conch Republic. Things like "A Sovereign State of Mind",  "We Seceded Where Others Have Failed", and "The Mitigation of World Tension Through the Exercise of Humor". Sir Peter also got the Conch Republic passports rolling. I am a proud holder of one of these.

He also set up the Conch Republic website. Be sure to check it out!

The Conch Republic flag was also Sir Peter's doing. Back when I made my business cards I asked permission to use it for the card. Naturally, without hesitation he said "Of course!" after a moment he said "Would you do me a favor? Would you mind putting 'Used with permission' under it? It can be microscopic if you want. All I ask is that it's there". I immediately said absolutely and it's been on the cards since they've first been printed.

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Sir Peter was as well, a great proponent and organizer of good causes and charatible events, such as Reef Relief, of which he was elected president and  Habitat for Humanity.

I don't think I would get any arguments at all if I stated that Sir Peter Anderson was the biggest proponent of the Conch Republic itself. He actually was able to make a living out of it. He was a true ambassador for this silly little country, this "fifth world state of mind" as he also acronymed it.

(Sir Peter Anderson explains the history of the Conch Republic at Schooner Wharf Bar)

His actions tought me a lot. As this little archipelago of islands, I quickly came to believe, having a long extensive sales background, that it is all of our responsibilities, to do our part in promoting the Conch Republic. That's why I write this blog for the most part. Chances are actually maybe one in a hundred that individually we might gain somthing ourselves out of it. However we don't do it for ourselves, we do it for all of us who live on these islands. "The needs of the many out weighs the needs of the few" as Mr. Spok had said. Being the wise, logical, man that I saw him as, when I spoke up on a subject Sir Peter spoke on, I'd always bang the same drum. Sir Peter always had the best interests of all and the Conch Republic at hand.

On a funny note: I recall several years ago I had heard that Mel Fisher had been the King of the Conch Republic, however he had passed away and I couldn't find who was the current king. So, naturally I asked Sir Peter and he gave a very quick answer, without hesitation. "Mel Fisher!" was his retort. So I said "Well, Mel Fisher has been gone for several years." and he answered "Yeah, so?" and I naturally replied "So even though he's dead, he's still the king?" and Sir Peter answered "Of course!!" I laughed my ass off! It's that sort of humor that just encompass the Conch Republic.

Any conversation I've ever had with Sir Peter was always peppered with laughter, from both of us. Humor was one of our similar attributes and in our conversations it reared it's ridiculous head all the time. His favorite regular spot to watch the Key West sunset was always Louie's Backyard and he was always enjoying a quality beer... another similar attribute we shared!

On Tuesday, 16th of July, 2014 we lost Sir Peter Anderson to cancer. Back in October he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Ironically, from a man who never smoked. Unfair as it was, he fought a gallant battle and won on many fronts.  He was back from the hospital and was in at least two parade events and a ridiculouse running event that went across the Cow Key Bridge from Key West to Stock Island... about 100 yards!

On my next batch of cards the release will be augmented to:
 "Used with permission of Sir Peter Anderson"

Godspeed Sir Peter! It was an honor ato know you and you were a true inspiration. Thank you!

Sometimes when in the presence of greatness, one only realizes after they are gone. This was never the case with Sir Peter Anderson. I knew it from the start. For this man knew how to have FUN!!!

And in closing I will quote Sir Peter Anderson:

"Long Live The Conch Republic and Long Live  Every One of You"

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(Picture by Ralph DePalma)

To obtain my music:

My CD is available on iTunes, CD Baby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio.
Search: Key West Chris

Thank you everyone!!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Dateline: Key West

Dateline: Key West

A lot of fun things happening as of late, here at the Conch Rock Shanty ( what we call our house) in Key West. We moved a couple of months ago, fortunately only a block away from where we were. We used to be "90 miles and three blocks from Havana" now we're 90 miles and two blocks from Havana! We now have a small yard, which facilitates a place for the dogs to run around, a garden, a hammock, a deck, and of course, a bar b. que! So, we're off to the races, so to speak!

