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Monday, December 10, 2012

Key West Music - The Foundation

KEY WEST MUSIC - The Foundation

^ Listen to "Mile Zero" while you read the Blog!^


KEY WEST MUSIC - The Foundation

If one takes a trip and goes, say to Jamaica, you’ll expect to hear music from that island. Likewise you expect the exact same thing with Trinidad, the Bahamas, or Cuba; music indigenous of each of those islands. As no doubt for anyone who reads this blog has seen, here in the Conch Republic, we consider ourselves a country unto itself, and an island at that, albeit part of the United States. Having stated that, wouldn't anyone visiting here expect a music which is native to this island?

The name of this blog is Key West Music and Happenings. So, let’s look at Key West music specifically for a moment. What exactly is Key West music anyway? There are certainly a lot of musicians and writers who hail from all over the United States, who come, visit, go home and write about Key West. I recall back when I wrote one of my first songs about Key West, ”Mile Zero”, the thought of writing about drinking on Duval was immediately dismissed because way back then, in 1996, the subject of writing about getting hammered on Duval was really worn out. Consequently, Mile Zero was a song about other goings on here, highlighting the virtual circus atmosphere found in Key West. Besides, my quest was to emulate the vibe of the locals, not the tourists. We hear from artists from all over writing about Key West. Why? Because it’s so inspirational! It’s often funny to hear someone from out of town write about Key West. Often they’ll make a slip and mention something like “Sunset Key”… of course everyone who lives here knows that there is no such thing as a Key named ”Sunset Key”, is there? If there is, please be kind enough to point it out on Coast Guard Chart # 34.

However when writing about Key West, and I’m not talking about any of the other islands in the Conch Republic, as great as they all are, but specifically, Key West, in this case; if one wants to get a feel for the life’s blood and the SOUND that emulates from the island itself, it’s vital to look into the roots of what we have here. In order to write music about this town… the true music of this town, one has to live here day to day really. It’s an entirely different thing if one lives in Albuquerque and travels to Key West for one week out of a year, then goes home with the same preconceptions they came with and writes a song about it. Nothing wrong with that at all, however, it’s more of a fantasy of their idea of a status quo of the town, where reality is quite a bit different.


I've also stated before that Key West has its own creative energy; a force which has attracted well known artists and writers, all of whom have some of their finest works created here. These artists and writers didn’t come here for a day, a weekend, or a week’s safari blow out. These artists and writers lived here. The artists, who set the tone for this island’s music over the years, are no different. They live here on a day to day basis. They are the writers and performers who live the island life on this creative focal point of artistic energy we know as Key West. They made their life here, many raising families and became fixtures, not only of the town itself, but of the core of what we call our own island music.

Just as in traveling to any foreign destination, Key West has its wonderful little secrets. Sure, some tourists are content with going to some shithole and listen to someone play “Brown Eyed Girl” or “Margaritaville”. However, there are visitors who come who want to feel the real pulse of the town. They want to know what makes it tick. They want to feel the town’s real rhythm in the floor where they’re standing, feel that vibration in their chest and consequently, in their soul. They’re not looking for what the rest of the tourist brigade is in search of, which they can and will find in every city and town in the United States. They want to find the real deal. It’s just like commercial cuisine versus local. The tourist will go eat a burger, while a true travel explorer will seek out the local treasures that are unique, in every port of call. Here in Key West the seasoned travel explorer will find that in the Keys, a local fish is known as by its true English name of “Dolphin”, rather than its Polynesian name of mahi-mahi, for instance. Likewise, music is unique and very special. Both are essential in feeling the rhythm of the island. It’s all about the sights, sounds, and the flavor!


An interesting note: Often when hearing songs about Key West it’s very easy to see who the weekend visitor was and who is the local is. The weekend visitor comes to Key West, gets that creative vibe found here, goes back to Peoria and writes a song about coconuts and palm trees. The great local songwriters write about the day to day and night to night life found here and the things they encounter, both crazy and benign. While it may mention a coconut, or a palm tree, the song is about something else, or a metaphor  for the most part. Having stated that, I’d doubt that if a Key West songwriter went and visited Peoria they’d write about a sycamore tree.

Key West, Is Key West however!


For anything to be truly geographically established as its own genre, it has to stand the test of time and likewise, be unique, for the beginning is the foundation of all that is to follow. Without a solid coral rock foundation, the genre will dissolve. These are the core of what we will be looking at here, which is Key West music.


Din Allen arrived in Key West in 1978 and remains here playing local establishments on a daily basis. He started The Survivors and wrote all of their songs with his brother Woody. The Survivors are magnificent band which combines a mixture of Samba, Calypso, Afro/Cuban, Reggae, Rock, Jazz, Fusion, and Bossa Nova, all with a tropical flavor. Within this context there always seem to be room for improvisation for whichever musician is taking the solo. What this does is make every performance unique. In short, the music is alive! It is truly a living organism. To add to this, the musicianship of The Survivors, as well as the songwriting, is top level. I’m not talking second tier, but top notch indeed, not forgetting progressive. Always expect the unexpected with The Survivors. They might very well go from something funky to a Bossa Nova, complete with lyrics sung in Portuguese. For thirty years The Survivors packed every venue they played in Key West. They are a Key West institution. These days they get together every year for the Benefit for Womankind, the last three years held at Salute on the Beach, with everyone dancing in the sand.

Bill Blue and the Nervous Guys.

Bill Blue. The name says it all and it’s not a stage name. Bill is a purveyor of the Blues. However Bill’s Blues isn’t just, as musicians know it, your 1- 4 -1-5, Blues progressions. Bill is innovative and progressive. Additionally, every song Bill does sounds different from the last. Bill Blue’s been kicking ass in Key West since moving here in 1980 from Virginia. His song “A Pretty Girl, A Cadillac, and Some Money” just about sums up Bill’s story about moving down here in 1980 and does it with both melody and narration. Bill’s music is upbeat, for the most part, and the crowd is dancing throughout his gigs, which are always also packed. Bill plays slide guitar (in open E) and always has an additional guitarist with him, plus the band, which is a big one, often as large as eight, which can include as many as three of the Nervettes as backup singers. These days Bill pretty much plays the Green Parrot’s Sound Checks, which run 5:30 – 7 on Fridays and sometimes Sunday. If you’re in town check the ‘Parrot’s schedule! You will be very glad you did!

Michael McCloud

Mike arrived here somewhere around the early-mid seventies and has been here ever since. McCloud’s a great songwriter and writes about some of the day to day experiences he’s lived through herein Key West for nearly forty years. Michael’s first two albums are his best works. “Greta’s Tits” and “Ain’t Life Grand” are superb examples of of what a great songwriter he is. His next two releases are, for the most part cover songs. His latest is a live recording, which is about five years old or so. Mike’s originals capture Key West culture and lifestyle. Songs like “She’s Got A Butt”, “Closin’ the Bars”, “Pool Shootin’ Woman”, “Tourist Town Bar”, “Fishin Fool, “Pease and Quiet”, to name a few, capture Michael’s life here. Either that or he’s a hellova good story teller. Knowing Michael, most likely a bit of both! These songs are not about wanting to come to a mental image of Paradise, but rather the day to day existence in this crazy little island. I wish he’s make a full album of brand new originals, although his covers are second to none. He really captures the feel and shares the experiences, often in a very comical way that never gets old. Mike can be found at the Schooner Wharf Bar on Key West Bight six days a week, excluding Tuesday, from noon to five.

CW Colt

CW Colt has been here for decades. He was also knighted by the King of the Conch Republic, King Mel Fisher, so know you are in the presenceof royalty when you catch CW! CW is a songwriter par excelance! He also has one of the best voices I've ever heard, on or off the island. Talk about a baratone!  A lot of his music is influenced by country music of the west. I call that part of his music "Key Western Swing", as he gells the tropic feel with Western Swing so damn well.  Also, CW broadcasts all of his shows on the internet and has been for a few years now. I believe he's well on his way to his second million hits with it as well. Be certain to check him out!

