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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dedicated to a Brother - DJ Jeff Allen

                                             Dedicated to a Brother


( A DJ Jeff wristband, a soundings chart of Key West, and a guitar which represents music, all things DJ Jeff)

The timing just flat out sucked. There is no better way to say it and there is no candy-coat to butter it up to make it better than it was.  I got the news via text, from my friend Dani Hoy. Earlier I saw an ominous post on Facebook from Christa, which pleaded for prayers for him and her mother.

I was running a gig with many people involved when I received the text from Dani “are you available?”. I pretty much knew at that point, though you never want to accept it. I tried to write back, but it was insanely busy at that point. I wrote “Jeff”  “did he pass?” when I pushed the send, the answer already came in. Jeff had passed.

For me, the news wasn’t entirely unsuspected. It was the timing that hurt as much as anything else.

Jeff, Carol, and I are good friends. There wasn’t much, regarding his condition that I was not privy to. I always told him, regardless of what the predicted outcome might be “Jeff, when we talk, we’re talking about the future. We’re not talking about doom and gloom. We’re talking about the future and all that it holds regarding the music. I know your situation, but if you are focused on living, let’s talk about things that are live and happening. You’re already going to be addressing your condition with everyone else. While naturally I’m interested and very concerned about it, I don’t want to be on that bandwagon. I want to be the escape from it, even if it’s for just a few minutes”

Jeff and I did talk about his condition several times, the last being a few months ago, where he informed me that he was terminal. We talked about it for maybe three minutes. All that was needed to be said about it was. He mentioned that basically the doctors had stopped treatment and now were focused on making him comfortable. Jeff told me some things that were private regarding how it affected him mentally, as well as physically. We both understood it to a “T”. I again told him that I knew that so many good natured people would always be inquiring about his health and therefore, my job was not to bring up the subject. My conversations would consist of music, the radio station, Key West, …ex. He appreciated that.

Jeff never spoke on the radio that he was terminally ill. So, while the masses knew he had pancreatic cancer, Jeff always put on a very brave fighting face and would let folks know of his battle, he never let on that he was near the end. Never looking for pity, but rather support for the fight against cancer cause. He was a very brave and noble man for that.

There are Trop Rock performers who have known Jeff for ten, fifteen years. I was different. I met Jeff at the 2009 MOTM when he was DJing at, of all places, Garden of Eden, a clothing optional bar on the roof of The Bull. The key word here of course is “optional”. Jeff was not naked, nor was I, HA HA HA!  

I had put together a YouTube video several months earlier, based on a demo recording I had of my song “Raise My Glass to the Upper 48”, which Jeff had seen and told me he really liked! The song/video focused on living in Key West and the Keys in general. I was so complemented in hearing that, I can’t explain. The recording I used on it was not airworthy for radio however. I knew that from the get-go, however Jeff mentioned that when I did record it for a CD, he wanted it.

Somewhere around that time Carol and Jeff became an item and they started Beachfront Radio. Whenever they were in Key West, we’d always hang out. One evening was particularly nice. The three of us just hung out at McConnell’s at a small upright table, grabbed dinner and a few beers. It was one of those times that later, often when we talked, we reflected on in fond retrospect. It was also funny because this drunk guy kept coming to our table and striking up a conversation. It was kind of funny/strange because I was playing there last evening, running the open mic, and was talking to my friends while someone else was playing. I was at that exact same table when I received the aforementioned text.

I knew it was coming, so it wasn’t so much a shock then it was a major disappointment and hurt.  Damn. Jeff covered everything so well, plus he did his last show the day before and was scheduled to leave for the Keys. It was to be a sail through the Keys, from Key Largo, I believe. The impact didn’t hit me right away. There was nothing I could do and I also had a job to complete myself and it wasn’t even 8:30 yet. I’ve been in situations like this before and candidly, I deal pretty well with them. As in the other previous situations I would deal with this later.

Jeff is a friend however. It wasn’t just a business relationship, or acquaintance. Both he, Carol, and I shared things that were private information. There was a trust and a bond. That’s a friendship. One, not a story that was private, but back early on in our friendship he inquired about the possibilities of him coming to Key West for the winter and shacking out at my place. Jeff is my friend.
However, when I arrived home after the gig last night, was when I opened up the doors to the emotion I had them closed for earlier in the evening. That’s when the pain of losing a friend landed home.

