Search This Blog

Thursday, April 17, 2014

ART, Music, Writing.... and more, in Key West!

(Koz’s Green World Gallery, 712B Duval St, Key West… yeah, that’s Koz waving! )

Art is a major industry in Key West, as well as all of the Keys really. I’m not going to begin to count how many art galleries are in town, but, suffice to say, it’s quite ample and most of these galleries are on or off Duval St. The ones off the beaten path are definitely worth seeking out however!

(The Two Monkeys Gallery  518 Fleming st, Key West)

Naturally, there is a lot of art that is focused on the local area as a subject. Seriously, it’s an incredible subject to work with, as there’s so much of both beautiful and fascinating subjects to draw from. Key West can be a virtual cartoon if one chooses to look at it from said perspective. It goes from incredible sunrises in the east, to a myriad of homes in Old Town that date from the 1800’s with influences from New England, The Bahamas, and the South, to chickens running freely on the streets, street musicians playing, beautiful water that is different day to day, two beautiful harbors, some of the best bars in the entire world, sunset celebrations featuring jugglers, tightrope walkers, a banjo player with a bowler hat with a dog who collects tips, and the sunset itself… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Key West and the entire Florida Keys make an incredible subject for any canvas.

(Art Gone Wild 619 Duval St, Key West)

Having said that, there is a lot of artwork available here that is not at all from the Keys. When I first moved here I had the pleasure of working for the Wyland Gallery at 102 Duval St. With the exception of Wyland himself, none of the artists we carried at the time were local (Wyland has a home in the upper Keys), however all sold quite well, most in themes that held no relation to the Keys at all. This was not unique to the two Wyland Galleries in Key West either. When I was there we carried artists from the Philippines, China, all across the U.S. Delaware to Hawaii, to Dino Rosin, arguably the finest glass sculpture in the world, from Murano, Italy. The point here being that Key West is a very versatile art town with a worldwide verity. If anyone is a lover of art, a few days in Key West is a MUST.

(Murano Grand Master glass sculptor Dino Rosin visiting Wyland Gallery at 102 Duval St. Seen here with his stingray sculpture in calcedonia glass)

You’ll find virtually any median of art in Key West, oils, water color, pen and ink, sculpture, photographs… the list goes on! The point here being that Key West is a very versatile art town with a worldwide verity. If anyone is a lover of art, a few days in Key West is a MUST!


(The Key West Gallery, Key West on the corner of Duval and Southard)

(one of two Wyland galleries in Key West, this being the larger of the two located at 623 Duval. The other is at 102 Duval and save for the signature artist Wyland, none of the other artists are the same)

 photo IMG_0754_zpscff8ecab.jpg
(the James Coleman Gallery, corner of Duval and Southard streets)


(L-R,  Bruce Turkel, Key West Chris Rehm, Bobby DeVito at Captain Tony’s Saloon)

Coming up May 7 – 11 will be the 19th Key West Songwriter’s Festival. This is the largest songwriter festival in the nation and put on by both Charlie Bauer, with his staff led by Dani Holliday, and BMI Nashville. Credit to all, it’s a very well organized and run! The event is pretty much hosts finest songwriters in the country, most of whom are based in Nashville. This is my favorite event, of all Key West events held over the year. The biggest issue I have, and there’s no solution to it whatsoever, is that there could be five of your favorite songwriters playing in five different places at the same time, so you have to make a choice. However, with 150 artists playing in town over four days, it’s the nature of the beast as they say and there’s no way around it.

 photo DSCF0612_zpsfcc78f79.jpg

I’ve had the honor of being in the festival for the last three years, which was what I considered the greatest honor I could have as a songwriter! I’m extremely grateful indeed! This year I’m not scheduled. Naturally a disappointment, however I was told that they want to get some new people involved. I think that’s a great idea, even if it’s at my expense. HA HA!

 photo DSCF2866-1.jpg
(Key West Chris Rehm …. Hey! That’s me! …playing the 2011 Key West Songwriter’s Festival)

Here in the Keys we have some really great songwriters! Take Adrienne for example. If you go to one of her gigs, there’s a large percentage of her set that are her original songs. Very good songs at that, by the way. Personally, I think that this is something that really sets a songwriter out from a performer, as being a songwriter, and not just a performer. Over the years I’ve seen some locals in this event and I said to myself when I saw them on the list “They’re a songwriter?” because the only thing I’ve ever heard them do are covers. At the Festival they’d do a few originals, but the next week those originals are put back in mothballs and they are back to playing only covers.While they may have written a few songs over the years, those folks are more geared as performers than songwriters.