Media #1 - The Beer Show
Over the last  year and several months,  I've been involved with a small segment of a radio show up in Cleveland, Island Time Radio Show, hosted by Dennis King (DK) and Amo Bennett. My segment there is a small one. Ten minutes every four or five weeks. The subject was beer! It's always been a lot of fun! I have a lengthy background on the subject, going back to when I was of legal drinking age, so I'm not someone who just hopped on a somewhat new bandwagon. I've been at it for a while. I collected over thirty books on the subject, both from the US and Great Britain, so it wasn't merely a drinking  education either! HA HA!

When the show first started,  I did it in a small craft beer bar here, which was kind enough to allow us to do it there, "The Porch". The first show went well, however it was done over the phone and a bar being a bar, there was too much noise from the background for the radio show to hear us clearly.
I was subsequently at my local bar, The Cork and Stogie, and was speaking to the owner, Dave Bevens Sr. about our situation with the show. He mentioned that The Cork and Stogie closed at eleven and if I would like, we could do it there after they closed! It worked out perfectly! Additionally, I had two great side-kicks with owner Dave Sr. and bartender and brewer "Cowboy Mark" Straiton!

The show was a blast! We had a great time and took it quite seriously actually. Around last September, Dave Sr. and I were at the Key West Brewfest talking with various vendors to see if they would be interested in backing us doing our own show. Everyone expressed interest! The issue was how would we do it?

Over the months that followed, there was little progress made in that direction, although the subject was often at hand. In December my girlfriend, Dani Hoy, moved to Key West and started contributing to the show. This was not a move made by nepotism, but rather a great and worthy addition to the show. In an age where beer interest is booming with new enthusiasts, Dani's addition was perfect. Here was someone who really appreciated a quality beer, but didn't know much about it. So, she asks the questions that the rest of us don't see, but so many people are curious about!
We've continued the show with Dani and on a completely different subject, Dani and I get contacted by local musician and radio personality, Bo Fodor, about doing a music show for his internet station, KWOM (Key West Original Music). As Dani and I are both musicians, this seemed to be a great idea! However, when Bo offered the music show to us, I realized that here was the exact platform we were looking for with the beer show as well!

With the beer show we decided we'd have a video of the shows that we could make available to the public, sometime after the stations air the shows! To help us with this we took on Dave Bevens Jr. who has a background in audio/video to help us out in that department. In addition, Dave Jr. is also a bar tender at the Cork' and adds a lot of fun and humor to the show!

We've done three of the beer shows so far and the very first one has just aired! In addition, we're also picking up new stations!

When you tune in, be sure to have a beer in hand and you'll be drinking a beer with us in Key West!
Here's the current schedule and where it's being aired:

KWOM - Every day, twice a day 10am and 10pm EST

Radio A1A - Mondays at 7pm

 Radio Trop Rock - Sundays 5 - 6

Media #2 - The Key West Music Show - Conch Rockin' in the Keys

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As I mentioned, Dani and I were approached to do a music radio show which we jumped and named it "The Key West Music show - Conch Rockin' In The Keys". We're doing it from our house, The Conch Rock Shanty,as we call it,  over here on Thomas Street in Key West. For our first show we had ourselves as guests, We had never done a pod cast before and felt that using ourselves as guinea pigs would be the best option. Before the first show aired, we had three stations lined up! Bo's KWOM, of course, then Radio A1A with Harry Teaford hopped on, then The Shore, up in New York State, our first terestrial/internet station. Shortly after that we had Tiki Island Radio come aboard, from Punta Gorda, Florida followed by Steven Youngblood's Radio Trop Rock up in the Pensacola area. Next thing we had The Tiki Beach Shop up in Chattanooga, Tn. Things are growing!
Our next guest was local musician and the guy who gave us the platform for both of our shows, Bo Fodor. The following show featured transplanted Hawaiian, here by way of Hawaii, Marine brat growing up, all over the US including California, Nashville, Arizona and the last twenty years or so, ... Norway!

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(Renn Loren being interviewed at the Key West Music Show - Conk Rockin' in the Keys with Dani Hoy)

The future of the show is pretty open. We just interviewed Eric Stone, owner of the Dockside Tropical Cafe up in Marathon Key. Eric is a great musician and songwriter who bought the establishment and re-opened it at the end of last year. We interviewed him as an owner of a bar/restaurant for a twist from always interviweing only musicians thus far. Also, we did the interview on location at The Dockside, which for us at least, is a first. Also in the very near future we plan on interviewing Daryl Brooke, owner of the Grateful Guitar music store, here in Key West and I'm sure we'll also grab Wayne Sorbelli who owns the other music store on the island, Bone Island Music.  The field is wide open for us and there's all sorts of things we have for both the music show and the beer show... in the hopper! Pun intended!