Barry Cuda


Barry Cuda gets an honorable mention here, because, for the most part, Cuda isn’t so much of a writer himself. What Cuda does do so well is capture the ambiance of Old Key West. You’ll see him pushing his piano down the street from gig to gig. In my opinion the best place to see Cuda is B.O.’s Fishwagon, where he plays Friday nights from 6 – 9 with his band, formally known as “The Sharks”, and then revised to “Bong Hits For Geezers”. Back aver a dozen years ago I was writing for Southeast Performer Magazine and I stated that his album “Fish Nuts”, recorded live at B.O.’s Fishwagon, was the best live bar album ever made. Not of his, not of Key West, but in the history of recorded music. I still stand by that to this day! Excellent musicianship (fellow Sharks at the time Steve Mello – Drums/Vocals and “Chief Billy Two Beers” - Bass and harmonica), fantastic atmosphere with spontaneous interaction with the crowd, extremely funny, great songs that fit the venue, guest artists who fit the band like a glove, plus an incredible recording by Dan Simpson of Private Ear Studio in Key West, that captured absolutely everything. Barry Cuda is The Pianamal


So there you have the core of what native grown Key West music is really like…

You know the saying….
“When In Rome…”
And never forget the motto of this town and this blog:



For Key West Chris'music for samples and purchase:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


^Listen to 'Raise My Glass To The Upper 48" while you read the blog!^

For those who have read the blog for over a year, may recall I did a piece around this time last year, regarding the Florida State highway A1A? I’m covering it again because not everyone who reads this blog today, read it last year.

My friend Renn Loren, from Norway, by way of Hawaii, wrote me this week from the cold Scandinavian country regarding his trip back to the Keys(he arrives here tomorrow) and said “Maybe we could travel up A1A and you could show me all of the significant places!” My reply was easier than he expected, I suspect. “Oh I can tell you right now! It starts at the end of Bertha St at the water. First you’ll pass the Sheratan hotel on your left, heading north, with Smathers beach on your right, a couple of condos there on the left as well. The salt ponds will follow on the left, while Smathers Beach remains on the right.

One mile up from Bertha Street you will see the Mile Marker 1 sign, as A1A does not have a Mile Zero sign. Continue up A1A and the airport and East Martello Tower ( where Robert the haunted doll is) and a seawall on the right. Curving around on the right is where the old Houseboat Row used to be and somewhere around here is Mile Marker 2.


Over a small bridge and on to the intersection with US 1 and you’re done! A1A continues again up in Miami/Dade County.”
Fact is, A1A is only about 2 ½ miles long in the Florida Keys. That’s it.
When Jimmy Buffett wrote the song about “Strolling up the avenue that’s known as A1A” he was talking about walking along that beach stretch of road. The majority of people from out of town thought that A1A was the Overseas Highway to the Keys. However, A1A stands for ”Atlantic 1 Alternate”, giving the traveler an option of traveling on either US1 or A1A. “Alternate” is the key word. If there is no other road to travel on, you can’t have an alternate route, so at these points you re-join US1. Welcome to the Keys, where we take pride of having only one road in and one road out of the Keys and that Road is US 1, which starts at the corner of Whitehead and Fleming Streets and runs 2,377 miles (3,825km) up to the Canadian border at Ft. Kent, Maine. Another significant note is that A1A is a state road, where US1 is a federal highway.

We’ve had a change in our “TROPICAL SONGWRITERS IN PARADISE” show. Allen “Frankendread” Holland ran into some obstacles up where he is in Illinois and regretfully won’t be making it down. We however had a pool of players on the waiting list and brought in Rich McGuire, who lives up in Florida somewhere and plays in the band Schooner and the Wharf Rats. Rich will be playing in the same time slot as Allen was , 3:30 – 4. Also, Ryan and Andy from Homemade Wine have a rehearsal with a horn section, so regrettably, they had to bail. On the flip side, we did pick up Todd Sparks from up in the panhandle of Florida! Here’s the schedule!

November 1st at T’s Bistro and Bar 1114 Duval St. Key West (around the corner from the Southernmost point) Noon – 8 PM
11:55 -12:25 Key West Chris Rehm - Conch Republic
12:30 – 1:00 Renn Loren - Norway/Hawaii
1:00 – 1:30 Dani Hoy – Pennsylvania
1:30– 2:00 C.W. Colt – Conch Republic
2:00 – 2:30 John Friday - Florida
2:30 – 3:00 Swim Skinny – Ohio

3:30 – 4:00 Rich McGuire - Florida
4:00 – 4:30 Loren Davidson - California
4:30 – 5:00 Adrienne- Conch Republic
5:00 – 5:30 Steve Tolliver – Florida
5:30 – 6:00 Ray West - Conch Republic
6:00 – 6:30 TBA
6:30 -7:00 Young Rebel Goombas’ – Richie Saccenti, Cosmo Mallardi, Rob Cutts Long Island, N.Y.
7:00 – 7:30 Todd Sparks - Florida
7:30 – 8:00 Rich In Spirit – Conch Republic

Saturday, October 13, 2012


^ Listen to “Key West Blues” featuring the Key West Junkanoos, who were recorded LIVE in the Goombay Festival parade!!! ^


Fantasy Fest is rapidly approaching. Buckle your seat belts and hang on. This year’s theme is “Aconchalypse” is this year’s theme, in recognition of the Mayan prediction for the end of the world coming in December.

Fantasy Fest is far and away, the wildest celebration in the United States and quite possibly, the world. Fantasy Fest is a ten day festival which actually starts with the Goombay Festival. The African American population in Key West, by and large traces their roots to the Bahamas (likewise in Miami who also have a Goombay Festival) and that is where the Goombay Festival originates. The Goombay Festival includes a parade with the Key West Junkanoos, a Key West Bahamian Street band consisting of many drums, often brass instruments, and always very colorful costumes. This parade is a MUST see! They start on Whitehead St (just a few doors up from my place) at the corner of Whitehead and Truman. They head up Truman, then down Duval to Petronia St., where they turn left and go to the end, where a concert is held.

At night the place to be is the Blue Heaven restaurant where a smaller ensemble of Junkanoos play on the water tower. Regretfully, in the last two years the establishment across the street from Blue Heaven has been blaring their “music” to the point that the Junkanoos over at Blue Heaven, are all but drowned out. Hopefully this year they’ll be more respectful. Everyone can enjoy their music without being oppressive on others.


The Goombay Festival starts on Friday and on Saturday it’s basically a street food festival with food from the Caribbean and South America. Sunday a few things start hopping on Fantasy Fest and Monday they close Greene St in front of Captain Tony’s after six. As the week continues, the festivities continue down Duval St, which is likewise closed. Different bars have different parties. There’s a plaid party at Captain Tony’s, where everyone wears plaid. Finnegan’s Wake has a green party; Sloppy Joe’s has a toga party. Kelly’s has … a wild party, while The Green Parrot usually has The Russian Elvises playing. These parties are held throughout the week, so the revelers go to one party one night and another party the next.
Body paint is considered clothing, indecently. Because of this, nudity is not uncommon at all, some to more degrees than others. The funny thing is that everyone is very, very respectful during Fantasy Fest. If you want to take a picture of a girl in body paint, you simply ask and the answer is inevitably, “yes!”.
The Fantasy Fest parade is always held on the last Saturday of the month. On this day, 90,000+ have gradually arrived on the island over the week and the parade of over fifty floats rolls from the Truman Waterfront, up Southard St., down Whitehead St, across Front St, and down Duval to its culmination at United St.
I could go on for hours and hours, but if anyone wants to see Key West, Key West’s absolute panicle is Fantasy Fest. Often the visitors of other festivals held here come and think they are really getting wild. Nothing comes remotely close. Nothing. It’s akin to winning at a little slot machine, verses breaking the bank in Monte Carlo!

Here I’m posting some pictures from years past and be rest assured, we’ll have more from this year’s as well!

MOTM is also coming to Key West again, officially from Wednesday, October 31st to Sunday, November 4th. Unofficially of course, it starts on Monday, October 29th. The official event is held at the Casa Marina, with very, very few minor exceptions. What baffles me is that there are people who actually go to “The Casa”, as it’s known locally, and never leave! Really? What’s the point of coming to Key West? I can see staying there as a hotel and perhaps seeing some of the events, but actually staying there full time… why bother coming to Key West in the first place?

Fact of the matter is, Key West is hopping all over town with trop rock events everywhere. Plus, this is KEY WEST, not main street U.S.A. How many times when I was working in the gallery when I first got here, did I say to people visiting “You know? This is a different country” and EVERY ONE AGREED! “It really IS!!” All in all, there will be about 6,000 visitors to Key West for the MOTM related festivities. For those of us who are locals, this always pales in reference to the ten days of Fantasy Fest, which directly precedes it, where 90,000 + descend on our fair island hamlet, often with revelers dressed in outlandish costumes, or less. After that extravaganza, anything would pale beside it. However, it’s a very nice break at the same time.

Key West is an interesting enigma. On the one hand it’s considered Mecca for the Trop Rock world, on the other hand there’s really not all that much Trop Rock that goes on here the other 51 weeks of the year. Willie T’s will have Trop Rock artists for maybe half the month, albeit on one of their three shifts, the other two shifts being a rock set of one nature, or another. Schooner Wharf might have a Trop Rock band in about once every six to eight weeks. Having said that, they DO have Michael McCloud there every Wednesday through Sunday in the afternoon. Margaritaville always has Trop Rock acts in, however who wants to go to Margaritaville? It’s a tourist trap, no different than Sloppy Joe’s, or the most obnoxious bar on the island, Irish Kevin’s, which is geared to the 21 - 30 year old crowd anyway.

