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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!!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Playing Original Music in the Keys and The newest Bar Tending With Boris

      ^ Listen to this demo of “7 Mile Bridge” while you read the blog!^
(The “7 Mile Bridge” was written the day after Sir Peter Anderson, the Secretary General of the Conch Republic, declared the old bridge Sovereign Territory of The Conch Republic after Cuban rafters landed on the bridge and were sent back to Cuba by U.S. Immigration, as the bridge was not considered “U.S. soil”)


Over on Facebook, my friend Ray West posted the question of why original music is shunned in live music venues. It garnered a lot of replies from both musicians, as well as listeners. A lot of interesting angles were touched on from all involved and Ray poised a fantastic question to a subject that clearly is a curious one indeed. Here’s my take on it:

To begin with, we are here in the Conch Republic, a nation within a nation. A foreign country within the U.S. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. When talking with visitors here back when I was in the retail business, I’d say “You know you’re in a different country, right?” and their reply was always something like “You’ve got that right!”. Likewise, in the blog we often post a silly tourist question, a common one heard here is “Do you accept American money here?”

The underlining point here is that there is a very different mentality here in all of the Keys. In a previous blog I highlighted that people up in Key Largo, over one hundred miles (160km) up the road from Key West, will say “I have to go into town” referring to Key West, while Homestead on the mainland, is less than twenty miles up U.S. 1 from there. What I’m stating here is that it’s no different than if someone in Italy near the Swiss border, is going to shop in Italy rather than go to Switzerland, even if they live close to the boarder. Of course they will cross the border from time to time, perhaps for recreation, but for the most part, they’ll stay in Italy. Likewise, France to Spain, Germany to the Czech Republic… it’s only natural. And the same thing happens in the Keys, the Conch Republic, if you will. Why? Because the Conch Republic IS a different country, within the state of Florida and within the United States, all at the same time. However, the underlining point here, of course is, the mentality of the Conch Republic, is its own.

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Now, with the aforementioned in mind, as a tourist/visitor to say Jamaica, and you walk into a bar, do you expect to hear Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, or Bob Marley’s The Redemption Song? You see my point? Fact is, most likely in that situation, you’d be disappointed to hear anything by Van. Nothing against Van, but that’s what you’d expect to hear in any bar in the U.S. So, why wouldn’t people visiting the Conch Republic want to hear music from the Conch Republic? Interestingly enough, on Ray’s Facebook post, the non-musicians expressed an overwhelming desire to hear original music. When I say overwhelming, I’m not kidding. It’s not that they said they didn’t want to hear cover songs, but virtually everyone responding said they wanted to hear original music.

The ones who are most vehemently against original music are bar managers. Of course, not all of them, but maybe 75%. Why? The answer is elementary. Most of these people are good at managing a bar. They did a wonderful job back in Duluth, Georgia, Springfield, Missouri, or Binghamton, New York. However, when they moved to the Keys, the job they took also entailed something that was quite alien to them: Live Music.
So, you have someone who is confident and experienced in their field, they feel that music is no challenge at all. Multiple issues arise here however. They really don’t know anything about music to begin with, but they think they do because it’s part of their new job description. That’s problem #1. Let’s face it, you have someone who, back home in Los Angeles was listening to something like Lady Gaga, then they move here to the Keys, where it’s mostly acoustic based music.  A saying in English we have fits this situation well “Like a fish out of water”. It’s the nature of the beast unfortunately. With cover songs, they are in their comfort zone. With originals, they’re on the high wire without a net and they don’t know how to walk a high wire to begin with.

As for myself, I often do around half of my sets as original music, give or take 10%. I always get supportive reaction from the crowd. Beware, if you’re doing an original song for the first time. Never announce that you’re doing an original song until after you’ve played it! Especially if it’s a new venue, where management is concerned. Additionally, there are people who don’t want to hear original music at all. A musician says “Here’s one of my own songs” someone at a table might say “Oh here we go with some sucky individual who sees themselves as a songwriter” putting a pall on the entire table they’re with, before you even start. Likewise, if the bar manager hears that and sees no reaction when it’s over, it’s not only a major strike against you, but also to any other artist who goes there with original material, in management eyes.