Feel free to listen in at any of the stations airing our podcast! All times listed
are EST  ( -5 GMT)

KWOM Key West Original Music  -  8am  and  8pm every day

Radio A1A - 10PM every day

The Shore -  Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon

Radio Trop Rock -    Tuesday @ 5pm, Thursdays - 5pm,  2 am Saturday’s and Sundays

Tiki Island Radio - 10:30am  and 6:30 PM Tuesdays

Tiki Beach Shop  - Times TBA

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mercedes Benz, Mercedes-Benz Museum

The Mercedes Benz Museum

Note: In this blog, I'm taking a side step from the usual Key West Blog, to share with the world an incredible experience I had, many, many years ago. As you'll see, this experience was a very important part of my life, for which I am still amazed at to this day.

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I was twenty one and I was going out on my big adventure. back packing through Europe! I had no desire in the least to travel with anyone. just go by myself. A lot of people thought this was very weird. Myself however, I thought it made perfect sense. This way there were no compromises and I'd do everything I set out to do. It worked out perfectly, as it turned out. I went to every place in Europe that I set out to visit. Some places were more significant than others, however I got to see them all! As this story is specificly about the Mercedes-Benz Museum, I'll restrict this blog story to that visit.

The preamble to all of this was that my father, Robert C. Rehm, had been working for Mercedes-Benz of North America (MBNA) since 1963, shortly after MBNA was formed, and was instrumental in setting up their North American sales organization. So, I grew up with the firm, so to speak. Every couple of months, my dad would come home with a new car that the company assigned him. This was an era where there weren't all that many Mercedes on the road and passing cars would always wave to each other. Dad brought home over those years, the greatest assortment of cars! 200, 200D, 220D, 230, 250S, 250SE 280S, 280SE,280SEL, 280SL, 300SEL, 300SEL 6.3, 450SE, 450SEL.. I think he brought home virtually every model that was in the product line over those years, with the exception of the two 600 models! The only person in the organization who had one of those was the CEO of MBNA, Karlfried Nordmann, whom I met once at a company family get together.

In those early years where I was somewhere between seven and eight, my dad brought me home a book, "A Racing Car Driver's World", by Rudolph Caracciola, perhaps the most famous racing driver of his era (1925 - 1953). The book was fascinating and I loved every paragraph! Easily one of my favorite books I've ever read. I still have it to this day.

Reading this book was more of a passion than anything else for me, I found it tremendously exciting to read about the races, fellow drivers, and of course the cars themselves.

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)Caracciola in a W125 at Monte Carlo, 1937)

While Mercedes-Benz was ingrained into my soul, I also couldn't help but love the competition as well. The Auto-Union of the thirties, was Mercedes' biggest rival and what a car it was! It looked so sinister with the engine behind the driver. The engine was magnificent as well. Sixteen cylinders and designed by Dr. Porsche, for the first several years.

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(Hans Stuck Sr. in an Auto Union C Type)

In one passage Caracciola talks of a time where in a press gathering, he and Auto-Union driver Berndt Rosemeyer, switched cars and gave them a run. Imagine that today? I don't think so HA HA HA! They both agreed that the ideal car for 1937 would have an Auto Union engine and a Mercedes transmission... albeit, with the engine in the front.

The bottom line here was of course, that I learned everything I could about all of the Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix and record cars (in 1938 a Mercedes-Benz record car set the fastest official speed ever recorded on a public road. It still stands today, 76 years later).

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I knew these cars like the back of my hand and I read about them day in, day out for fourteen years, so, as you can imagine, visiting the famous Mercedes-Benz Museum was a top priority for me, to see these cars I had only read about prior.

I first landed in England and toured their before I went to the Continent. I was in Munich and mentioned to a few fellow travelers in the youth hostile I was staying at, that I was planing on going to Stuttgart to see the museum. This was always met with the same answer "Oh Stuttgart is an industrial city. It's all Mercedes and Bosch". Obviously I wasn't going to give their advise any attention. I was going to Stuttgart, no matter what they said.