An excellent bar is Smokin’ Tuna Saloon. Smokin’ Tuna will often find Scott Kirby playing there, as well as the occasional Trop Rock performer, during an event or a promotion. Also, maybe once a month or so The Hog’s Breath Saloon will feature a Trop Rock performer on one of their sets. Again, like ‘Tuna, during events such as MOTM, they’ll load up.

This year I will be hosting an event “Tropical Songwriters in Paradise”, which will be held at “T’s Bistro and Bar” at 1114 Duval. Thursday, November 1st! There is no cover charge!!! (any place that has a cover charge, excluding cruises, avoid. 51 weeks a year cover charges do not exist in Key West, so don’t allow someone to treat you like the village idiot, just because you’re unfamiliar with it. As I say, the cruises are different and well worth every penny).

This event is the quieter end of Duval, not far from the Southernmost point and the songwriter event will accordingly fit the neighborhood. Because of its nature, it will be held during the day, noon – seven pm. Here songwriters will both explain their songs, as well as their craft.

It’s going to be an intimate affair; up close and personal with the artist. Most will be solo, though there are a few who will be up there with co-writers as well. Additionally, there will be national acts, international acts (where else will you get to hear a Trop Rock artist from… Norway???) plus artists who make their home here in the Conch Republic, as far up the Keys as Marathon. You can see what music written in the Keys sounds like! It’s a wide gamut indeed! Conch Rock!!!


T’s Bistro and bar offers both inside and outside seating, plus a full bar. They also have an outrageous menu, with about six breakfast items at $4.95. Home cooked meals at fast food prices. They also have a nightly dinner special every night at $9.50. These go on every day, seven days a week.


As for the “Tropical Songwriter’s In Paradise” event, here’s the tentative schedule:
Tropical Songwriters Schedule
11:55 -12:25 Key West Chris - Conch Republic
12:30 – 1:00 Renn Loren Norway/Hawaii
1:00 – 1:30 Dani Hoy – Pennsylvania
1:30– 2:00 C.W. Colt – Conch Republic
2:00 – 2:30 John Friday - Florida
2:30 – 3:00 Swim Skinny – Ohio

3:30 – 4:00 Allen “Captain Frankendread” Holland – Illinois /Pennsylvania
4:00 – 4:30 Loren Davidson - California
4:30 – 5:00 Adrienne- Conch Republic
5:00 – 5:30 Rich In Spirit – Conch Republic
5:30 – 6:00 Ray West - Conch Republic
6:00 – 6:30 Homemade Wine’s Ryan Sheley & Andy Westcott
6:30 -7:00 Young Rebel Goombas’ – Richie Saccenti, Cosmo Mallardi, Rob Cutts

Stop By and enjoy the fun! Artists will have their CDs available. Additionally, artwork from our pal Artist Koz is adorning the walls, all over T's Bistro and is available for purchase!!! How cool is that?

I will be playing at additional events as well:
Monday at the Rum Barrel with Loren Davidson's open jam.. starts around 8 I think?

Wednesday - 9:30am to 12:30pm Loren Davidson and Dani Hoy's cruise gig

Wednesday - 7:00 - 7:15 Schooner Wharf

Thursday - I kick off the songwriter's Gig at T's Bistro & Bar at noon

There’s an event on Friday that I will be at, which hasn't been announced as of yet, so I’ll extend the courtesy and wait for them to do so first.

I may also do a mini house concert here at my place on Sunday, November 4th, serving the Key West Bar Tending With Boris’ Carl Tanzler Bloody Mary/Bloody Maria…This IS the best “Bloody Mary” in the entire Conch Republic, Bar None!!!! not sure on that one yet however..
(See video)


It’s expensive to live here. Housing is very expensive. For a single bedroom loft apartment in Key West, I pay the same as I did in Cutler Bay, Florida, only 138 miles north of here, for a three bedroom house, with a built in pool. A lot of the people in town live paycheck to paycheck. Personally, I have very little tolerance for someone who doesn’t tip fairly. Frankly, they are thieves and they are stealing from the people who render services and time to them.

Here’s the golden rule of thumb on gratuity:

If you can’t leave an 18% or more tip to your bartender or restaurant server, you have no business ordering anything there to begin with.

It’s really that simple. Elementary my dear Watson, as Sherlock Holmes would say! I use 20% because it’s both fair and easy for a simple mind like mine. ;-)

So, if your bill is $40.00, you leave $8.00, or $48.00 total.



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Trop Rockers from Norway, Poker Run, The Birdman Flies

Trop Rockers from Norway, Poker Run, The Birdman Flies

^listen to “Raise My Glass To The Upper 48” while you read the blog!^

Wow! So much has gone on since my last blog, I’ll try to condense things.
Lets see.. Renn Loren and Jocky (say “Yocky) arrived in the U.S. from Norway, of all places. Renn is a great songwriter and fabulous guy, who originates from Hawaii. Exactly why he ever settled in Norway about twenty years ago, I never grasped a hold of however. Perhaps a blessing in ice, shall we say, as Norway is far and away the strongest economy in Europe, by far. Renn and Jocky landed somewhere on the mainland of Florida and stayed with Renn’s longtime pal, Ned Daniels up in Punta Gorda. After about a week they headed down and stayed with me for several days, then off to another location nearby.

They played at Smokin Tuna with a group of local musicians, featuring a couple of guys I played with, Richard Crooks and Ericson Holt, on drums and keyboards, then also Bo Fodor on lead guitar. A wonderful sound emitted from the stage and I was happy helping to put everyone together prior to Renn and Jocky’s departure from Scandinavia. Kind of a twist on what I regularly do and I did find it fun! It should be also noted; Renn and Jocky constantly talked about how much they appreciated Charlie Bauer’s hospitality as well. It was fun having two Trop Rockers in from Norway. From Norway! Who would have thunk?


During their stay here, which in total was over a month, we ended up doing a lot of things together as well, outside of music. Together with my old friends and their new friends, Rick and Cindi Hogan, we also went on a few expositions out on the water here. One was Marvin Key and another was Pick Nick Island. Marvelous days on the water indeed! It was such a pleasure to see the joy and excitement of two people who never experience a tropical climate and water where they come from.

We also had the 40th annual Poker Run, which was started by Phil Peterson’s Harley Davidson dealership in Miami. This event usually draws about thirty thousand bikers and friends to town, many of which don’t even come on motorcycles, but arrive for the festivities nevertheless. Those who participate in the run itself, leave from either of the two Peterson Harley Davidson dealerships in Miami and Cutler Bay (southern Miami/Dade County). The Poker Run takes them through the magnificent Florida Keys. Island hopping, key to key and having designated stops at particular establishments all along the way. The drive through the Keys has been consistently reviewed over the years as being one of the top ten scenic drives in the United States. Who am I to argue with that? You have the Atlantic Ocean on your left and the Gulf of Mexico on your right. In 1997 I wrote a song for my then band, The Rabble Rousers, called “Poker Run”. One of the lines went “Got the Atlantic on my left, the Gulf on my right, thirteen fifty cc’s between my theighs…”


This year’s Poker Run was a fun event, as always, although I will say that the crowd seemed a slight bit down from last year. The bikes, as always, were stunning!
The establishments on Duval and off, appreciate the Poker Run as well. The bikers really support the community. Sure, they come in and have parties in the bars, however they also stop by other establishments as well. I recall back when I was in the art business; the gallery always had an excellent weekend. I recall selling a few high ticket Giclees myself back then. Plus, the people in the service industry, the bars and restaurants, always look forward to the Poker Run. These folks tip at worst, fairly. They are great! The next blog will cover tipping more in depth and have instructions

It’s with a very heavy heart that I pass on the following Key West News: Mark Bergen, a.k.a “Birdman” or just “Bird” passed away this last week. “Bird” and I worked together when I first arrived on the island at Wyland Gallery. Naturally, this put us in close, constant contact over the duration we worked together, which was over a year, I’d say. I never heard anyone call him Mark, I don’t think, save for his girlfriend Sharron perhaps. They called him Birdman because he and Sharron had an African Gray Parrot, which was a large bird in itself. It was funny working with Bird and I always got a kick out of it. We always got on great. He was always honest and really had no room for those without ethics. Sometimes he would vanish from the gallery and everyone would ask “Hey! Where’s Bird?”. Turned out he had slipped over to the Small Bar, just a few doors down, and grabbed himself a libation, in the best of Key West traditions!

