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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What Is Trop Rock Music? Part 1

What is Trop Rock Music? Part 1

What exactly is Trop Rock music anyway? There are a large contingent of people that say it's Country music that has a beach theme. Of those folks, many call it Gulf and Western, referring to The Gulf of Mexico and C&W music. You've got to love it, it's very creative!

No one would be stupid enough to argue the point that the style of Country mixed with the tropic atmosphere, is a very large segment of the music genre.  That however, is cutting the genre short of what it actually is.

I recall back when I was a kid my parents used to have records by Martin Denny. Martin Denny was a musician/composer from New York and Los Angeles who ventured down South America way for 3 1/2 years, then headed to Hawaii, where he developed a style of music called "Exotica".

Exotica incorporated rhythms that Mr. Denny picked up in South America, with mainland America and Hawaiian music combined, not forgetting the exotic bird calls that shortly thereafter found it's way into his music.

Exotica is a musician's style of music in that one has to be an accomplished musician in order to play it. A lot of Jazz is incorporated into it. For the listener, it's quite easy and relaxing to listen to.

Many consider this under the umbrella of Trop Rock today, even though it predates Trop Rock's by decades, having first started in the early 1950's. This is without a doubt, Trop music however.

In the same periods, there was a type of music my parents didn't have, but I heard on the radio and loved. It was related to what Martin Denny was doing in Hawaii, albeit this was from Rio De Janeiro. Now keep in mind that Martin Denny picked up a lot on the rhythms of Rio, Santiago, and Buenos Aires. The music I fell in love with was Bossa Nova, and the composer was Antonio Carlos Jobim.

For me, this music painted a very vivid picture of Rio de Janeiro. Not too far from the equator, this was certainly about as Trop as it got! For me, Jobim painted a warm summer evening, with a light breeze, full moon and stars, on a restaurant patio overlooking Ipanema beach.

Picture that scene while listening to this piece by Jobim ( say Joe Beem)

Many folks credit Jimmy Buffett with starting what we know today as Trop Rock. Buffett moved to Key West and did what any songwriter would do; write about where he was and the things he saw going on there. Here he was, living on a tropical island that was loaded with idiosyncrasies, crazy characters and goings on, drug smuggling, shit hole bars with tuns of salty personality and personalities, authors, a very rich history of pirates, the Navy, shrimpers, wreckers, fishermen, a crazy fire chief,... the list goes on and on, but he had all of this and more to draw from. Here he was, a great story teller and with subjects such as the aforementioned, it was an oasis to choose from, being bombarded with crazy on goings every day for inspiration.

It must be said that he didn't visit, then leave. Buffett lived here 24/7/365 and became part of the island. When writing about the island there's a vast difference between being part of it day to day, versus stopping by for a week, then going back to Kalamazoo and writing a song about it. Michael McCloud is the same as Buffett in this regard, when it comes to writing songs about Key West. Both McCloud and Buffett wrote from a local perspective. That alone gives them a very sincere credibility that is never matched by someone writing about it from afar.

Here' a very, very rare recording of Buffett. He was on his way back to Key West from Nashville after recording his first album that was written in Key West "A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean". His friend and co musician and co writer on some songs, Steve Goodman, landed a gig in the then bohemian section of Miami, Coconut Grove, at a little place called "Bubba's". A wonderful friend of mine, Dave, used to do sound for Bubba's, as well as other coffee houses in Coconut Grove and South Miami. Dave was, and is an audiophile of the first degree. He would record all the gigs he did sound for on his reel to reel from the sound board!

Steve Goodman's gig at Bubba's was no exception. You won't here it on this track, but earlier in the recording when Steve brings on Buffett and introduces him, there's but a polite applause. The Pink Crustacean album was still months from being released and at this point in time, no one knew who Buffett was. They did about five songs together that night, plus a lot of back and forth colorful banter. I edited the recording so you can hear this excellent example of Goodman-Buffett live doing a song they had just recorded up in Nashville, "Cuban Crime of Passion". I say excellent example, not because it's played to perfection, but rather because Dave captured the whole feel of the event and song so well on his reel to reel!

The recording this is from is said to be Buffett's oldest live recording, being around late 1972.

More to come in Part 2!

Support the blog! Check out The Shanty Hounds (Dani Hoy and Myself, Key West Chris Rehm, along with our pal Bobby DeVito, doing a holiday song we all co-wrote and performed on "Happy Merry Christmas From Key West"! It's only ninety-nine cents!!! That's right! $ .99!!!! Download it today! Makes a great holiday gift too!

Available at CD Baby! Sound clip available at the link!

FYI, CD Baby is the distributor who issues all recordings to iTunes, Amazon, CD Universe... the industry. :-)


  1. The Jobim made for nice background music while I read your blog.. nice read

  2. I really enjoyed reading all three of these blogs. if you do not mind, I am planning on posting a link to these blogs for my Facebook friends to read.