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Friday, February 14, 2020

Key West and The Florida Keys – What is a “Conch” Anyway?

                                                       Paulie Walterson - A True Conch
                                                        Photo by Ralph DePalma

Before we go anyplace here, lets nail the pronunciation down. Conch is pronounced :Konk”. The CH in Conch is a hard CH, just as it is in my first name, Chris. In the movie “To Have and Have Not” the boat of the protagonist is named “The Queen Conch” and my favorite actor in the world, who played said protagonist Harry Morgan, actually pronounced it incorrectly with a soft CH...Oh, the humanity! Again, for the record, the correct pronunciation is “Konk”.

So, what is a Conch anyway?

Of course it's a mollusk, related to mussels, clams, and oysters, and interestingly enough, squid and octopi. It's the shellfish that one puts to their ear to hear the ocean.

However, it is also the nick name for people. The irony is, very few of the Florida Keys“Conchs” actually know what Conch's, as a race, if you will, actually are! In the last thirty to fifty years the meaning has been made more open, yet closed at the same time. As you will see in a moment, the term and the people have been around for hundreds of years. I've heard all sorts of erroneous definitions that went so far as saying it all depends on which high school one attended. Truly amazing.

If we're going to look at how the name and definition came about, we have to look at history and the reality is, Conch's go back long before the Keys were settled.

The term “Conch” is a Bahamian nick name for a white Bahamian. I don't know how this came about to begin with, but as I say, it's been in use for hundreds of years and it's an affectionate term at that, I will add.

Now the British colonized The Bahamas in 1648. The slave trade came after that and at some point subsequent to that the name Conch was adapted to those of European heritage. So, it was and so it remains.

So, lets zoom up to the year 1882 and the island of Green Turtle Cay (say: Green Turtle Key). The American Revolution had just ended and anywhere between 15% and 25% of people living in what was now The United States, were loyalists and had supported The King. You may recall from your history that these people were known as Tories?

Well, life in what was now the United States for Tories wouldn't be easy, so many left for British territories. One group left from Plymouth, Massachusetts and set sail for Green Turtle Cay, in the Abicos, Bahamas.

Here they set up new lives and raised their families. These people and their families were white and consequently became Conchs.

Over the years many of these Conchs would fish off the Florida Keys and set up fishing camps from Key West to Key Largo. To this day, Islamorada is so highly regarded it's known as “The Sport Fishing Capital of the World”. Fishing was good here.

Somewhere around 1815 - 1820 the Conchs started settling throughout the Keys. As we're talking 35 – 40 years after the original group left Plymouth, those coming to the Keys were the children and grand children of the original settlers to Green Turtle Cay. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, Green Turtle Cay may on paper be our sister city, but in reality, Green Turtle Cay is our Mother Key!

In Key West up until about 35 – 50 years ago, sometimes less, in Key West a Conch was someone of white Bahamian ancestry. If someone was Cuban, they were Cuban, not a Conch. If they were Black, they were Black (interestingly, the African American population in Key West trace their ancestry to the Bahamas, not the South).

In the recent years, at least in the Keys, those here have relaxed the rules to the point that as long as you are born in the Keys, you're a Conch, regardless of your ethnic background. A few will argue that one has to be born in Key West to be a Conch, however, when it all boils down to it, you can never take someone's heredity away from them, be it if they were born in Key West, Key Largo, or anywhere in between.

It's even gone one step further in that if one moves to the Keys and lives here seven years you are a “Fresh Water Conch”. Crazy as it may seem, your author of this blog you're reading hit that milestone five years ago.. It was a great excuse for a fabulous party!

Also, Throughout the Bahamas, white Bahamians are still, and always will be “The Original Conchs”!

As an interesting note, again, the original group emigrated from Plymouth, Massachusetts. If you hear an older Conch talk today, you can hear the root dialect from New England in their accent. It's very regretful however, the Conch accent is falling by the wayside.

So, there you go! Now you know what a Conch is!


Thank you for reading my Blog! Please check out my book "Time Traveler - The Oddities and Adventures of a Key West Bartender". Follow Mark Straight's continuing journey and friendships from current Key West, back to historical Key West and elsewhere!

