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Monday, December 19, 2011

Inspirational Key West and the Conch Republic

Liveaboard by Key West Chris Rehm
^ Listen to Liveaboard while you read the blog! ^

Here in Key West there is an almost compulsive draw to be creative and in particular, original. We’ve had our share of well-known writers and performers over the years that need no introductions. There is some kind of energy here, which words can’t really describe. Maybe it emulates from the coral below us? Maybe it’s from our longitude and latitude, coordinated with a gravitational pull from the sun in relation to our proximity to the Bermuda Triangle? I’ll let soothsayers, scientists, geologists, and Santaria priests figure that one out, as I’m too busy taking advantage of it myself. Today we also have the creative vibe going. One example of many is a local performing artist, and all around good guy Bo Fodor, has been very active on both the video and music front, as of late. Over the last few months Bo has had two websites he’s introduced to the world from Key West . The first was Key West Coconut Telegraph Television, which is an internet television station running twenty four hours a day. It offers local coverage, as well as some fun, rare reporting from our sister city, ninety miles south of our southernmost point, Havana.

Bo has also more recently started an internet radio station, Key West Original Music Radio, which features exactly that! In addition, Bo has made slide videos for all of the music featured! I can’t imagine how long that took to do! Oh my gosh!! Great job Bo! If anyone wants to hear the sound of the Keys, this is where you can tune in 24 hours a day.


I of course also feel the inspiration that emulates from this coral island as well and it suits my style perfectly. I’m someone who thrives on innovation! Blazing one’s own path is encouraged here. That shows up on my current CD “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)” where we have ten songs and eleven different overall genres, all of which are Conch Rock and eight of the ten also wear the Trop Rock hat as well. Additionally, every song was inspired from the energy of this island.

With the website we’ve made some major innovative inroads as well! With the coming of digital downloads, both artwork and information have fallen by the wayside. While this is a big shame in so many ways, anyone who thinks digital downloads are going to go away, have their heads buried in the sand. What we’ve done, is set up all the information on the website in the music section! Each song has its own page, for instance. On each song’s individual page we have:

A) The Lyrics
B) The story behind the song
C) All of the personnel playing on the song.
D) Artwork from both local as well as international artists.

In some cases we also have a music track to go along with it. In addition, we have three unreleased tracks available for listening along with a story to go along with them as well. Thus far, we’re the only artist doing all of this. Some may have some things. I know Jimmy Buffett has the lyrics on his site, for
Instance, however there is no information other than that. I’ve talked to a producer/publisher in Nashville about what we’re doing down here and he was quite excited about it. I have the impression that in time, we’ll see more artists doing similar things with their music on their websites.

Of course here on the Blog we’re also infected with the creative vibe/energy/inspiration that oozes out of the rock we live on called Key West. In addition to the Key West news from the source, we also add pictures and/or a collage, as well as a music clip… not forgetting a video, every now and then! 
Thank God for The Conch Republic’s creative inspiration!

J. Harold Lowry of course is also drawing inspiration from the Conch Republic archipelago for his book "Key Lime Floats". A book that will surely bring a smile to your day! Available in either paperback or via download via Kindle!

It's a plethora of inspiration down in the entire Conch Republic!

This last week Country Singer/Songwriter/Actress and all around great person Misty Loggins was in town. Misty texted me shortly prior to let me know she’d be here and I texted her back saying “Hey! Want to cut a song with me?” She said “Sure!”. Fantastic!... only one problem. I didn’t have a song for her to sing. Hummm… off to work! So I wrote a song, “Island Blue” for her to sing. This is the first song for my next album “All The Best From Key West”, which is how I always sign off on letters and e-mails. Misty nailed it! Plus, in addition, again, it’s exploring new ground. At the moment we have Misty, Richard Crooks on drums, and myself on guitar, so the canvas is progressing well, but we still have a ways to go and more instruments to add. Dan Simpson is again at the helm on the board. I’ll have more info on this one when we finish it, hopefully in a couple of weeks.


All the Best From Key West!

Key West Chris


Friday, December 9, 2011

Gary Hempsey, MOTM Revisited, Female songwriters/performers

The Greatest Country by Key West Chris Rehm
^ listen to “The Greatest Country” while you enjoy the blog! ^

News Flash Bulletin! This just in, It looks as though I will be interviewed on NPR Radio in a couple of weeks, before the end of the year!!! Conch Rock/Trop Rock goes on the National Public Radio syndicated network! More news as it develops!!!!!!


I can’t think of a better place to live, then in the Conch Republic! Anywhere from Key West through Key Largo and the 107 miles and forty some odd bridges linking the archipelago of islands, which started as a railroad, back ninety nine years ago. However, life being life, nothing is perfect and the Conch Republic is certainly no exception to that rule. A very ugly event happened recently in Key West, as a matter of fact, which have everybody shaking their heads in bemusement. Gary Hempsey, a local performer who’s been playing at Captain Tony’s for something to the tune of twenty years, wanted to cut back his schedule there, in order to explore some new things. Instead of saying “Hey Gary! No problem. What works for you?”, the manager just up and fired his ass.