When I arrived in the Hauptbahnhof (train station) as soon as I alighted from the train, a local approached me with a friendly smile and asked "Are you looking for the youth hostle?" in English. I said I was and he gave me directions. On the way there, I'm guessing it was maybe six or eight blocks, I was approached by at least three other people offering to help me find the youth hostile, all with a friendly smile and a sincere attitude of giving visitors a warm welcome. Forget what the tourists said in the Munich youth hostile (Munich itself was wonderful!), I found Stuttgart to be a very friendly city. I tied it for being the most friendly on my entire European tour, with London.

The next day was my big day and I set off for the Daimler-Benz factory, which within it's complex was the Mercedes-Benz museum. It was a somewhat cold day in October as I crossed the Neckar River and saw the outside of "The Wall of Death", the Mercedes test track that I'd seen so many times in the Mercedes magazine "In Aller Welt", that my dad would bring home. What a thrill!

After passing that, there was an entrance to the factory compound with a guard house. I approached the guard house and in my best German, asked the guard inside how I could see the museum. To my stonishment and dismay, he told me that the museum was closed. When I heard this I exhaled and it seemed that every ounce of enegry left my body. The guard saw my disapointment and went on to explain that a terrorist group, the Badder Meinhoff Gang, had kidnapped and brutally murdered a board of directors member of Diamler-Benz and that the factory was closed to all outsiders.

I was so dejected, but I fully understood. The needs of the safety of the firm out weighed the dreams of my own As I turned to leave, I had only one option that I just thought of. I pulled my wallet out and handed the guard my father's Mercedes-Benz of North America business card. I told him that was my father and he asked me for my passport. I didn't hesitate. The last names matched of course and he looked over at me and said "Ein moment, bitte" and he picked up the phone to make a call.

He was on the phone for quite a while,making a series of calls, obviously talking to different people and waiting on their replies. After about a half hour, he stuck his head out of the guard house and said in English "Welcome! You're one of the family!" and shook my hand with a smile from ear to ear. He informed me that they had arranged for a car to come out, pick me up, and bring me to the museum. I was elated, yet a bit confused. The bottom line was, I was going to the museum!

What had turned out happened was the guard called a director of the facility, who in turn called someone else higher up the chain of command, who did likewise until one of them called my dad at MBNA in New Jersey, who confirmed who I was. Amazing!

After a few minutes, a black 220 airport style limo comes and picks me up at the guard house. I thanked the guard profusly. I know I made his day, as much as he made mine. An executive was in the car and greeted me warmly. As we drove to the museum, within the complex, he talked about how sorry he was that the museum had been closed, but it was a securty situation we all had to deal with.

When we arrived at the museum we walked up to the front door and he pulled out his keys, unlocked it, entered and... really... turned on the lights. He mentioned to me to make myself at home and stay as long as I liked. He would be in an office there if I had any questions, as he had some work to do. He also mentioned that later in the afternoon, there were people from the U.S. picking up their cars on what is known as, the European Delivery Program and were going on a factory tour in Sindelfingen, if I wanted to go, I could.

Here I was, they opened up the Mercedes-Benz museum just for me. I couldn't believe it! I was in a state of both shock and gratitude. Nonetheless, I spent about three hours, looking at all sorts of cars, but spent most of my time around the racing cars W25, W125, W154, W156, W165, W196.

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(1938 W154s in France)

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(1939 W156)

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(1939 W165 Tripoli)

 Even the still-born Type 80, that Hans Stuck Sr. and Dr. Porsche had as a project with Mercedes-Benz, designed with a Daimler-Benz DB 601 aircraft engine but never run, for the world land speed record, was there.

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(The type 80)

A few hours later, I was off by a special factory bus to the Sindelfingen factory, to see how the product was manufactured, with a group of people picking up their brand new Mercedes-Benz cars. I rode the bus back to the main facility in Stuttgart and had a great conversation with the tour guide about all things Mercedes-Benz.

To this day, decades later, I am completely blown away by the acts of kindness and compassion, by so many people at Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart. They all went so far out of their way to help a member of the "Family" see his dream come true. I felt it extremely important that this experience be documented.

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Mercedes-Benz built an all new museum several years ago. I felt it important to mention this amazing act of kindness that was extended to me years ago and I hope I do get to visit the new facility one day!