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On the flip side, play your first original song unannounced and be sure to make it one of your best ones. Gauge the reaction at the end. If there is minimal, or no reaction, go on to a popular cover and try another later. What the management and audience know is that they just heard a song they were not familiar with. Later, do another and when you get a good reaction when it’s over, then say it’s an original. The audience is happy and hopefully the management sees it.

Overall however, once I’ve established myself in a set… bear in mind that the audience down here can be completely different every day of the week, fifty two weeks of the year, I get much appreciation for my originals from the people visiting. They are in a very different place geographically and socially from where they’re from and really enjoy hearing music that is from and about the locale they are visiting.

For what it’s worth, that’s my take on it anyway.

Regardless of what genre it is in, if it’s from the Keys, it’s Conch Rock!


Bar Tending with Boris

Bar Tending With Boris continues to strike the funny bone when on the subject of Bar Tending! We've been having a blast while our friends Larry Poff and Michelle Dougan are here for the winter and offering their sailboat "Transition" for us to do the videos on! Thanks Larry and Michelle!!!

“Like” the page on Facebook!

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!!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


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Facebook and the Talking Shit Cruise

Facebook can be a great tool, in addition to a recreation. No secret there. It can also, what we call in English, open a can of worms, if you’re not careful. To open a can of worms is an English expression meaning to create a situation that causes unpleasantness, or trouble. (For those whose first language is English, please understand that a great many people who read this blog, are from non-English speaking countries). This happened the other day when I posted a bit of frustration of hearing a band at a bar playing Mustang Sally, which I stated was an extremely over played song. The flood gates opened! I also stated that Margaritaville and Brown Eyed Girl were overplayed, subsequently. Some stated that I was absolutely correct, while others defended playing the songs. It was all good. Then the shit hit the fan. Someone posted that on a Trop Rock cruise out of Tampa/St. Petersburg a week and a half before a lot of people were, what we call in English, “Talking Shit” about me. Again, for the readers whose primary language is not English, this means saying bad things about me.

This came as a surprise to me. Yeah, there’s one person I know who might and that was the person who organized the cruise, as a matter of fact, but with the exception of the band Homemade Wine, who are all good friends of mine and my friend Christine, I really don’t know anyone on the cruise personally. At least not that I know of, or have met them face to face. Yet, here it is said that "a lot" were calling me “an asshole”, according to a post on the thread in Facebook. How is it that someone who doesn't even know an individual says that they're an "asshole"? Especially someone who's primary goal in life is to make people laugh and be happy. Really?  I’ve deleted the thread, however I copied it.

It struck me as odd because what do I do? I do everything in my power to make people happy and laugh. The only time I get defensive is if I’m insulted.

One of the things stated was that I was someone who is taking advantage of my girlfriend, Dani Hoy, as we’re both musicians. They said I was “using Dani”. Using Dani? Really? Are they actually serious? They obviously don’t know anything about me whatsoever.

So anyway, the flip side to all of this, is that it gives me an opportunity to introduce myself to the readers of this blog and show them part of me that isn't shown here otherwise. I normally don’t wave my own flag. It’s not my nature. However, because of the hoopla of the aforementioned situation on Facebook, I kind of feel obliged set a few records straight.So, we can kill a few birds with one stone.

For starters, I don’t talk behind people’s back. If I have something to say, I’ll say it to them directly and they know where I stand from the beginning.

Secondly, I’m very focused on good ethics. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Those standards hold true both on and off a cruise ship by the way! HA HA HA!

First of all, a bit on my background musically. In September of 1995 I walked into a bar in Miami and my life changed that day. For the previous dozen plus years or so my musical life was dormant.  I was more focused on my business career and all that went into it. I had played guitar since I was 14, played in bands, and seemed to have a knack for writing songs, albeit a bit underdeveloped back then. However, when I walked into Chubby’s Bar B. Que that day, things started to change and it changed quickly. 