 Someone like Adrienne is willing to walk out on that high wire without a net, at all of her gigs and take the chance. Sure, she’ll do cover songs, that’s part of what we all do and truly love. However, a songwriter lives to write songs and that’s what we do. We’re creators of stories and our canvas is music. I know at my gigs  30 – 50% is my original material, depending on where I am and the crowd. I always get a great reception on them from the crowd, I’m pleased to say. It’s like I mentioned in a previous blog, If one goes to Jamaica, Mexico, Puerto Rico, one expects to hear music native of the country. The Conch Republic is no exception. Visitors love to hear music that originates from here.

 Another great local songwriter is Ray West. Like any true songwriter, Ray also has no apologies for showcasing his own material, which, like Adrienne’s, is really outstanding.

Dani Hoy just moved to town as well, however I know she won’t be in the festival this year, but hopefully she will be next year. Like Adrienne, Ray, and myself, Dani’s sets are highly peppered with excellent original material from her two CDs.

Bottom line on the local songwriters, these would be my suggestions.

The Key West Songwriter’s Festival is a must see if anyone loves Key West and live music. You'll hear all sorts of famous songs that you know, done by the artists who actually wrote the songs, often with anecdotes that go along with how the song was written and influenced. This is far and away the largest musical event held here in Key West, bar none. In essence, all of Nashville heads down here, so put it on your agenda!


For the other 51 weeks out of the year, Key West is easily one of the most vibrant spots in the entire U.S. for live music. I would be willing to wager that in a ½ mile area, Key West has more live music venues than anyplace else in the world. I’d also be willing to wager that Key West has more live music venues per capita than any other city in the world. Frankly, it’s remarkable. In addition, you’ll get to see world class acts…. And there’s not even a cover charge, You just walk right in, grab a libation, and enjoy the music!

 photo DSCF4110.jpg
(Scott Kirby playing Smokin’ Tuna Saloon)

In addition, Key West also has world class recording producers in Dan Simpson and Ian Shaw! Dan, of course did my CD “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)”, however he’s also been producing Key West artists for over thirty years, most notably, Scott Kirby.

 photo DanSimpson_zpsa1f17065.jpg
(myself chatting with Dan Simpson while at the San Carlos Institute taking a breat from recording the rhythm section for my CD)

Ian Shaw came to these shores from London, England a few years ago with a long list of major successes to his credit which stretch over twenty years! Here Ian’s been busy with producing Bill Blue’s brand new CD, as well as other artists from near and far, including Renn Hoaloha Loren.
(Ian Shaw in his studio in Garrison Bight, Key West)


Key West has always been a magnet for writers. The artists of words and stories. No doubt the most famous is Ernest Hemingway, whose home you can visit and tour on the 900 block of Whitehead St. Hemingway had his most productive period during the years he spent living here. Tennessee Williams also lived here, though his home in mid-town is today a private residence and cannot be toured.

Currently however, there are quite a few authors who live here. Kevin May and Christina Oxenberg are two that come to mind. Jon Breakfield also lived and wrote here during his tenure on the island. There are others as well. Come to think of it, my book “Bar Stories” is nearing completion and will hopefully be out in the very near future. When that happens, your’s truly will join the contingent!

I’m a firm believer that there is some kind of creative energy that is a stimulant for those who are creative here in Key West. I don’t know where it comes from, but I assure you, it’s here.

And finally, one category of artists that you will not find in art galleries, stages, or bookshelves is a group that is without a doubt, the most populous on the island itself, without question. Likewise it’s true in any city, town, or hamlet, because it’s not unique to Key West. This artist is actually not recognized as any art form by those who establish who’s an artist and who is not, or what type of creativity is an art and what’s not. Actually, many who are true masters of this, have no clue that they are even regarded as artists themselves. Many make a living out of it in all walks of life, which is augmented with their craft.