As a songwriter, one day I'll write a song about this incredible experience.

Of course, I write this from my own perspective, however it goes much deeper than that. What was exhibited here was a sense of loyalty of workers to the firm they worked for and the belief that together they were all a team. Here we had a series of employees, from a guard at a gate, to super high executives all pulling together for the sake of a co-worker's son. Strings were pulled, a lot of strings were pulled and in a day where overseas calls cost a fortune, that didn't matter the calls were made. They actually opened the museum for me, a twenty one year old wearing a flannel shirt and hiking boots. That has always instilled a serious sense of pride of being a part of such an organization.

I am eternally grateful to all at Mercedes-Benz and to every one in the firm,  I say "Thank you und Vielen Dank!"

Christopher R. Rehm

To obtain my music:

My CD is available on iTunes, CD Baby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio.
Search: Key West Chris

Thank you everyone!!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

ART, Music, Writing.... and more, in Key West!

(Koz’s Green World Gallery, 712B Duval St, Key West… yeah, that’s Koz waving! )

Art is a major industry in Key West, as well as all of the Keys really. I’m not going to begin to count how many art galleries are in town, but, suffice to say, it’s quite ample and most of these galleries are on or off Duval St. The ones off the beaten path are definitely worth seeking out however!

(The Two Monkeys Gallery  518 Fleming st, Key West)

Naturally, there is a lot of art that is focused on the local area as a subject. Seriously, it’s an incredible subject to work with, as there’s so much of both beautiful and fascinating subjects to draw from. Key West can be a virtual cartoon if one chooses to look at it from said perspective. It goes from incredible sunrises in the east, to a myriad of homes in Old Town that date from the 1800’s with influences from New England, The Bahamas, and the South, to chickens running freely on the streets, street musicians playing, beautiful water that is different day to day, two beautiful harbors, some of the best bars in the entire world, sunset celebrations featuring jugglers, tightrope walkers, a banjo player with a bowler hat with a dog who collects tips, and the sunset itself… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Key West and the entire Florida Keys make an incredible subject for any canvas.

(Art Gone Wild 619 Duval St, Key West)

Having said that, there is a lot of artwork available here that is not at all from the Keys. When I first moved here I had the pleasure of working for the Wyland Gallery at 102 Duval St. With the exception of Wyland himself, none of the artists we carried at the time were local (Wyland has a home in the upper Keys), however all sold quite well, most in themes that held no relation to the Keys at all. This was not unique to the two Wyland Galleries in Key West either. When I was there we carried artists from the Philippines, China, all across the U.S. Delaware to Hawaii, to Dino Rosin, arguably the finest glass sculpture in the world, from Murano, Italy. The point here being that Key West is a very versatile art town with a worldwide verity. If anyone is a lover of art, a few days in Key West is a MUST.

(Murano Grand Master glass sculptor Dino Rosin visiting Wyland Gallery at 102 Duval St. Seen here with his stingray sculpture in calcedonia glass)

You’ll find virtually any median of art in Key West, oils, water color, pen and ink, sculpture, photographs… the list goes on! The point here being that Key West is a very versatile art town with a worldwide verity. If anyone is a lover of art, a few days in Key West is a MUST!


(The Key West Gallery, Key West on the corner of Duval and Southard)

(one of two Wyland galleries in Key West, this being the larger of the two located at 623 Duval. The other is at 102 Duval and save for the signature artist Wyland, none of the other artists are the same)

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(the James Coleman Gallery, corner of Duval and Southard streets)


(L-R,  Bruce Turkel, Key West Chris Rehm, Bobby DeVito at Captain Tony’s Saloon)

Coming up May 7 – 11 will be the 19th Key West Songwriter’s Festival. This is the largest songwriter festival in the nation and put on by both Charlie Bauer, with his staff led by Dani Holliday, and BMI Nashville. Credit to all, it’s a very well organized and run! The event is pretty much hosts finest songwriters in the country, most of whom are based in Nashville. This is my favorite event, of all Key West events held over the year. The biggest issue I have, and there’s no solution to it whatsoever, is that there could be five of your favorite songwriters playing in five different places at the same time, so you have to make a choice. However, with 150 artists playing in town over four days, it’s the nature of the beast as they say and there’s no way around it.