Before I knew it I was playing in front of people again, both as a solo acoustic player, as well as an electric lead guitar player in the house Country band, the Chubby’s Bar B. Cued Band! :-D  Then, I was also hired into a Blues band, Outa D’Blues. Additionally, I was also doing a few solo acoustic gigs as well, here and there.

Around Spring of 1996 I started messing around and ended up writing my first song in years, “Titusville!”
By the time 2000 rolled around, things were rolling musically for me. McClure and Trowbridge Publishing Nashville offered me a contract and signed me as a song writer. They immediately picked up my songs “Titusville!”, “You Got Me Walking in the Rain”, Albuquerque”, and “Sara”. So, in short, I’ve been a Nashville published songwriter for fourteen years. Here’s a demo of “Titusville!”

Also in 2000 I started a band with my buddy Bruce Turkel, which he sold me on as being a foundation to showcase my songwriting. Bruce strongly suggested that I use my name in the band, in order to highlight the fact, so we named the band “Chris Rehm and the Rabble Rousers”. Again, I’m not one to blow my own horn, so to speak, but Bruce is an advertising/branding genius and owner of a large advertising and branding firm in Coconut Grove, “Turkel”, so I gulped and did what he suggested. I’m proud to say he and I are great friends to this day! (Youtube search Bruce Turkel and enjoy!).

In our first year we were invited to play the Sound Advice Ft. Lauderdale Blues Festival on the acoustic stage. The biggest complement I had was, out of the large crowd we had, was seeing legend Blues musician/writer John Hammond swaying back and forth with his eyes closed, to one of my original songs.
The following year we were on the Main Stage (out of five total). North Mississippi Allstars actually opened for us. A big tip of the hat goes to my friend Richard “Louis” Hackmeister for both of these!
When we started the band, as it was something to showcase my songwriting abilities, I thought it would be a fun idea to write a song for the bikers. Whenever I played previously, they’d always come up and complement me, so I felt as a songwriter, I could write a song for them, in appreciation. I wrote a song called “Fat Boy”, named after the Harley Davidson. Next thing I knew, I was writing song after song for bikers. “Sweet Dyna”, “ElectraGlide”, “Sturgis”, “Rainy Day”, plus several more.

I then had a wild idea. What would happen if we approached Harley Davidson with the idea of cutting an album for them that their dealers could showcase on their checkout counter? The idea seemed to me like a good one. Harley Davidson had over 1,300 outlets worldwide and accessories were a major part of their business. It took a long time and a lot of going back and forth. Harley actually liked the idea, however they were contracted with a firm in London, England to do all of their music needs. No one had ever done anything like that before and they weren't so keen on the idea. That was that. A little over a year later, Carly Simon did the exact same thing with Starbucks and sold several million CDs. C'est La Vie.

Here’s one of our songs, “Sweet Dyna” named after the Harley Davidson Dyna Glide model:

In 2009 I was now in Key West over a year when I started writing for my first CD. I had made a demo recording of one of my songs, “Raise My Glass To the Upper 48” and put it to a collage video. Naturally, I put it out on Facebook. To my surprise, I heard from DJ Jeff Allen, the top Trop Rock radio personality, saying “When you do a radio quality recording of that song, send it to me!”. Boy! Waas that a shot in the arm! 

In making that CD, the first objective I had was doing a first rate, quality production. I can’t tell you how many recordings I’d listen to in the genre, in which every song sounded the same. The first song sounded great, but I’d be dozing off by the third song. I’d be damned if my CD would follow the same route. That’s the antithesis of what I am. My idea is for every song to be different, not only from the last, but also different from any other song on the collection.

One way to combat this what I did was to write every song in a different root genre. The first song was actually two different genres, Afro/Cuban and Motown, the next was Jazz, the following Funk, then Country, South Seas, Kick ass Rock, Southern Rock, Barrel house Blues, Brazilian, and Bahamian.
The entire CD was focused on the Florida Keys as well. I had local producer Dan Simpson at the helm and we used 18 different musicians, all local based in Key West. The album was a tribute to all of them and was released on June 1, 2010.