After a long time Bird decided that he wanted to pursue other endeavors and he left the gallery. He picked up a job selling ocean sails and sunset cruises in booths on the street. Bird was a natural at it and did well at it. However, as long as I knew him, (four years) poor bird never seemed to have any money. I’d bump into him in a bar and he’d always speak of himself in the third person. “Well, do you think you might buy the Birdman a beer?” All you could do was laugh and buy him a beer!
It’s a funny thing in Key West. A lot of tourists come here to see a specific musician. ”Yeah! We just arrived and our first order of business is to see Michael McCloud play at Schooner Wharf!”.

Bird had the exact same appeal with people and I've seen it on many occasions. People would arrive in Key West and look up Bird! A guy who sold them tickets for a sunset cruise and actually hooked up with them later and personally showed them the fun side of Key West, escorting them to the places he knew they would like from his conversation with them. It happened all the time. “Hey Chris! Hey! I want you to meet my friends Bill and Joanne. They are in from Tulsa and it’s great that they met you as you’re a Key West musician and an interesting person!”. We’d hang out for maybe a half hour and then Bird would be off with them to another bar. Every time these people would return, they’d be sure to look Bird up!

Once Bird asked me, “Hey Chris! I have these friends coming to town and they are getting married over at the Pier House tomorrow. Could you play for their reception at The Pier House? I did, naturally and in talking to the bride and groom, they told me “Oh, we’ve always come here and hooked up with Birdman! This is our fifth time!”.

Bird was the ultimate Key West Ambassador, if there ever was one.

Bird enjoyed his drinks and that is one of the endearing qualities he had. He often was banned from Captain Tony’s, which was a funny thing unto itself actually. At one point, it was “banned for life”, however common sense prevailed and it was repealed. When Bobby D and I played there he’s always ask if he could sing “Creep” with us and sometimes “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. He did well at them too! Never out of key or anything! Plus, the crowd, whomever they were, loved it.

Birdman may never had money, but he always managed to keep a roof over his and Sharron’s head, whom he loved very, very much.

I saw him about two weeks ago, across from the Green Parrot. I was riding home from picking up groceries at Fausto’s. I always stopped to talk to Bird when I’d see him and this was no exception. After the usual greeting, Bird told me he was trying to get some sort of assistance, as he had been diagnosed with cancer of the liver. We talked a little and I wished him the best. A week later I learned he passed away after having fallen into a coma. I was very sad to learn that I had lost a friend. Whenever I either thought of Bird, or bumped into him, he brought a smile to my face. What an incredible epitaph, something we all should strive for indeed.

Key West lost perhaps it’s greatest ambassador. Mark “Birdman”/ “Bird” Bergen was a true Key West character, if there ever was one. Godspeed Bird. I was always proud to say you were my friend.


Photo by Al Subarsky


Photo by Kenneth Hines

Bird was a Key West character through and through. He would be the first to raise his glass to the upper 48, while having no intention to ever leaving the Conch Republic. Fly on Bird!

(Special thanks to Al Subarsky and Kenneth Hines for the pictures of the Birdman)

Key West Chris' music is available at iTunes, CDBaby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio. Search "Key West Chris"

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Key West Community vs Mainland Mentality "One Human Family" ... plus, Traffic Headaches

^ Listen to the benefit as you read the blog! Recorded by Gary Ek via the streaming video^

Key West Community vs Mainland Mentality “ONE HUMAN FAMILY”

Talk about a great community! Two newcomers to the island jumped two employees of the Green Parrot at closing time. Knocked Adam “Dude” out cold and Tim “Mookie” Grandy’s ankle was actually crushed to the point that he has two plates in it and his leg has 17 screws on one side and five on the other. The town is outraged. This is something we’d expect to hear of from the mainland. A common phrase we hear on the island is “This is not the real world” and when the real world came crashing into our island, the community all bonded together for a HUGE fundraiser for our fellow Conch Republic citizens at the Green Parrot last Saturday. My guess is that there had to be at least 1000 supporters over the afternoon benefit. Both Dude and Tim were able to attend the event as well. Performers The Muse Gurus, Caffeine Carl and Nick Norman, Key West Chris (thanks Edwy and John!), Ericson Holt, Robert Albury, Richard Crooks, Tim McAlpine, and Fritz handling guitar duties as well as sound. Tom Luna was the MC for the event and had everyone in stitches and kept the ball rolling throughout the event. Auctions were held throughout the event, as well as three 50/50 drawings. One note on the 50/50 drawings: Each of the three drawings would award the winner roughly $500, with the other $500 going to the cause. Every winner of the three rounds tossed their winnings back into the cause!

In addition to the Green Parrot, bars across the island also were giving their bar tips to the cause during the event at the Parrot, which I find just amazing! Additionally, bartenders from other bars were helping out at The Parrot outside in front on the sidewalk selling beer. I saw Vicky from Schooner working her tail off. Also, prior to this event being held, bars such as 2 Cents, did likewise for special fund raising events of their own.

Key West all came together in support of their own and to support the values we collectively stand for, as well as our own island way of life.

Note: Center picture in the collage of Tim (in wheelchair) and Dude is by Johnny White and


Key West has revised its speed limit over the entire island to 20 MPH. In my viewpoint, this makes sense. It’s safer and with so many pedestrians and bicyclists around, it’s really the only way to go. Besides, if you’re in Key West, what’s the point? There’s no rush, you’re on “Island Time”.

The Florida Keys are always rated as one of the most scenic drives in the United States. Over one hundred miles, island hopping on a highway that spans the Florida Keys , with the Atlantic Ocean on your left and the Gulf of Mexico on your right, as you travel south. This is a great way to see the Keys and I highly recommend it to anyone who is headed this way. Even more than that, I suggest if you’re coming to Key West this way, to take a couple of overnight stops and experience what Keys Tranquility really is, After all, Key West to us is actually “The Big City”.

Once you get to Key West and check in, the absolute smartest thing is to ditch your car and don’t dream of using it until you plan on leaving the island. Parking is a pain in the ass. If you park in a residential spot, just count on being towed. If in desperation you find a parking spot on the other side of the street and park against traffic, you WILL get a ticket. Parking in a pay parking lot is WAY TOO EXPENSIVE!!! Park your car in the hotel parking and forget about it! Please do yourself this favor. You come to Key West to relax, so like the song goes “You came here to unwind, so why get all wound up?" So, get a bicycle, or walk. Forget the scooters. The hospital is full of people who never rode a scooter, or do so infrequently and end up with a bad case of road rash, or broken bones… sometime making the ultimate sacrifice in the quest of the next bar.

Speaking of a related subject (and yet another reason to ditch the car), the State of Florida has embarked on completely revising N. Roosevelt Blvd/Truman Ave. from White Street to the beginning of the island, just off the Cow Key Bridge from Stock Island. Regretfully, instead of repaving, which would have taken several weeks, City Hall voted that an entire make over was due. So, instead of a three to five week inconvenience, we’re looking at a two and a half year major project that will severely disrupt traffic all over the island. I had been saying this for more than a year, as it will affect businesses throughout the island, regardless of their proximity to the construction area. Traffic right now is complete chaos, with detours and long traffic jams everywhere.

Back when the Conch Republic seceded from the U.S. it was because there was a road block at the Last Chance Saloon, in Florida City, at the end of the eighteen mile stretch, hence, the northern most boarder of the Conch Republic is The Last Chance Saloon. The U.S. government was searching all vehicles for “Illegal Aliens”, looking in trunks, back seats, under seats, and glove boxes. This, of course resulted in miles and miles of long delays. Naturally, there were no delays whatsoever heading into the Keys. Make that of which you may, as that’s another story unto itself, however at the time the Florida Keys earned the motto “The Florida Keys: You can get in, but you can’t get out”. Tourism plummeted.. and for those who might not know, Tourism is the #1 business in Key West.

So today we have history not only repeating itself, albeit in a different guise, but also actually augmenting itself, as not only can one not get out, but additionally, one cannot get in either! Good morning! Personally, I feel that repaving and patching the sea wall where needed and that would have been acceptable. However, for this complete makeover is just a folly. The inconvenience factor will be paid by the tourists, citizens, and businesses. “Key West: The City You Can’t Get In Or Out Of”.



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

SEAPLANES!! CUBA and Jonell Mosser!!!