One of Captain Tony’s sons posted on Gary’s FB page that he knew his dad would not be happy about this at all. I’m sure that the ashes of Captain Tony himself, have gathered and turned into a water spout/cyclone, somewhere in the Florida Straits. For those who don’t know Gary, he’s first and foremost, his own man. He’s a very unique guy with a great character. Everyone when hearing the news was awestruck in disbelief. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I heard the exact same statement “What? You’re kidding, right? How could anybody fire Gary Hempsey from Captain Tony’s?” Gary was one of the key faces of Captain Tony’s; a stalwart of the institution itself, who played there with the late Captain Tony’s full support and blessing. What happened here was a disgrace. It was an insult to Gary and his loyalty to the bar for two decades, the patrons who always make a point of catching his show when they are in town, his extensive local fan base, all of the other great employees who work there, additionally the action sullies the name of the bar itself. There is someone who needs to go from Captain Tony’s, but it’s certainly not Gary Hempsey.


The pictures in the collage are Gary playing at his birthday party at Smokin’ Tuna back in August.

I had a really nice thing happen at MOTM that I forgot to mention in the last blog I had just rounded the corner at the end of Greene St. and turned up Elizabeth St. in my VW Bus, when I heard a group of people holler out “Look! It’s Key West Chris!”. I figured they were friends of mine and parked. They were right in front of the B and B next to Lazy Way, partying in the street. As I approached they all hollered out again. Turned out they were from North Carolina and in for MOTM and had recognized me and my VW from both Facebook and the Trop Rock stations that are playing “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)”. I ended up hanging out with them for about a half hour, as they were kind enough to share a few beers with me. Thanks guys! My friends who I was meeting, Key Largo Joe and Cindy, thought I died! HA HA HA!

Hindsight is also 20/20. I forgot to mention something about Kelly McGuire, who held his annual event at Lighthouse Court at MOTM. Kelly was here also earlier this year for the Key West Songwriter’s Festival, a.k.a KWSF. To be invited to the KWSF is a great honor, as it’s not a bar in Key West that invites you, but rather BMI Nashville, who is the host of the event. For those who don't know, BMI is BIG in the mechanical publishing rights side of the music industry.In other words, when a radio station plays a song, or it is played in a jukebox, or a performing artist covers a song, BMI are the ones who collect the royalties and pay the songwriter. Congratulations on that one Kelly!

There were so many great songwriters here for MOTM! It was a true pleasure to hear them! On flip side, there were also those who all wrote songs about getting loaded on Duval. Way, way too many, actually. I was ready to pull my hair out :-O if I heard another that weekend. Thank God for the great songwriters, they kept me from going insane.

Speaking of Trop Rock & Conch Rock, another area that is way open for growth is the implement of estrogen in the genres. There are so few women in the field, it’s on the cusp of being sad. The bright side there is Adrienne, who is based here in the Conch Republic. Adrienne is a graduate of Berklee, up in Boston and is truly a great songwriter and performer; someone who deserves much more attention. As she lives in the Keys, all of her music is Conch Rock, of which a decent amount also happens to fall into the Trop Rock genre as well. Be sure to check Adrienne out at her website and also on her Facebook Page

Michelle Orlandi Becker has won the female vocalist of the year at MOTM for years. An accomplished songwriter in her own right, she and her husband Tom form Latitude.

Of course, there’s Nadria Shakur, the backup singer for Jimmy Buffett, is an artist in her own rite, indeed. The Atlanta based Nadira has a good mix of Trop Rock and R&B in her song repertoire. So, Nadira is partly Trop Rock.

Kristie Hayes Bobal had her CD release party during MOTM at Carmelo’s Bottle Cap. She was also interviewed on Beach Front Radio prior to the release. From what I heard of the CD, while it seems it was well produced and had some great sounding musicians on it, it falls into the genre of Southern Rock. No knock against the work itself; however it’s a missed opportunity for Trop Rock to have an additional female artist.

Dani Hoy, out of Pennsylvania, is making progress in the field. Good for her too! I hear the word on the street is that she is planning and perhaps working on an upcoming project. She played at Artist Koz’ Green World Gallery here in Key West for MOTM. Hopefully she’ll have a CD in there for sale as well before long.

Also, up in Panama, Florida there’s Sandra Heart Youngblood who accompanies her husband Steven Youngblood as a duo, playing the steel pan.

Here’s the bottom line; I just named a total of four female performers who are Trop Rock and or, Conch Rock full time artists. That’s Adrienne, Michelle Orlandi, Sandra Youngblood, and Dani Hoy; Nadirah Shakur being partially Trop Rock. Now, I must have missed one or two, maybe more… I apologize to those who, at the moment skipped my feeble brain. However, the bottom line is there is a huge opening for quality, female artists and particularly writers, in Trop Rock and Conch Rock.

Will keep y’all posted on my NPR interview as I learn more!

Thanks to Melissa for the framed pictures of Cajun and Tooloulou!