Here’s what some had to say:

“Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (Things Could Be Worse)" covers so many different genres, it’s another great addition to the ever expanding sounds of Trop Rock by adding so many different new flavors to it.” Jeff Allen, Beachfront Radio

“Seriously, your album rocks dude. Love every song, It is perfection” Amo Bennett, Island Time Radio WBWC, Cleveland, Oh.

"Great C.D! love it! I listen to it all the time , cool idea's love it!  It’s out of the box and fun.... love it!"
Steven Youngblood Trop Rock 1290 WPCF, Pensacola

The one that perhaps carried the most weight however was from Miles Davis’ producer Shelly Liebowitz.

Now I can’t expect every fan in Trop Rock to know Miles Davis. After all, that genre, for the most part, is a tropical themed Pop music and Miles Davis was jazz. However, to put it in perspective, Miles Davis was The Beatles of Jazz. If Miles did something, everyone would follow. If Miles said something, it was revered. The best musicians in Jazz all started with Miles, or played with him. Herbie Handcock, John McLoghlin, Chick Corea, Billy Cobham.. I could go on all day.

Shelly wrote me from Los Angeles after hearing my CD and said “Chris! I LOVE your CD!”

It really doesn't get any better than that and it’s a fantastic tribute to Dan who produced it, as well as every musician who played on it. I thank everyone from my heart for their contributions! As long as I’m in Key West I will not take off to Los Angeles, New York, or Nashville to cut an album with non-Keys personnel. How can the real feeling of the Keys be felt by people who have never been here? How many times have I heard the comment “Others might write a song, or even a CD about the Keys, but your CD FEELS like the Keys!”?

My songwriting is not typical. Much more often than not, I play chords that most never will know. I wrote a song last year that has twenty four different chords in it (“Seaplane”). My stuff is not pop music and I’ll never be as popular as most, but it is progressive and original. Another I hear a lot is “You don’t sound like anyone else.” Thank you! 

I may start a video series on how to play some of my songs, if the interest is there and justifies the time involved.

In 2011 I was invited to be a part of the Key West Songwriter’s Festival. To an outsider this sounds like a local event and while it is, it is also a Nashville event. It’s the largest songwriting event in the U.S. and put on as a BMI event, along with Charlie Bauer, here in Key West. I originally was entered into the festival by BMI Nashville, interestingly enough. I’ve been fortunate enough to be included in the event for the last three years. This last year there were three local Key West songwriters in the event, the other 147 were writers from Nashville, for the most part.

At the Key West Songwriter’s Festival

Another objective I have is to bring younger people into the genre. A friend of mine told me that one of the most popular Trop Rock artists told him “ Don’t play music that these people will dance to. Look at them. They’re all over 60. If they fall down, they’ll break a hip!” … and the people on the cruise called me an asshole!

A couple of years ago I had my friend from Nashville, Misty Loggins, sing my song “Island Blue”. Misty’s somewhere between mid-twenties and thirty. First and foremost, this was an artist decision on my part. I actually wrote the song for Misty specifically. However, there’s loads of room for growth in Trop and growth will come from people like Misty, Zack Brown, and Kenny Chesney, not from people like me, or anyone in it currently. The genre, if it will survive, needs younger people within it. Plans are for Misty to be on my next CD with Island Blue and more! ;-)

Here’s Misty singing “Island Blue”

In non-music ventures I’m almost finished writing a book, “Bar Stories” that should be out soon! I also have a screen play to get done. Then again, there is the Bar Tending With Boris video series which I started doing in 2012. All of this is comical, as my primary goal in life has always been making people smile and laugh.

Bar Tending With Boris Video:

I’ll say that again … as my primary goal in life has always been making people smile and laugh.

I hope that explains where I’m coming from, where I’ve been, and a touch on where I’m going. To the flapping mouths on the cruise ship, who obviously feel they must talk shit about people they don’t even know, get a life. I’ve been doing this a long time, in my ninetieth year, if you do the math. I’m not “using” my girlfriend, or anyone else for that matter. If anyone wants to pontificate about me, or Dani, don't be a coward, tell me to my face. End of story.

I will post on Dani in a future blog perhaps. Between now and then, trust me, you don't have a clue about us and it's none of your business. 