^ Listen to the demo of “The Things We Always Knew”, which a proper version is slated for the next CD^

Seaplane and Prop Update

Back in March I reported, after reading in the local paper, that the American Eagle turbo props, the last prop airline servicing Key West, would be discontinuing their turbo prop service to Key West as of April 5th. Well, here we are in August and the American Eagle ATR 72’s continue to serve Key West. In checking on the internet, it seems that at this point, the props will continue until around November, or so. As I suggested back in March, I strongly recommend that some airlines should look into the Antilles Seaplanes G21 Super Goose to serve both Key West and perhaps the Caribbean, based out of Key West. A brand new seaplane featuring turbo prop engines and state of the art electronics, housed in a classic design.(On a curious note: That particular blog gets the most hits from all over the world week to week!) Pan American started here serving Cuba via Key West as America’s first airline. A Key West to Ocho Rios would be ideal, as would Key West to Grand Cayman, not to mention other ports of call throughout the Caribbean. Key West, in many ways, is akin to stepping back in time when one visits. Adding a prop service to and from the island would be such an enhancement to that theme, not only for those flying in, but also for everyone who has the opportunity to see the planes flying in as well. Add to that, we’re also talking about a seaplane and it just augments the idea one hundred fold. Like the Phil Collins lyric goes “Is anybody listening?”


How does Cuba have a tie in with Key West? Prior to the English taking possession, Key West, then known as Cayo Hueso (say “cai oh WAY so”, which translates to Bone Key), was colloquially known as “North Havana” in Cuba. Only ninty miles apart, Key West and Havana are naturally sister cities. To this day, the Cuban connection with Key West is very strong and old. In the 1800’s Cubans had over 150 cigar factories in Key West and also set up a school for their children on Duval St. named The San Carlos Institute. Though no longer a school, The San Carlos Institute exists to this day and is a majestic building open to the public. On a related note; we recorded the rhythm section to “Shanghai’d and Marooned In Key West (things could be worse)” in the auditorium of the San Carlos.*(see end of blog)

To start with, myself, I am no supporter of a communist system. In essence in its true form when broken down to the essentials, it’s the same as a fascist system, in that you have one guy who dresses up in a military uniform and runs the country with an iron fist, to his liking. Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pinochet, Castro, Stroessner, Mussolini, Samosa, Ortega, Ceausescu, Franco, …. Communist or fascist, it’s all a one man ego show and in most cases, the only way to get them out of power is if they die, be it natural causes, like Mao, Stalin, and Franco, or die a violent death as a consequence of their failures, as in the case of Hitler, Samosa, or Mussolini. No, I prefer a democracy, thanks!

Having stated that, if I wished to go on a vacation to Red China, as a U.S. citizen all I need to do is get a visa and I’m off to see that fascinating country, Great Wall and all. I would stay in hotels there, eat at fancy restaurants, travel the country side and meet all kinds of interesting people. I can do the same with Viet Nam. As a matter of fact, a childhood friend of mine, Robbie Eddy, has lived in communist Viet Nam for years and years, has a business there as a recording engineer and is finishing up a new studio. It’s not as though he went there and was seeking asylum. He went there and started a business and comes back to the U.S. at his discretion and remains a U.S. citizen working abroad, an ex-pat, if you will.

Then of course we have Cuba. I find it odd that as a U.S. citizen, I cannot travel to Cuba without jumping through hoops of fire, yet I can travel to other communist countries, live and even start a business there, fairly easily. One of the key rules we, as U.S. citizens have in traveling to Cuba, is that technically we can go, but we can’t spend any money. In other words, if I actually traveled to Cuba I could be tossed in a federal prison if I so much as bought a five cent Cuban Coffee in Havana. Point is, you can’t last a half a day anywhere without spending money, so Cuba is off limits and if you go you’re automatically guilty, most likely will be arrested on your return to the U.S. if you are honest and say you went there.

On the flip side; if a Cuban refugee who sailed on a raft, landed, say in Key West a few years ago and wanted to go back and visit their relatives, it’s no problem! They can get on a plane in Miami, (soon to be added, Key West) fly to Havana, see their relatives, spend money, even give relatives money. In addition to that, that same Cuban refugee living in Miami can wire money, the exact same U.S. dollars that say natural born U.S. citizen Christopher R. Rehm, born January 3 in Newark, N.J. is forbidden to use in Cuba, to their relatives in Cuba.

As an American citizen, and someone who fully supports The Constitution of The United States of America one hundred percent, I find all of this appalling. We’re dealing with double standards on every level.
As a citizen of the United States of America, I was brought up that this is the land of the free! However, while I’m more than welcome to go and actually make investments in communist Beijing, I cannot go spend five cents in Havana on a Cuban coffee. That’s not being “Free”.

Meanwhile my neighbor, who floated across the Straits of Florida (God bless him) for a more prosperous life here a few years ago, can go there with fistfuls of cash to spend or give to his relatives.

A very accurate phrase which can be used to describe that situation is: “Discrimination against a U.S. Citizen by the government in Washington D.C.” . Plain and simple: The United States Government is offering a much higher level of freedoms (Note: Plural) to a foreigner, than they are to a natural born United States citizen. What’s wrong with this picture?

Let’s be clear on this; I’m not suggesting we take away the refugee’s abilities to visit and support their families in Cuba. What I’m saying is that I, as a United States Citizen demand, at the very least minimum, the same rights, if not more than are currently offered to the Cuban Refugees.

The rules have been relaxed to a minor degree about a year and a half ago, pertaining to educational and religious trips, but it’s still a major fire hoop you have to jump through to do it. It is not as though you just get your passport and hop a jet to Havana, as it was pre 1960 and granted, perhaps it shouldn’t be that easy. However, the restrictions put on the American citizen regarding traveling to Cuba in this day and age, need to be seriously be revised.

Meanwhile, as Communist China is in the process of launching a nuclear aircraft carrier, multiple nuclear submarines, stealth fighters, and a military space program, Cuba is a poverty stricken country, with most of the people looking to where their next meal is coming from. Their system sucks however and I am of the opinion that if money filters into the hands of the people, the system will change, just as it did in Poland, Russia, Hungry, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria… ex.

I have never gone to Cuba, but as you can see, I’d love to go. My first wife was from Cuba and I find the idea quite alluring. On the flip side I consider myself a law abiding citizen and I’ll wait for the rules to change. Additionally, I think the embargo and restrictions originally put on Cuba by the US, was justified for four decades, or so. However, times and conditions change. So, in the meantime, I’ll hop on my soapbox to voice my opinion. I may be discriminated against the way things are currently; others have the freedom and I don’t, but I still have freedom of speech to voice my opinion.

Jonell Mosser

On the music front we had a big buzz going on around town as Jonell Mosser hit the Hog’s Breath Saloon. The word on both the street and the Coconut Telegraph was that Ms. Mosser is the female vocalist of choice for producer Don Was. Quite a lofty accomplishment when one looks at Mr. Was’ productions which include The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, John Mayer, Al Green, Bonnie Raitt…the list goes on and on.

I wandered over to the Hog’s Breath to catch her show and Mike McAdam, who divides his life between Nashville, Key West and the road, put together a band for her, which also included Ericson Holt on keyboards. Jonell Mosser was indeed a treat to listen to! What a great show she put on as well. Later when I talked to her on the break, was a delightful and fun woman, who laughed easily. The only disappointment was that she doesn’t live in Key West because she’d make a great fit here!

One complete surprise was her smoky, slow version of “Stop In The Name Of Love”… quite different than the version made famous by the Supremes. All I could do was smile ear to ear! Her recorded version of the song was produced by… you guessed it! Don Was.

Something like this also just reinstates what an amazing place Key West is as far as music goes. You can walk into a place like The Hog’s Breath, Smokin’ Tuna, The Green Parrot, Schooner Wharf and catch world class music. There’s no cover charge either. If a place started charging a cover charge, there are a plethora of other options to choose from that wouldn’t. Consequently, the place that charged a cover would close their doors in a month. Welcome to Key West!

Key West Chris’ Website:

Key West Chris’ CD “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)” is available for download from iTunes, CD Baby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio. Physical copies are available from CD Baby, CD Universe search under “Key West Chris”. Also available at Greenworld Gallery and The Key West Bait and Tackle Shop, both in Key West.

*Anyone interested in recording at the San Carlos should contact Dan Simpson at Private Ear Studio

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hemingway Days and the Weather

^ Listen to “Life On My Terms” while you read the blog! Hemingway certainly lived on his own terms!^

A great misconception about Key West is how hot it gets in the summer. This year as I write this, the outside temperature is 86F/30C. I have only seen it hit 90 (32.2C) once this year so far, though in August I’m certain it will top that. Having stated that, it’s been over 100 (37.8) all up the east coast of the U.S. this summer. New York, Washington D.C., Raleigh, Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, you name it, they’ve all been sweltering, with temps stretching as high as 106 (41.1C). The rallying cry is “Come to Key West!!!” to cool off! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Summer is one of the best kept Key West secrets!