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I’ve had the honor of being in the festival for the last three years, which was what I considered the greatest honor I could have as a songwriter! I’m extremely grateful indeed! This year I’m not scheduled. Naturally a disappointment, however I was told that they want to get some new people involved. I think that’s a great idea, even if it’s at my expense. HA HA!

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(Key West Chris Rehm …. Hey! That’s me! …playing the 2011 Key West Songwriter’s Festival)

Here in the Keys we have some really great songwriters! Take Adrienne for example. If you go to one of her gigs, there’s a large percentage of her set that are her original songs. Very good songs at that, by the way. Personally, I think that this is something that really sets a songwriter out from a performer, as being a songwriter, and not just a performer. Over the years I’ve seen some locals in this event and I said to myself when I saw them on the list “They’re a songwriter?” because the only thing I’ve ever heard them do are covers. At the Festival they’d do a few originals, but the next week those originals are put back in mothballs and they are back to playing only covers.While they may have written a few songs over the years, those folks are more geared as performers than songwriters.

 Someone like Adrienne is willing to walk out on that high wire without a net, at all of her gigs and take the chance. Sure, she’ll do cover songs, that’s part of what we all do and truly love. However, a songwriter lives to write songs and that’s what we do. We’re creators of stories and our canvas is music. I know at my gigs  30 – 50% is my original material, depending on where I am and the crowd. I always get a great reception on them from the crowd, I’m pleased to say. It’s like I mentioned in a previous blog, If one goes to Jamaica, Mexico, Puerto Rico, one expects to hear music native of the country. The Conch Republic is no exception. Visitors love to hear music that originates from here.

 Another great local songwriter is Ray West. Like any true songwriter, Ray also has no apologies for showcasing his own material, which, like Adrienne’s, is really outstanding.

Dani Hoy just moved to town as well, however I know she won’t be in the festival this year, but hopefully she will be next year. Like Adrienne, Ray, and myself, Dani’s sets are highly peppered with excellent original material from her two CDs.

Bottom line on the local songwriters, these would be my suggestions.

The Key West Songwriter’s Festival is a must see if anyone loves Key West and live music. You'll hear all sorts of famous songs that you know, done by the artists who actually wrote the songs, often with anecdotes that go along with how the song was written and influenced. This is far and away the largest musical event held here in Key West, bar none. In essence, all of Nashville heads down here, so put it on your agenda!


For the other 51 weeks out of the year, Key West is easily one of the most vibrant spots in the entire U.S. for live music. I would be willing to wager that in a ½ mile area, Key West has more live music venues than anyplace else in the world. I’d also be willing to wager that Key West has more live music venues per capita than any other city in the world. Frankly, it’s remarkable. In addition, you’ll get to see world class acts…. And there’s not even a cover charge, You just walk right in, grab a libation, and enjoy the music!

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(Scott Kirby playing Smokin’ Tuna Saloon)

In addition, Key West also has world class recording producers in Dan Simpson and Ian Shaw! Dan, of course did my CD “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)”, however he’s also been producing Key West artists for over thirty years, most notably, Scott Kirby.

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(myself chatting with Dan Simpson while at the San Carlos Institute taking a breat from recording the rhythm section for my CD)

Ian Shaw came to these shores from London, England a few years ago with a long list of major successes to his credit which stretch over twenty years! Here Ian’s been busy with producing Bill Blue’s brand new CD, as well as other artists from near and far, including Renn Hoaloha Loren.
(Ian Shaw in his studio in Garrison Bight, Key West)


Key West has always been a magnet for writers. The artists of words and stories. No doubt the most famous is Ernest Hemingway, whose home you can visit and tour on the 900 block of Whitehead St. Hemingway had his most productive period during the years he spent living here. Tennessee Williams also lived here, though his home in mid-town is today a private residence and cannot be toured.

Currently however, there are quite a few authors who live here. Kevin May and Christina Oxenberg are two that come to mind. Jon Breakfield also lived and wrote here during his tenure on the island. There are others as well. Come to think of it, my book “Bar Stories” is nearing completion and will hopefully be out in the very near future. When that happens, your’s truly will join the contingent!

I’m a firm believer that there is some kind of creative energy that is a stimulant for those who are creative here in Key West. I don’t know where it comes from, but I assure you, it’s here.