For everyone else, I hope this gives you a better idea of who I am and thanks for reading! It's a good thing to know a bit of background on whom you're reading! Sorry for the rant side of it. but it needed to be addressed. 

Thanks again!

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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!!

Monday, February 17, 2014




The Conch Republic stretches from the Dry Tortugas, through the Marquesas Keys, then the Mule Keys, to Key West and on up through the Keys to The Last Chance Saloon in Florida City. The Last Chance Saloon is at the end of what’s known as “The 18 Mile Stretch”, section of U.S. 1, which runs from Gilbert’s Resort, on Jewfish Creek, up through the Everglades/mainland section of the Conch Republic. As there is nothing but everglades between Gilbert’s Resort and The Last Chance Saloon, we’ll focus here from Gilbert’s Resort on down, for this. The only road in and out of the Keys is U.S. 1, which is measured in “Mile Markers” (MM) for the addresses on it. MM 0 is in Key West on Whitehead Street, which is the start of U.S. 1 and Gilbert’s is MM 107.9, which is on the north side of Jewfish Creek in Key Largo. For those of you outside of the U.S. that’s 174.8 Km.

Now from Gilbert’s to Florida City, the first stop of civilization on the mainland in Miami/Dade County, it’s 18 miles (29km). Here’s the funny thing about the Keys. While there are towns like Key Largo, Tavernier, Islamorada, Marathon and so forth. Now while these towns do have their own local governments, there really is no “Downtown”. It’s not as though you can go for a walk and window shop at the stores, or anything. Basically, if you go someplace here on these islands, you drive on U.S. 1 to get there. But none have a downtown, per say. This is a good thing though, so please don’t take it the wrong way. But here’s the interesting thing about it all and perhaps something unique to the Keys. If someone from say, Gilbert’s Resort in Key Largo, or a person in Islamorada decide to head to Key West, they say “I’m going into town”, as Key West is the one place in the Keys that actually does have a “Town”. Then again, if the same person at Gilberts or Islamorada are going to say Florida City, or Miami they’ll say “I have to go to Miami” or, in the age old Keys tradition “I have to go up to Florida”.

The fact is, from say Gilbert’s to “Florida” is only 18 miles and Key West is 107.9 miles, yet the person in Key Largo considers Key West part of the community and Miami Dade County, something almost foreign, or alien to the Keys even though it’s much closer. Likewise for any other place in Florida, for that matter. I just use Miami/Dade as it’s the closest example.

A couple of fun examples of how Key West is “town” to all throughout the keys and in doing so, puts the Keys as a whole, in that same mindset from one end to the other.

As mentioned, the road in and out of the Keys, U.S. 1, (this is NOT A1A, btw)  runs 107.9 miles (174.8km) through the islands of the Keys, then a further on up the mainland another eighteen miles (29km) to the border of the Conch Republic at the Last Chance Saloon, in Florida City. Also, the Conch Republic extends westerly across the water, through the Mule Keys, the Marquesas Keys, and on to The Dry Tortugas, about 70 miles (113km) west of Key West. Additionally, the keys north of Key Largo, Old Rhodes Key, Elliot Key, Boca Chita Key, Sands Key, and finally Stiltsville in Biscayne Bay, bring the Conch Republic’s boundaries well over 250 miles (405+ km)



Boca Chita Light

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Boca Chita Church
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And over this 250+ mile spread the mentality is the same. It’s unlike that of the mainland entirely. I recall back when I lived on the mainland and driving down to the Keys, it was as though a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders when I crossed into the Conch Republic. Everyone says it’s a different country, within the United States. When I was working in an art gallery in Key West, I often would joke with visiting clientele and say “You know you’re in a different country, right?” the answer was inevitably something like “Oh! You got that right!”. This is nothing like the mainland here. In my song “Raise My Glass to the Upper 48” I say:

“Friends and family they call me say why not visit back home?
And although I love ‘em dear I don’t ever want to leave here”

Here’s Dave Bevens, owner of the Cork and Stogie, who sums it up best in this brief interview!