These individuals are a unique breed of “Artists” and society has given them a very appropriate name. They are known as the Bullshit Artist. A bullshit artist will tell you any tale that comes to their head, in order to impress you, or give themselves some sort of redeeming, lofting quality that may, in some way, boost their self-esteem, under the guise of impressing whomever they are talking to. They are often insecure and need someone to say “wow!” after they’ve pontificated a sort of wild fictional fabrication, totally made up, often on the spot. This made up fabrication is known as “Bullshit”.

A key note here: They, usually tell their stories as though they have the inside information the no one else has. They want to come across as exclusive. Again, it’s that anti-insecurity ego boost they are looking for. One must use caution when dealing with these individuals, because if you fall for it, more often than not, if you repeat it, you’ll be looked at as an idiot yourself. Trust me, I've been in this predicament before. So it’s important to establish who is a bullshit artist as soon as possible. It can be difficult. The sad part about this is that anything they say thereafter, be it true or not, is regarded as bullshit.

Leaving names out of it, I recall being with a group of people and saying “I was talking with Ms. XYZ and she said..” Before I could continue the entire table saved my ass by interrupting me.  They all broke out at once and said while shaking their heads “Whatever she said, it’s all bullshit”.
The individual in question here was actually not from Key West, but the tales were told here. We certainly have a menagerie that slither our streets and most are at least entertaining to listen to. So if you take them as entertainment and certainly not verbatim, all will be well for you.

To obtain my music:
CD Baby:
Beachfront Radio:
For iTunes and Rhapsody search “Key West Chris”

Thank you everyone

Monday, April 7, 2014

Seven Mile Bridge, Moving, Amazing Musician Blunder, I'm in a novel!

.^listen to the"7 Mile Bridge" song as you read the blog!^


When the 7 Seven Mile Bridge was originally constructed spanning from Knight's Key in Marathon, to Little Duck Key over one hundred years ago, it was the longest bridge on earth. It was attributed the moniker “The Eighth Wonder of the World” at the time. When it was originally built, it was a railroad bridge, part of the Overseas Railroad, built by Henry Flagler who wanted the deep sea port in Key West, linked to the mainland.

(Pictures from the Monroe County Public Library)

The bridge was opened for business in 1912 as part of The Florida East Coast Railway and operated as such until a hurricane in 1935 wiped out a lower section of the railway in the Keys in Islamorada, rendering the railroad useless. The bridge system was sold to the state of Florida for $600K, then converted to be used for trucks and cars, making it The Overseas Highway.

The Overseas Highway was opened in 1938 and built on the existing railroad bridge bed and bridges. It was quite narrow and often was the case that trucks heading in opposite directions would lose their rear view mirrors to each other. It should be noted that the bridge system that runs from the mainland to Key West consists of forty two bridges and the Seven Mile Bridge is only one of those, albeit naturally, the most famous.

(State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Of course legends and stories abound about the old bridge and everyone who traveled on it, will never forget it for two reasons. One, it certainly got your attention when faced with oncoming traffic that passed mere inches to spare, door to door.  Two, the incredible view of the tropical Atlantic on your left as you traveled south and the Gulf of Mexico/Florida Bay on your right. One story that always caught my ear was that of the tender of the draw bridge. The legend goes that he had been the tender of the draw bridge for something like thirty years. It is said he had plans to retire and was actually relieved of duty the day before the old bridge was put out of commission. He however elected to work the final day of operation. The tender’s quarters was heated (when needed) with a propane heater. Somehow on that last day there was a fire in the tender’s quarters and the propane tank exploded, killing the tender and burning it to cinders on that last day of operation. I can’t say if the story is true or fiction, but it’s certainly a curious tale indeed!

(State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, 7 Mile Bridge’s Drawbridge. Picture from the Cory McDonald Collection)

In March of 1982 the new Seven Mile Bridge was opened. The replacement of all of the bridges was started earlier, with the first new bridge completed at Bahia Honda, replacing the old railroad structure.