And finally, one category of artists that you will not find in art galleries, stages, or bookshelves is a group that is without a doubt, the most populous on the island itself, without question. Likewise it’s true in any city, town, or hamlet, because it’s not unique to Key West. This artist is actually not recognized as any art form by those who establish who’s an artist and who is not, or what type of creativity is an art and what’s not. Actually, many who are true masters of this, have no clue that they are even regarded as artists themselves. Many make a living out of it in all walks of life, which is augmented with their craft.

These individuals are a unique breed of “Artists” and society has given them a very appropriate name. They are known as the Bullshit Artist. A bullshit artist will tell you any tale that comes to their head, in order to impress you, or give themselves some sort of redeeming, lofting quality that may, in some way, boost their self-esteem, under the guise of impressing whomever they are talking to. They are often insecure and need someone to say “wow!” after they’ve pontificated a sort of wild fictional fabrication, totally made up, often on the spot. This made up fabrication is known as “Bullshit”.

A key note here: They, usually tell their stories as though they have the inside information the no one else has. They want to come across as exclusive. Again, it’s that anti-insecurity ego boost they are looking for. One must use caution when dealing with these individuals, because if you fall for it, more often than not, if you repeat it, you’ll be looked at as an idiot yourself. Trust me, I've been in this predicament before. So it’s important to establish who is a bullshit artist as soon as possible. It can be difficult. The sad part about this is that anything they say thereafter, be it true or not, is regarded as bullshit.

Leaving names out of it, I recall being with a group of people and saying “I was talking with Ms. XYZ and she said..” Before I could continue the entire table saved my ass by interrupting me.  They all broke out at once and said while shaking their heads “Whatever she said, it’s all bullshit”.
The individual in question here was actually not from Key West, but the tales were told here. We certainly have a menagerie that slither our streets and most are at least entertaining to listen to. So if you take them as entertainment and certainly not verbatim, all will be well for you.

To obtain my music:
CD Baby:
Beachfront Radio:
For iTunes and Rhapsody search “Key West Chris”

Thank you everyone

Monday, April 7, 2014

Seven Mile Bridge, Moving, Amazing Musician Blunder, I'm in a novel!

.^listen to the"7 Mile Bridge" song as you read the blog!^


When the 7 Seven Mile Bridge was originally constructed spanning from Knight's Key in Marathon, to Little Duck Key over one hundred years ago, it was the longest bridge on earth. It was attributed the moniker “The Eighth Wonder of the World” at the time. When it was originally built, it was a railroad bridge, part of the Overseas Railroad, built by Henry Flagler who wanted the deep sea port in Key West, linked to the mainland.

(Pictures from the Monroe County Public Library)

The bridge was opened for business in 1912 as part of The Florida East Coast Railway and operated as such until a hurricane in 1935 wiped out a lower section of the railway in the Keys in Islamorada, rendering the railroad useless. The bridge system was sold to the state of Florida for $600K, then converted to be used for trucks and cars, making it The Overseas Highway.

The Overseas Highway was opened in 1938 and built on the existing railroad bridge bed and bridges. It was quite narrow and often was the case that trucks heading in opposite directions would lose their rear view mirrors to each other. It should be noted that the bridge system that runs from the mainland to Key West consists of forty two bridges and the Seven Mile Bridge is only one of those, albeit naturally, the most famous.

(State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Of course legends and stories abound about the old bridge and everyone who traveled on it, will never forget it for two reasons. One, it certainly got your attention when faced with oncoming traffic that passed mere inches to spare, door to door.  Two, the incredible view of the tropical Atlantic on your left as you traveled south and the Gulf of Mexico/Florida Bay on your right. One story that always caught my ear was that of the tender of the draw bridge. The legend goes that he had been the tender of the draw bridge for something like thirty years. It is said he had plans to retire and was actually relieved of duty the day before the old bridge was put out of commission. He however elected to work the final day of operation. The tender’s quarters was heated (when needed) with a propane heater. Somehow on that last day there was a fire in the tender’s quarters and the propane tank exploded, killing the tender and burning it to cinders on that last day of operation. I can’t say if the story is true or fiction, but it’s certainly a curious tale indeed!