It’s true. No one wants to leave here. Plus, you know what happens when they do? They all come back. As Richard Van Der Mude says about the Keys “This is not the real world” and it’s not. I’ll head up to the mainland and say to myself “What the hell did I just do?” I can’t wait to get back to the archipelago of islands that runs across forty something bridges, island hopping across paradise. Some may land in Key Largo, others Tavernier. Some in the islands of Islamorada, a few in Marathon as well. Most will head to Key West. There’s more jobs there, for one and a population of about 25,000, out of the 75,000 in the Conch Republic.

Some who come here from the mainland, after a while have trouble adjusting to some of the quirks. Their first impression is falling in love with the place. However, after they hear what they call “The F Bomb” dropped nonchalantly so often, they become bewildered and confused, as well as offended. Imagine, someone getting offended by the F word in the Keys! Really? My doctor “Looks like we have to change your fucking prescription” Lawyer “We really fucked them didn’t we?”. Musician on stage at Schooner Wharf “I know about 3000 fucking songs so just let me know what the fuck you want to hear”.

When visitors hear this at a restaurant when someone is playing, they are often taken aback, at first, but then laugh. When some move here they don’t know what to make of it at times. Some get upset. Why? Because they’re thinking from a mainland point of view. Others want to change it! Really? It was one of the reasons they moved here to begin with. It falls into the free thinking aspect of the grand scheme of “Island Living”. These are people who mentally, are still back on the mainland. Here's some news for them: You're not on the mainland, you're on an island. Lighten up and have some fun! Laugh a little!

I may go into a bar and as soon as the bartender sees me says “Hey Key West Chris! Fuck you!” I laugh and say “Hey Fuck you too!” We both laugh, shake hands and I order a beer. Here in the islands, it’s actually a term of endearment, between friends.

Recently I saw a post about it and the comments from people off the islands were along the lines of “Oh! They’re just ignorant”, or “They don’t have a vocabulary and they’re uneducated.” Somehow I have a tough time seeing a doctor and a Lawyer, who spent 9 years each in college being “Ignorant” and ‘Uneducated”. What I do see are people who just don’t get it. “When In Rome”.

Regarding a song written about Key West, this is actually pretty easy. A tourist will write songs about coming to Key West and doing things we all did/do as a tourist, or a visitor (there’s a difference). The local songwriter will write songs about the day to day goings on. Listen to Michael McCloud’s songs “Closin’ The Bars” or “Pool Shootin’ Woman”. The Survivors “En Cayo Hueso”, or for that matter my song “Raise My Glass to the Upper 48”.  It’s all based from a local perspective.


Ding Dong The Witch is Gone! Yes, the manager that was the inspiration for the Key West Open Mic leaving McConnell’s Irish Pub and Grill at 900 Duval, has been fired and sent down the road tarred and feathered, figuratively speaking at least. As a result of this, the Key West Open Mic has returned to McConnell’s, this time on Thursdays, from 9 to at least midnight! The first one on the new schedule was this last Thursday and drew a good crowd! We actually had one of our blog readers, Curtis, show up from Jacksonville and play his first solo open mic! He did a great job too!


Curtis from Jacksonville

Everyone is welcome, be you a spectator or a player. Rules are the same as always. Sign up on the list. No one gets moved ahead of anyone else, whatever number you are on the list is where you play, I don’t care if you’re Sting or Cheryl Crow, wherever you sign up, is where you play. When the list finishes, we start at the top again. It’s fair and easy. Plus no one gets upset. The objective is for everyone to have FUN!!! So swing by and have some fun!


After disembarking from a cruise ship a passenger asks a local vendor:

 "Do you take American money here?"

Yeah, this really IS a different country alright! HA HA HA!


For those in Key West, once a month, be sure to check out the new Key West Artisan Market! This is a fabulous addition to Key West and is getting rave reviews by all that have attended! This month's is this coming Sunday, February 23, 2014!!! The event is held in the parking lot of The Restaurant Store, on Eaton St. Live music, crafts, fresh produce, and.... BEER!!!! The beer is brewed on premises at the Rastaurant Store, by Bone Island Brewing  and this Sunday's event will be the official grand opening of the Brewery! 9 am - 2pm.

Here's their Facebook page, so you can check it out!