When my CD, “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)” came out, Jeff was all over it. He was ecstatic on the production of it. I also had super accolades from Shelly Liebowitz, producer of Miles Davis, Dr. John, Ella…ex.  The production and musicianship was second to none. I’ll always be grateful to Dan Simpson (producer) and the 18 local musicians who made the album what it was.

First and foremost, Jeff LOVED Key West! I think that had a good bit to do with why Jeff liked it so much. I didn’t scoot off to New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville and record it with a bunch of studio musicians there. I recorded it at the San Carlos Institute, right on Duval Street and also at Private Ear Studios, here in Key West. Everyone on the CD lives here and they get it! They know the Key West vibe because they live it every day, on top of being as good musicians as anywhere on earth.

Jeff was a very sensitive and perceptive guy. He not only saw this, he felt it. This album represented everything about the Keys that Jeff loved and I was touched that he saw it in this light, because that was my goal. This album was designed to be feeding off of the pulse of Key West and the Keys. Not everyone has the ability to see or feel that. As a matter of fact, very few do. It's a musical variation of 'Reading between the lines'. Jeff picked up on that as soon as he got the CD.

I was also a guest interview on his show several times and almost a year ago, I was a co-host when the show went live in Key West from the former T's Bistro. I've gotten a fair amount of broadcast time down here on Key West and I guess I have a knack for keeping it fun and the ball rolling. It was always a complete blast being on the show with Jeff and we always had great ratings (thanks Everyone!). The last time I was on, I think it was around the time of the Key West Songwriter's Festival which I was in, the station received the highest ratings to that date. It was always great chemistry with Jeff and myself on the air. Always a lot of fun and laughing. I'm going to miss that a lot.

Another thing that Jeff liked, was where I was coming from musically. Unlike most Trop Rock musicians, I was entering the genre from an entirely different perspective and angle. Back in the 12” vinyl days I had hundreds of records. Of those hundreds of records, which ranged from The Allman Brothers, to Frank Zappa, from Charles Mingus to Pink Floyd, to Stephan Grappelli…I had one… one Jimmy Buffett record “Son of the Son Of a Sailor”, which I really loved. But that’s all I had. I remember being on stage over at Smokin Tuna in a big jam of Trop Rockers playing a Jimmy Buffett song with them, when they pointed to me to sing the next verse. I kept playing my guitar and shook my head no. The reason? I didn’t know all the words!

So, I came into the Trop Rock scene with an entirely different outlook and perspective. Different grooves and using chords that really weren’t used so much in the genre. Chords like a C6/9, G7#9, Em+9, or a A13. Jeff liked this and he played the hell out of my CD, for which I’m eternally grateful and honored.

Jeff may not have made it to Key West for MOTM this year, but more importantly, he did make it to California and back to the woman he loved more than anything in the world. It almost didn’t happen. Jeff was rushed to the hospital shortly before he left to go back to California. It had us all concerned. However, God gave him the extra time to get out to Carol, spend some time with her and then, he passed in her arms with his step-daughter there as well. We all are going to go at one point or another, but Jeff was truly blessed to go like this.

(Jeff and I at Koz’s Green World Gallery for the Ya Mon cruise. Photo by Tammy Hollander)

All of my shows at MOTM, The Open Mic at McConnell’s on Wednesday evening, The Tropical Songwriters in Paradise on Thursday (noon to 8),   and the Sunday Afternoon Chill Dockside at Sunset Tiki (Noon to 5), will be dedicated to a brother, DJ Jeff Allen. As a matter of fact the Sunday show at Sunset Tiki I’m changing the format. Any players that want to a song for Jeff, please stop by, plug in, and let it Trop Rock for Jeff.

Again, first and foremost, Jeff and I are friends. Often I'd send him pictures from his favorite island. I know that made him smile. I was just keeping him in the loop. I also used to send him songs that I was working on. I’d record it on my iPhone’s voice memos and send it to him as a message. He was always very curious about them, but never critiqued them at all. The last one I sent him was one that I was going to write with Ryan and Andy from Homemade Wine. I sent Jeff what I had to that point and he was excited to hear the rest. It’s still incomplete, but when it’s done, I won’t need to send it to his phone for him to hear it. He’ll be right here.

Godspeed Jeff it was an honor having you as a friend. Thank you.

“Key West Chris”   Rehm



  1. Beautiful Chris. Thank you. So heartfelt. Sad and uplifting, all at the same time. A beautiful tribute to a wonderful man.

  2. Chris, great writing! I enjoyed your tribute to DJ Jeff! I can't believe I had not read this until today. Hope you are well.