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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!


  1. Hey Chris, keep us posted over here at, and we'll get the word out for you! Happy holidays!

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  3. Thank you for your comments Shell. If you'd like to promote someone, on this site you're more than welcome to promote Key West Chris! If you'd like to promote anyone else, you might try your own blog, or perhaps your facebook page? They work very well. Key West Chris lives in Key West 24/7/365 and reports on the weekly goings on there, both in music and the town itself. Admin.