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Thanks folks! Keep smiling! See you next blog!

Find me on Facebook:

Thank you everyone!!

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!!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fun News!!! Bar Tending

Fun news for the day! My Facebook page has garnered #5 in the Top Ten Tropical Pages!

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It’s great to have the acknowledgement and know that promoting Key West to the world pays off in appreciation! I run this blog with the same thing in mind. So many people the world over, love Key West and the Florida Keys, I try to help those who love it here to make it a part of their daily lives from afar. Even if it’s just for a few seconds on Facebook, or perhaps a bit longer and more in depth, here on the blog, it’s great to know it’s all worthwhile! Thank you Ed Robinson!!!

Also, check out Ed Robinson’s book, which is inexpensive and available on Amazon as a download “Leap Of Faith”, an autobiography on saying the heck with the rat race and buying a boat and living on it!


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I started doing the Bar Tending With Boris videos almost two years ago. I started calling myself Boris because it fit with the word Bar Tending and also, it was my nickname in grammar school. In my school, everyone had a nickname. There was Gonzo, Dirk, Gabe, Fudd, Phonzo, Bunk, … the list went on and on! My nickname was “Boris” after Boris Badenov in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. HA HA!

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So it wasn’t like I just pulled the name out of thin air… I just pulled it out of mothballs!

The fun thing about doing it was that the first take is never right. The drink may sometimes need tweaking, but the video always does. Not being a believer in waste, naturally the drink in the bad take must be consumed. So, you can imagine what it can be like by the third or fourth take! :-O

Over time I’ve also had several assistants who have helped me out on these comic endeavors. Up to this last week, we’ve had Bobby DeVito (a.k.a. Bobby D.), Cindi Hogan, Doug Bittner, and Rick Hogan. The locations have also been in my own kitchen, 90 miles and three blocks from Havana, in Key West, as well as up on Cudjoe Key, twenty-two miles north of here. It’s been quite a laugh!

I say “comic”, as although the drink recipes are quite refined and authentic, the presentation is really, quite off the wall! First of all, there’s a bar tender named Boris and second, after three or four takes, he’s often hammered!

No, these are not bar tending videos that have some guy in a three piece suit, ruffled shirt, and a bow tie, who doesn’t know how to break a smile, being very, very serious in his drink making instruction. No, these are FUN videos and funny at the same time. After all, the ONLY reason people drink is to alter their consciousness, hopefully for the right reasons. What Bar Tending With Boris offers is something that is focused on the fun side of bar tending. If someone wants to see some guy acting like he just ate a lemon and has a stick up his ass, there are hundreds of them on Youtube to be seen. However, if someone wants to have fun and a good laugh, Bar Tending With Boris is for them!

In addition, the recipes we’re doing are actually second to none. I’ll put these recipes up against anything out there that the lemon eating, stick up the ass, bow tie bar tending, Youtube bar tendering brigade can offer. Don’t get me wrong. Their recipes are very good, but ours are on the level with the best of them, just a whole lot more fun to watch! In all the comic mayhem in the videos, if anyone who sees them tries the recipes, they’ll be amazed. They are all great recipes! Try them!

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In the last two editions that have been done, we’ve added my roommate my Dani Hoy, who has contributed immensely! First of all, there’s her marvelous personality and magnetic smile! Second, there are her video editing skills. In the past I’ve always just took a full take. There was no editing. With Dani here we now have intros, intro music, great editing, and the recipe written out for the viewer at the end! The game has stepped up! Here’s the first one we put together, The Mojito, or The Key West Earthquake Mojito, as we had an earthquake about 40 minutes earlier that day.

After that, Dani and I boarded our friends Larry Poff and Michelle Dougan’s boat “Transition”, here in Key West and set sail with our friends from Albuquerque Michelle and Brian Fields, as well as Chris Robinson. This was the first Bar Tending With Boris where our location was on a boat sailing! This time we had Michelle and Brian as guest bar tenders and they made us a marvelous variation of the Margarita from Albuquerque, The Cucumber and Jalapeno Margarita! As I write this on January 25, 2014 this is our latest video installment!