The new Seven Mile Bridge is a modern highway, with more than ample room for vehicles to drive in opposite directions and even room for a break down vehicle to sit, if an ominous fate awaited a vehicle traversing the span.

 photo SevenMileBridg-_zps478a306f.jpg
(old and new Seven Mile Bridges)

The old bridge stayed in one piece, more or less. The center draw bridge was removed, as well as a couple of sections to prevent those with mischievous intent from going further, from either side, the north side being just after the bridge crosses over Pigeon Key.

Pigeon Key photo
( Seven Mile Bridge crossing Pigeon Key)

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, photo OverseasHighwayatnight_zps7c5ffddc.jpg

Over the years the bridge was just left to founder on its own. A few movie scenes have been shot here and Pigeon Key, I’m guessing about a mile out, is still active as a museum.
In 2006, a group of Cuban rafters, seeking asylum in the U.S. landed on the bridge. The U.S. law states that they have to land on U.S. soil, and did not recognize the Seven Mile Bridge as U.S. soil. Even though the bridge is listed as one of the   National Register of Historic Places  in the U.S.  they were sent back to Cuba.

Just after this happened, Sir Peter Anderson, Secretary General of the Conch Republic, went down and declared the bridge sovereign Conch Republic territory, as it clearly was not recognized as U.S. territory. In addition, Sir Peter had come up with a plan to build affordable housing on the bridge! There are said to be plans for the houses as well!

Hpwever, the song that leads off this blog today, “The Seven Mile Bridge”, is about that incident. These days Sir Peter Anderson is afflicted with cancer and we all wish him the very best in his battle. He has brought much laughter, business, fun, and logic to these islands, for which we’re all very grateful for. Thank You Sir Peter!

 photo DSCN3070.jpg

I will also do a future blog on the entire bridge chain which allows all of us to “Island Hop”  over one hundred miles out to sea.


Well, after five years in the converted church apartment, it was time to move. The landlord was foreclosed on and the bank made a settlement with me, as a tenant, in order to leave, so they could free the property up for sale. This worked out well actually. With my girlfriend Dani moving in last December, the place would always be “my apartment”. Getting something new would be “ours”. It was one of these” gun to the head” situations. The agreement I signed with the bank stipulated that we would be out of the property “by March 30”. For those who live outside of the Keys, the month of March is a very difficult time to find a place to live, as it’s the height of the tourist season. For us, this was no exception.  Making a long story short, we found a place with only days to spare. Honestly, I had envisioned us having to rent a storage facility for our belongings and camping out in my conversion van until we found a place!
We had looked at places as far as 23 miles up the Keys, but ended up finding an ideal place right around the corner from where we lived. I would often joke “I live 90 miles and three blocks from Havana” being as I lived right up the street from the Southernmost Point. Well, now we live 90 miles and two blocks from Havana. HA HA!
Moving is always an ordeal and we’re glad it’s behind us, thrilled we’re still in the same neighborhood!
Someone upstairs is looking out for us! Thanks!

One of the benefits of moving! HA HA!


Several weeks ago I was playing a benefit at a bar where a lot of other performers were involved with as well. There was a group on before us and when they were done one of the members says into the microphone “Hey! We’re heading up the street to play at XYZ Bar! Come up and see us there”

Or in real terms “Hey! We’re playing at XYZ Bar next. Stop buying everything here, leave and take your business elsewhere!”

Remarkable really.


Glasgow, Scotland based author Jon Breakfield has just released his latest book, Key West part II. This of course follows Key West, his first, in what perhaps will become a series? We'll see! Jon also has three other books out, "Death in Glasgow", "Naked Europe", and "Liverpool.... Texas? London... Arkansas? A Short Story". In Key West part II You'll find me in the book! What a combination of a hoot and an honor! Thank you Jon!

I have no doubt that you'll find Jon's books quite entertaining! One amazing thing that all of Jon's characters in the book are real people! You never know, you may even be in it! Be sure to check this one out at Amazon!

And a link to all of Jon's books at Amazon:

 photo KeyWestpart2_zps07924e45.jpg

To obtain my music:

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

Thank you everyone!!