(State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, 7 Mile Bridge’s Drawbridge. Picture from the Cory McDonald Collection)

In March of 1982 the new Seven Mile Bridge was opened. The replacement of all of the bridges was started earlier, with the first new bridge completed at Bahia Honda, replacing the old railroad structure.

The new Seven Mile Bridge is a modern highway, with more than ample room for vehicles to drive in opposite directions and even room for a break down vehicle to sit, if an ominous fate awaited a vehicle traversing the span.

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(old and new Seven Mile Bridges)

The old bridge stayed in one piece, more or less. The center draw bridge was removed, as well as a couple of sections to prevent those with mischievous intent from going further, from either side, the north side being just after the bridge crosses over Pigeon Key.

Pigeon Key photo
( Seven Mile Bridge crossing Pigeon Key)

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, photo OverseasHighwayatnight_zps7c5ffddc.jpg

Over the years the bridge was just left to founder on its own. A few movie scenes have been shot here and Pigeon Key, I’m guessing about a mile out, is still active as a museum.
In 2006, a group of Cuban rafters, seeking asylum in the U.S. landed on the bridge. The U.S. law states that they have to land on U.S. soil, and did not recognize the Seven Mile Bridge as U.S. soil. Even though the bridge is listed as one of the   National Register of Historic Places  in the U.S.  they were sent back to Cuba.

Just after this happened, Sir Peter Anderson, Secretary General of the Conch Republic, went down and declared the bridge sovereign Conch Republic territory, as it clearly was not recognized as U.S. territory. In addition, Sir Peter had come up with a plan to build affordable housing on the bridge! There are said to be plans for the houses as well!

Hpwever, the song that leads off this blog today, “The Seven Mile Bridge”, is about that incident. These days Sir Peter Anderson is afflicted with cancer and we all wish him the very best in his battle. He has brought much laughter, business, fun, and logic to these islands, for which we’re all very grateful for. Thank You Sir Peter!

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I will also do a future blog on the entire bridge chain which allows all of us to “Island Hop”  over one hundred miles out to sea.


Well, after five years in the converted church apartment, it was time to move. The landlord was foreclosed on and the bank made a settlement with me, as a tenant, in order to leave, so they could free the property up for sale. This worked out well actually. With my girlfriend Dani moving in last December, the place would always be “my apartment”. Getting something new would be “ours”. It was one of these” gun to the head” situations. The agreement I signed with the bank stipulated that we would be out of the property “by March 30”. For those who live outside of the Keys, the month of March is a very difficult time to find a place to live, as it’s the height of the tourist season. For us, this was no exception.  Making a long story short, we found a place with only days to spare. Honestly, I had envisioned us having to rent a storage facility for our belongings and camping out in my conversion van until we found a place!
We had looked at places as far as 23 miles up the Keys, but ended up finding an ideal place right around the corner from where we lived. I would often joke “I live 90 miles and three blocks from Havana” being as I lived right up the street from the Southernmost Point. Well, now we live 90 miles and two blocks from Havana. HA HA!
Moving is always an ordeal and we’re glad it’s behind us, thrilled we’re still in the same neighborhood!
Someone upstairs is looking out for us! Thanks!

One of the benefits of moving! HA HA!


Several weeks ago I was playing a benefit at a bar where a lot of other performers were involved with as well. There was a group on before us and when they were done one of the members says into the microphone “Hey! We’re heading up the street to play at XYZ Bar! Come up and see us there”

Or in real terms “Hey! We’re playing at XYZ Bar next. Stop buying everything here, leave and take your business elsewhere!”

Remarkable really.


Glasgow, Scotland based author Jon Breakfield has just released his latest book, Key West part II. This of course follows Key West, his first, in what perhaps will become a series? We'll see! Jon also has three other books out, "Death in Glasgow", "Naked Europe", and "Liverpool.... Texas? London... Arkansas? A Short Story". In Key West part II You'll find me in the book! What a combination of a hoot and an honor! Thank you Jon!

I have no doubt that you'll find Jon's books quite entertaining! One amazing thing that all of Jon's characters in the book are real people! You never know, you may even be in it! Be sure to check this one out at Amazon!

And a link to all of Jon's books at Amazon:

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To obtain my music:

My CD is available on iTunes, CD Baby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio.
Search: Key West Chris

Thank you everyone!!