Why is it cooler here? Key West is positioned perfectly to reap the benefits of the classic Trade Winds. There is almost always a breeze here and that belies the fact that we sit closer to the equator than anywhere else in the continental U.S. It also works the other way in the winter, where Key West is the only frost free city in the continental Unites States. What a place to live!

Out weather patterns are consequently quite different from the mainland as well. Here we are “Swimming in that Ol’ Gulf Stream” as the song “The South” says and for the last month, or so, we’ve had rain almost every day it seems.

Most of the time, rain in the Keys blows in, courtesy of the aforementioned Trade Winds, lasts an hour or two, then blows out, back into a nice day again. However, we’ve gotten an amazing amount of rain this summer; quite to the contrary of the drought they are having on the mainland currently.

Fun stuff going on here in the Conch Republic this summer!! Summer is the best kept secret in Key West, first off because of the aforementioned weather and second because of some of the great events. This weekend we had the thirty second annual Hemingway Days, which includes the Hemingway lookalike contest, held at Sloppy Joe’s Bar. The numbers vary between one hundred and twenty and one hundred and fifty men, who all look exactly alike, descended on Key West! All of these men look like Ernest Hemingway in the late portion of his life and likewise, dress the same as well, in khaki shirts and shorts!


I attended for the first time this year and proceeded to laugh my ass off! What a surreal situation! They also do an auction and raise money for charities. This year they raised over $25K! Great stuff indeed!

In the contest itself, these 150 contestants go in groups vying for the coveted title of the best lookalike of the year. The winner wins absolutely nothing and the competition all in good fun! Each contestant gets to do a little speech, sing a song, read poetry, or what have you. Everything being a fun, positive vibe!

I met my friend Cindi Hogan there on Friday and on Saturday for the finals I again met Cindi and also my pals Wasabi Metcalf, Kristie Metcalf, and Rachel Siegel, who were an integral part of my CD cover as well. Wasabi had sliced his thumb really well a few weeks back with a power table saw. Consequently, he was sporting a bandage with a little picture of Hemingway, made by Rachel plus, a little drink umbrella. Rachel also had more of the thumb bands for the rest of us. Not sure who gave them the name, Wasabi, Rachel, or Christie, but we called them “Ernest Thumbingway” :-D

On a side note: I was on the phone before Saturday's contest started with my friend Jai. Jai had told me she just bought a boat and when Wasabi heard that, felt he needed to talk to her, so I gave him my phone. He stepped outside and was gone for a while. I finally saw him back texting lewd, albeit humorous comments to my friend Marc Hollander, who seemed quite confused regarding these things that "I" was saying! HA HA HA! Welcome to Key West!


Chris' music is available at iTunes, CDBaby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio. Search "Key West Chris"

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Marvin Key

^listen to “Rainy Day” while you read the blog^

It’s a rainy day here in Key West, as I write this on July 10th. It’s been raining a bit this last week, as a matter of fact. Bear in mind that rain in the Florida Keys usually blows in for an hour or two, then blows out. On Friday, June 29th, I went out with my friends, Rick and Cindi Hogan to Marvin Key. That was before the rain hit. Beautiful day! Rick and Cindi live 23 miles up the Keys in Cudjoe Key, so we’re not talking Key West, but rather another Key within the Conch Republic (which stretches to the Last Chance Saloon, in Florida City, btw). We left on this adventure with our friend Jeff Jackson, as well as Rick and Cindi’s dachshund Odie, plus, my two whippets, Cajun and Tooloulou. This was something that we’ve been talking about doing for quite a while, however our schedules finally fell into the same light and off we went. We dropped Rick’s boat in at the Sugarloaf KOA ( a great campground, with an excellent bar, by the way!) and off we went.


(Leaving out of the KOA. This is the old bridge, which is over 100 years old)
The ride out to Marvin Key is a good boat ride. I think I recall Rick saying it’s about a dozen miles or so west, and no, there are no roads that go to Marvin. It’s on the water or nothing. What beauty too! The Keys themselves are some of the most beautiful places on earth. Plus, as we motored out, we were constantly seeing cormorants diving into the water for their lunch. The cormorant is an amazing bird as it dives in one place, swims underwater after its prey, then pops up someplace entirely different. I recall seeing them for the first time with my pal Kerry “Gonzo” Dwyer when we were hanging out on the old Bahia Honda Bridge, back in our early twenties. This was before they cut it, just after it was closed. We were about five or six buttresses out looking at the Atlantic and saw these cormorants diving in and coming out about one hundred yards away! We were both amazed and flabbergasted!

(Old Bahia Honda Bridge)

Seeing those cormorants diving in on our way to Marvin Key was certainly a good omen I felt!
As I mentioned, it’s a long ride out there, but a very, very beautiful one indeed! One of the things Rick mentioned was that it’s also a very shallow ride out. Because of this, as well as my view of the crystal clear water, I’d often ask how deep it was. Rick would check his depth finder and quite often it was two or three feet. This was also in the channels. Off the channels it could be significantly less than that, in places. What this all translates to are two significant things:
A) Only small boats can get there
B) The pilot of the boat needs to know the area well
Rick’s been going there for years and knows the waters like the back of his hand, plus his boat is the perfect size to navigate the waters.

When we arrived there, there were about two or three other boats already there. The other boats left about a half hour after we arrived however and we had the entire area to ourselves! Marvin Key was unlike any other Key I’ve visited, thus far. It was low tide and had a fabulous beach. The dogs were having a blast as well exploring the area and simply hauling ass on the beach. Whippets are the fastest accelerating dogs in the world; zero to full speed (about 40mph/65kph) in three strides. Watching them fly across the sand was a thing of beauty that left us all in awe!

We had a floating cooler with us and we were all just hanging out, drinking beer, listening to music, and having an incredible day! After about an hour, I took off exploring the island with the whippets. What a great time we had! When we got back I re-joined Rick, Cindi, and Jeff and sat in the water enjoying ice cold beers on a beautiful, sunny, 89 degree (31.7C) day. A Blue Herrin was standing in the water at the edge of the key next to us, for over two hours!

I don’t know how it first happened, but the next thing you know, Cindi’s bikini top came off! :-O Rick then pulled the side string off her bottom and that was gone next… :-D Well, Cindi shouldn’t be the only one naked, so before you knew it, we were all sitting in the water naked, drinking beer, just as normal as can be. Needless to say, there was a lot of laughing going on!

Got a good sunburn that day, but it was worth it! What an incredible experience! A big thanks to Rick and Cindi for taking myself and the hounds out! We decided to do it again on the following Wednesday, July 4th!

The July 4th outing was also an adventure, if there ever was one! When we left for Marvin Key is a beautiful day. If Friday had been a ten, July 4th was an 8.8. Again, the ride out to Marvin Key was breathtaking! It never ceases to amaze me.

As we expected, July 4th being our national holiday, when we arrived at Marvin Key there were a group of boats already there. It’s say a dozen to fifteen. We expected more as the day went on. Rick decided wisely not to put on any music, as someone else already had something going. Myself having a musical ear, there’s nothing worse than two or more stereos playing different music at the same time.

We had a very, very big full moon the night before and when we arrived, unlike last time, it was high tide. After a bit Jeff and I took the dogs ashore. This was a bit of a chore. The beach that was there a few days back, was now four feet of water. … a.k.a. well over the dogs heads. It was a bit of a trek, but we finally got to dry land. After about a half hour we heard thunder and headed back.

Upon arriving, Rick and Cindy informed us of a waterspout that had just cruised by! For those unfamiliar, waterspouts are a tornado on the water. Ours are nothing like those in say Kansas, but nevertheless, you don’t want to mess with them. This was a minor one for here, but even so, you don’t want to be in it’s way! Rick took a video of it on his phone and up loaded it to you tube for your viewing pleasure! Thanks Rick!

Next came the rain. Rain is an understatement, if there ever was one. This was a deluge which lasted at least an hour and a half with 45mph(73kph) winds. All we had was what is known as a Bimini top on the boat. The dogs were freaking out and everybody was getting drenched with the intense storm. We noticed we were dragging anchor too. In a lull, where it was reduced to pouring buckets of rain, Jeff pulled the anchor and Rick powered us back. Cindi meanwhile had gathered her maternal instincts and was covering the freaked out dogs with a blanket. Needless to say, the storm picked up again. This was one of the most precarious storms I’ve ever been in my whole life. It’s not like we could go back. We were twelve miles (20Km) away from civilization and we just had to ride it out.

I couldn’t use my camera during the storm, obviously however I did get a few shots as it was approaching.