We’re always trying new things, so who knows what will be next? One thing is for sure however, we WILL be doing more on the high seas, celebrating both the cocktails and the waters of Key West. I mean seriously, if the opportunity is there, when in Key West, who in their right mind would not head out on the beautiful water here?

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We made a Facebook Page that have all the Bar Tending With Boris videos and will also have the newest ones as they come out! Please feel free to join the page!!!

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

Thank you everyone!!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A lazy drive through the Florida Keys, Part 1

December started off with a bit of a twist for me. For quite some time I’ve been dealing with heart disease and now and then it rears it’s head. My issue is cholesterol which causes blockage in the arteries that are in my heart. The good news is that I have a great cardiologist and his team, here in Key West, Dr. Bruce Boros. I drove up to Miami Beach and was in and out of the hospital in less than 24 hours. The solution is having a stent put in, which opens up the artery and the blood flow returns to normal. The weird thing about this is that there is virtually no recovery period! One minute you’re feeling like you’re ready to check out, the next you’re ready to run around the block! Many thanks to Dr. Boros as well as the team in Miami Beach headed by Dr. Berger.

While I was away a great deal of thanks must be expressed to Cindi Hogan, Sheri Pogue, and Paddy Lynch who all took turns walking Cajun and Tooloulou!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   THANK YOU GUYS!!!!!

The great thing here was the fact that it required a drive back through the Keys to get home! I always tell anyone coming to Key West to be sure to take your time driving through the Keys to appreciate them for what they are. In English we have a saying for this that goes “Take time to stop and smell the roses”. I elected to do this as well. Prior to moving to Key West, I lived in the southern area of Miami/Dade County and consequently I’d hop in the car and take a 30 mile drive (49 Km) to Key Largo. What a perfect excuse to head and stop there on my way home! I found myself at one of my favorite haunts which is one of the best bars in the entire world, The Caribbean Club. Some may remember the Caribbean Club from my blog a while back naming the ten best bars in the Florida Keys?

I arrived about an hour before sunset, which is always impeccable, as the back of the Caribbean Club is on Black Water Sound.

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Caribbean Club Dock.

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The Caribbean Club from the dock

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Boat off of the Caribbean Club at sunset


Caribbean Club Panorama

Boat leaving to parts unknown

I made a rendezvous with my dear friend Nina while I was there and we headed over to another place in Key Largo, Sharkey’s (also see ten best bars in the Keys) where our friend Mike was playing. I’ve known Mike for nearly twenty years, from my days in Miami/Dade! What a great thing it was to go as well! I ended up getting to sit in with his band for a couple of songs. Special thanks to his band mate George for allowing me to play his outstanding Jimmy Page Signature Les Paul! So, here I was, only hours out of the hospital after a heart procedure and I’m sitting for a couple of songs! Thank God for medical science!

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I stayed overnight in Key Largo and continued my trip in the morning after grabbing a breakfast at a restaurant in Key Largo that I often go to, Mrs. Mack’s.

My next stop was in Islamorada, a town south of Key Largo consisting of about five or six islands. For me, my stop there this time was Robbie’s. Robbie’s is really just a shack. It’s a lot like stepping into a time warp actually. What is so unique about Robbie’s is that off their dock, you can feed the tarpon with buckets of fish that you can buy at the shack. A tarpon is a good sized game fish. They are not edible. Here we’re not fishing for them, but rather feeding them! There are also a lot of pelicans hanging out there as well, who are more than happy to compete with the tarpon for the fish!

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Posing pelican with Tarpon behind him

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“The Keys Rabbler” gets me everywhere!

Leaving there, my next stop was just a pedestrian bridge, built on the old traffic bridge. These are all up and down the Keys, this one being at Lower Matacumbe Key. I was amazed at the strength of the current. Bear in mind that this is that the bridges are where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Flor8ida Bay/Gulf of Mexico. Driving south, you’ll have the Atlantic Ocean on your left and the Gulf of Mexico on your right. The tidal currents were amazingly strong here!

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I’ll continue this trip on the next blog!
I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season!

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

Thank you everyone!

Happy New Year!!!!