Storm Approaching
Storm Closing In

Finally, after at least an hour and a half, the storm subsided. Despite the storm, I held on to my Presidente Beer throughout… at one point actually replenishing it once or twice. One has to keep their priorities! Like the previous voyage, we were caring a good supply of beer; Presidente, Caribe, and Corona. There are some who think I’m a beer snob. In actuality, I’m not at all. What I am is an authority on beer, of which there is a large distinction. A beer snob will drink a particular beer, in spite of themselves. They’ve educated themselves into stupidity and lost all common sense. The reality is, there are beers for every occasion. Here we were out on a boat, on a hot summer day in the Keys. The beer snob would drink a Magic Hat #9 out here. That’s a lot like wearing a wool coat to this occasion. What you want is a beer that is refreshing out here and the beer that we brought was a solid ten for the situation. Ice cold too.

The rest of the day was a major improvement. The sun came out, the tide receded and we continued where we left off before the storm. No, we didn’t get naked this time… other folks were around, but we had a blast for the rest of the day and can’t wait to go back!

Back in Key West we’ve had a lot of rain since, as well. 2” on Sunday and it’s rained a bit every day. However, rain is fun in the Keys…. So long as you’re not 12 miles out with 45mph winds! I certainly gained a bit more character however, truth be known; I loved every second of it!

Monday, June 4, 2012


^listen to “Life On My Terms” while you read the blog^



Key West is not for the faint of heart, as far as living here goes anyway. So many people I meet from off the islands often tell me how much they’d love to live here, or are planning to live here. For many, it’s a very transient archipelago of islands however… and they’re the ones who turn out to be in transit. There are several sayings here, such as “This town can chew you up and spit you out”, or “This Ain’t The Mainland”. If we take the first saying, let’s first look at a statistic that goes along with it. According to a study done by Anheuser Bush, Key West has the highest alcohol consumption rate in the country per capita. On an island that measures a mile and a half wide and four miles long, Key West has 300 liquor licenses! On top of that, the vast majority of those liquor licenses are in a one square mile area! Remarkable really when you realize it! If you want to have a drink in this town there are literally hundreds of opportunities left and right.

I used to work with a guy, we’ll call him Tom for the blog. Tom used to sneak out of work and scoot over to “The Smallest Bar” for a shot of rum/whiskey/tequila and by the end of his shift, he was shitfaced. Then, after work he’d hit a few bars. Tom couldn’t handle alcohol, plain and simple. Later he fell behind on his rent and at 35, moved back to the mainland with his parents. This town chewed him up and spat him out for sure. It’s a common tale here. So many come here and just plain party their ass off… until they drop.

Let’s look at the second saying; “This Ain’t The Mainland”. It certainly isn’t, not even close. Take the word “Fuck”, as an example. You go out for a bite to eat and a beer and there’s Mike McCloud playing. In between songs he cracks a joke, but no one is listening, so he says loudly into the microphone “Does anyone here speak fuckin’ English as their first fuckin’ language?”. McCloud uses that line from time to time. I once saw a woman biting into her burger when he said that. She choked on the part she bit off and the rest flew across the table and into her friend’s conch chowder, splattering her. I’d say she should have been listening to the joke, huh? Plus, you’ll hear the word fuck every day at hundreds of bar gigs from the performers. Likewise the staff at any restaurant “I’m sorry! The chef just told me that we’re out of fucking grouper”

I’m at a doctor’s office and he says to me “Well, we have to change your fucking medication”. A cop to a motorist: “What the fuck? You just ran that stop sign!”. City Hall: “Nobody is in favor of this fuckin’ proposal…”
The fact is, Key West has its roots as an old fishing , scavenging, cigar, and navy village. Ever talk to a fisherman… or a sailor? “She swears like a sailor?”. Consequently, the simple fact is, swearing is part of the local vernacular here. Likewise true with sexual humor as well. Sexual humor permeates the island. You won’t go a day here without hearing several sexual comments. Mind you, it’s all in fun. What do locals do? Laugh, of course! We all have a sense of humor. For someone who can’t laugh, they’re going to be in for a really tough time and no doubt, what they’ll consider a “Rude Awakening”.

Those without a sense of humor, frankly don’t last on the island. They really can’t, as it’s such a ridiculous and funny place to begin with. People, who get offended easily, realize that Key West wasn’t really what they thought it was after they moved here. There are those who arrive with a “Mainland Mentality” and discover “This ain’t the Mainland” the hard way.

I have a friend who was thinking of buying a house here. The one they were looking at frankly needed a lot of work. Our conversation went something like this:

Friend: “The house is a wreck. I’ll buy it, knock it down and build a new place”

Me: “You can’t do that”

Friend: “What do you mean I can’t do that? If I buy the house I can do anything I want with it”

Me: “I’m afraid you can’t. Actually, you’d run the risk of going to jail if you tore it down. That house is a historic house in the historic part of town. What you can do is restore it”

They never did buy the house, but what they had was the mainland mentality as far as buying it and restoring it went. They wanted to tear it down and build something new. Restoration was not something they could conceive of. They never did move here either. The bottom line is, maybe Key West is the place for a lot of people to move to and for a lot of others, it might not be. For those, perhaps someplace up in Florida would be more suiting? It was explained to me way back when that this is a different country. Yes, we’re still part of the United States( proud to be so!) and we humor the State of Florida into thinking we’re a county within that state. As a matter of fact, as far back as can be noted, the inhabitants of the Keys would often say ”I have to take a trip up to Florida” when they would be heading that way. It is a different country though, with it's own mentality. To be happy here, you have to adapt to the island’s ways, the island’s not going to adapt to anyone. Leave the mainland at the Last Chance Saloon (the border of the Conch Republic in Florida City) Like the saying says: “This Ain’t the Mainland”.


Sunday, May 27, 2012


^Listen to “Key West Blues” while you read the blog!^



Well, the place voted for having the very best jerk chicken on the island, Bobalu’s, is closing. Bear in mind that the place is known for its pizza, which is a thin crust New Haven style pizza. It’s just that for me, getting good jerk chicken is a tough call. As mentioned in a previous blog, the only other place in town that I know of that has good jerk, is Blue Heaven. I don’t know what Schooner Wharf or The Hogfish serve as jerk chicken, mind you whatever it is tastes good, it’s just not jerk chicken. It also should be mentioned that I absolutely love those two bars with all my heart. On a scale of 1 – 10 they are both solid 10s.

The situation at Bobalu’s is complicated. The bottom line is the main owner of the Green Parrot (attached to Bobalu’s) also owns the Bobalu’s property and wants to revamp the entire place and re-open it in the fall as a B.B.Q. restaurant.

Keeping in mind that I’m not a restaurateur, but there are a few things that I don’t understand at play here. First off, Bubalu’s has been there for about three years and has been successful making money as a Pizza place with great live music. Everybody likes pizza and theirs is exceptional to boot. According to the local paper and the word on the street, the landlord, Pat Croce, wants to revamp the entire place. With the idea of a B.B.Q. place strikes me as odd because that was a B.B.Q. place, not once, but twice, both times going out of business. I may be a simpleton, but it strikes me that what the landlord has here is a perfect, turnkey operation. They close one day and open the next continuing to sell pizza, which is a successful business there already. Why spend, what will undoubtedly be hundreds of thousands of dollars, re-vamping a place, trying for a third time in a business that has failed in that same location twice already? Everybody likes pizza. Does everyone like B.B.Q. too?

Another big concern of mine is if it will still be open air and continue to allow dogs?

I hope it works for everyone. I may not understand it, but it’s not my field either. I’m sorry to see Bubalu’s close and I hope they look for a new place here in town. They will keep their other restaurant in Big Coppit Key as well. Good luck to Pat Croce as well with the new endeavor. He currently has the Rum Barrel and I think Island Dogs, plus he co-owns the Green Parrot, which he bought into last year. He no doubt, knows what he’s doing.

The Mohawk has left town forever, regrettably. Built in 1934, the Coast Guard cutter had a very important role in protecting allied shipping in the North Atlantic during WWII. The Mohawk will be sunk as a reef off the west coast of Florida. It was a fun coincidence as the Mohawk’s successor, The Mohawk, an active Coast Guard cutter, is also stationed in Key West, so we had both Mohawks in Key West simultaneously. The retired Mohawk was here as a museum and its sister ship, the Ingham, remains here as a museum at the Truman Waterfront. Godspeed Mohawk.

That’s what it said on the awning and also the wall on a postcard we dug up from the early sixties. But what’s a Coconga? So, Key Largo Joe, Bobby D. and I marched over there to find out armed with a picture of the postcard. I approached one bartender and ordered a Coconga. “What’s that?” she asked. “I don’t know, but apparently Sloppy Joe’s is the home of the Coconga apparently, so I figured I’d come and try one!” as I handed her the picture. She looked at it and shook her head. “No, I’m sorry, I never heard of it.” Same thing with another bartender at one of the satellite bars inside of Sloppy Joe’s. She was very pleasant, but confessed she never heard of it. We then looked it up on the iPhone, though it was quite evasive, we eventually did find it. It dates back to 1942. We were going to go to Sloppy Joe’s and hand them the recipe, but Key Largo Joe thought better of it, saying that they were busy and it would only piss them off. So, consequently we marched all around town, dug up the ingredients, and made some wonderful, tropical Coconga drinks on the streets of Key West! Delightful drink, I might add! My suggestion is that Sloppy Joe’s bring back the Coconga! After all, they are “The Home of the Coconga”.


Over at the Boathouse I had a similar situation. I ordered a daiquiri and the bartender asked what flavor. Now, mind you I’m not one for a silly drink with an umbrella and a banana, or strawberry flavor. I wanted the real traditional Cuban daiquiri, which of course is lime flavored and made in a shaker. The bartender didn’t know how to make it. It really wasn’t her fault, as people don’t order this so much anymore. However, the underlining point here is that a traditional Cuban Daiquiri is just a perfect drink for the summer and it’s easy to make. Uh… Shaken, not blended! ;-)

Over at the Floridita Bar in Havana is where they later invented the frozen daiquiri, which is also a lime drink only and again, very refreshing indeed! If the name of “El Floridita” sounds familiar it’s because that was Hemingway’s favorite bar in Havana. Here’s their recipe for the frozen daiquiri.


On the music side of things, I was discussing recording with my friend Marc Hollander the other day. I mentioned that I was so glad that I recorded my CD here in Key West, for a multitude of reasons. For starters, I have musicians who are locally based. For those who are not in the know, Key West has a large supply of completely stellar musicians to choose from. All of them I had the privilege of working with on “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)”, which were eighteen in all, just stepped right up to the plate. First class all the way. Second, engineer/producer Dan Simpson has been doing this for over thirty years. One of the things that annoys Dan is the products coming out of Nashville, New York, and L.A. these days are focused on a very thin sound, which is geared for MP3 listening, yet omitting the high fidelity sound. As Dan points out, “Everyone goes out and buys these wonderful stereos that can reproduce the most incredible sound and the stuff they’re putting out today is…. He pauses and lowers his head as he shakes it side to side “… well it’s just shit”. Marc spent many years in the record business and when we were talking about this, he stated that when he puts my CD in his stereo, there’s a very significant difference in overall sound between my CD and another other local artist who goes up to Nashville to record. I can’t recommend Dan more to other artists who are searching for a great engineer/ producer for their next recording. Come to Key West and record something that has significantly better sound fidelity than what you’ll likely get in Nashville, New York, or L.A. It’s a no brainer really! See for yourself. Pop in my CD into a great system and sit back and listen!


Available at: CD Baby, iTunes, Rhapsody, CD Universe, and Beachfront Radio. Search "Key West Chris"
Available in Key West at: Green World Gallery, The Cork & Stogie, and Key West Bait and Tackle.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Key West Songwriter's Festival 2012


What can one say about the Key West Songwriter’s Festival? Well, for starters it’s by far, the largest musical event held in Key West. Additionally, unlike other musical events, in addition to 130+ songwriters in attendance, there are also the top executives in the recording industry in from Nashville. Basically what happens is the recording industry moves to Key West for six days, or so to have fun and let their hair down. The festival is a joint production between Charlie Bauer, who started the festival 17 years ago and BMI Nashville. BMI, Charlie’s establishment Smokin’ Tuna, and Better Angels music publishing are the main sponsors of the event, which is held in about thirty different locations around the Island. The island was packed as well for the festival! Word on the street was that if you could actually find a room, they were running $400 a night and air fare from Nashville to Key West was $900 for a walk on.

One of the fun things for everyone here during the Songwriter’s Fest is the realization that so many songs we hear are not written by those who make the songs famous, but rather by songwriters whom many of us may have never heard of. Forgive the pun, but the un-sung heroes of music today. Here in Key West we always hear great musicians playing what’s known as “Covers”; Songs made famous by other artists. It’s a two way street, as no matter how good a musician or a band are, without good songs to work with, they’ll never have a foundation to work off of. Often I’ll hear a song myself that I always assumed was written by the artist who made it famous. This year I heard the song “I Ain’t Missin’ You At All”, of course made famous by John Waits. This year I learned he didn’t write it, but rather a guy in a cowboy hat playing at The Bottle Cap did. Regretfully, I missed his name. Likewise the beautiful song done by Jimmy Buffett and Martina McBride “Trip Around The Sun”. I always thought it was a Buffett song. Stupid me, huh? Then, there I was at a completely and utterly packed Smokin’ Tuna when Al Anderson started playing it. He co-wrote it with Steve Bruton and Sharon Vaughan. When I heard it, I had to hop up from my table and tunnel my way to the stage armed with my iPhone video rolling!

For me, this was my second year as a performer. Special thanks and tons of gratitude to BMI, Charlie, Dani Holiday, and McClure and Trowbridge Publishing Nashville for getting me involved in this fantastic event. Dani Holiday is the point woman for the festival here in Key West. Everything seems to go through Dani and she’s one very, very busy woman! She always kept a smile however, which in turn keeps everyone else smiling as well! As with last year, I was one of her poster deliverers. It’s a fun task and as I’m local with some time to burn, I’m always happy to contribute.

This year my gig was at the Best Western Key Ambassador, which is over by the airport. I was teamed up with my pal, Misty Loggins, whom I recorded Island Blue with earlier this year. Additionally, my old buddy Bobby D, who played a lot of the lead guitar on my CD “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)” had just moved back into town the day before and was kind enough to video both Misty and my performances. Our gig went great, as well. We were poolside. What a great setting! Misty kicked ass on her songs too! What a performer and a great honor to share the stage with! She was just flat out fantastic! We also did the first solo acoustic version of Island Blue that we’ve ever done. With the song getting airplay from California all across the country… and across the Atlantic in Europe as well, wild horses couldn’t drag us from the stage to keep us from doing that one! The last time we were together doing it was when she recorded her vocals back five months ago at Danny Simpson’s Private Ear Studios. We never got to rehearse it, but Misty being the pro that she is, aced it!


In addition, I got to meet not one, but two Facebook friends Flip Flop and also, Kent McCoy! What fun and we also hung out here and there throughout the festival at additional events. My buddy Key Largo Joe also made it after automobile trouble on the way down the Keys Thanks Joe!!!

It being just the nature of the beast, there are so many events going on simultaneously, it’s just impossible to see them all. Two performers that I caught for the first time that left a big impression on me were Chuck Cannon and Lauren Lucas. This was Chuck’s seventeenth appearance, so he’s been in every event since the beginning as this was the seventeenth annual event. Chuck’s an amazing guitarist who plays in a very bazar tuning all of the time. At the same time, he’s also a marvelous wordsmith. It was a treat to meet and also hear him. As a matter of fact, he and Misty wrote a song and played it together on her set! Great stuff indeed!

I bumped into Lauren Lucas’ set at Island Dogs by chance and was very impressed. Great chord changes, not typical and wonderful lyrics to go along with them. It was a great surprise! Regretfully I didn’t get to meet her. I was at an outside table, so there was a bit of crowd noise and the camera was a good deal shaky, however her audio cuts through quite well.

Since Charlie Bauer started Smokin’ Tuna back last summer, it only made sense that Smokin’ Tuna was the central location for everything. It’s a great music venue as well. Local songwriter, by way of Texas, by way of Nashville, Clint Bullard had what had to be the best audience reaction of the entire festival. Everyone in the crowd was singing along with the choruses/bridges in all of his songs! I didn’t see this with any other performers on this magnitude. It was truly awe inspiring! Clint did a great set as well and having such fantastic support left me in amazement of both his great performance as well as his fans enthusiasm for him. It made me feel good all over!

Also at Smokin’ Tuna were sets from the writers at Better Angels. What a marvelous group of writers they are as well! In one forty five minute set, I heard three #1 hits. Amazing really! The head of Better Angels, Rob sat in on the Cajon on all of his players sets. I had a couple of nice short conversations with him both this year and last. What a positive guy! We’re all grateful for his support of the event!


I already can’t wait for next year’s Songwriter’s Fest! The Key West Songwriter’s Fest is a celebration of writers. No, you won’t hear any covers… but you may just know a lot of the songs you hear, done by the artists who are the ones who actually wrote them. (Additionally, I can promise you that you’ll hear a boatload of just incredible songs that you never heard before as well!) Without them, the artists who made them famous, or cover them in bars as solo, or as bands, would never have had them to play to begin with. This isn’t a matter of what came first, the chicken or the egg. The song is always born first. Everything else comes after that, the arrangements, the production, the musicianship, the performances, the recordings, everything. The song always comes first in music. The song is the nucleus of music.