 Order paperback or download here! Paperback comes with a free download!

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Available on Amazon! 18 Five-Star ratings!

See what's being said about "All The Best From Key West"! 

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Saturday, December 28, 2019

366 Gigs and over 200,000 people for 2019 - The Shanty Hounds

Last summer someone said that The Shanty Hounds were the busiest band in Key West. When I sat down and thought about it, that was partially true, at least as a band. Frankly, I was breathless! I recalled years ago when living in Miami/Dade and reading an interview with a noted Blues player, stating they would be doing close to 300 gigs that year. I found that both amazing and difficult to take in mentally. “Close to 300 gigs” in a year. Holy smokes!

Now, here I am writing this over a dozen years later and I'm doing over 300 gigs a year. I'm writing this on Christmas Day 2019 and we, The Shanty Hounds, have played 360 gigs this year and we have two gigs tomorrow (Willie T's and The Curry Mansion), a gig on Saturday (The Tipsy Rooster), two gigs on Sunday (Willie T's and Two Friends Patio Restaurant and Bar) and a gig on Tuesday (Rick's) that will leave us at 366 for the year.

It should also be stated that a lot of the single acts here in Key West do more than we do.

While these numbers completely floor me when it was brought to my attention, I stopped and thought about it. Yes, we were doing about 30 gigs a month.

On November 2, 2017 in a letter to my guitar manufacturer Ibanez, I itemized our gigs and calculated that we were playing in front of 3000 people a week. We are doing more this year and I'd say we're at minimum 35% more than 2017. That being the case, we're playing in front of around 4000 people a week or, around 210,000+/- people a year.

So, what do we, The Shanty Hounds, Dani Hoy and Chris Rehm, come to the table with? What do we have to offer? The numbers above speak for themselves.Well, we're different. As far as other performers go, they usually travel around the country in RVs doing shows for people who want to see them. They may very well travel 400-800 miles from gig to gig. We may travel 4 – 8 blocks from gig to gig. Friday's first gig is long distance, eight blocks.

We always bump into friends/fans/supporters of ours. We always do! I know for a fact that several couples are in town at this very moment who will be by to see us! They are fabulous supporters of live music! Some know our style of music, Every week we gain new friends! Many don't know our style/genre. “There's a style of music that is about Key West and the tropics? Wow! Cool!”

We're very grateful for all of our friends, both well established, and new! When not in town, some of our friends tune in and see us on the YouTube stage cams at Willie T's or Two Friends. Thank you folks!!! Now and then we'll go Facebook live and end up with as many as 1,200+ tuning in. THANK YOU!!!

We do meet many, many people who do love our original music! Key West gets everybody! These people come from all walks of life. Accountants, appraisers hair stylists, lawyers, even music professors. Imagine having, not one, but three music professors tell you “Your songs are really excellent!”. For me it's somewhere between being embarrassed and being humbled, and grateful.

But that's what we do. In addition to hanging out with our local and visiting friends, some who didn't know Trop Music existed before they met us, we also introduce new fans to our music. We bring new fans to the genre. At every gig we meet, laugh, and make new friends and they follow our music! 366 Gigs by year's end, an audience of @ 210,000. Dani's has arguably the best female voice in Trop and is a fabulous songwriter to boot! I'll be a Nashville published songwriter for 20 years in 2020, with songs in with people from Junior Brown to Trisha Yearwood, or that we've had several very, very well seasoned people at MOTM come up to us and say on the last night of the event, Saturday evening, and tell us “We've been here all week and we've seen all the top acts. You guys are the best we've seen! You have an energy that no one else approaches”.

I'm pleased with 366 gigs and playing in front of 201,000 this year. I love living in Key West and I'm honored to be here. I love this town and I love what we do here. However, having those experienced MOTM fans say that last sentence, makes it special, acknowledged, and worthwhile:

We've been here all week and we've seen all the top acts. You guys are the best we've seen! You have an energy that no one else approaches”.

Thank you.

I just came out with a new EP entitled “All The Best From Key West”, which was my sign off moniker for the last dozen years or so. You may have seen the previous blog on it? If you missed it and would like to see it, here's the link:

With this new release I'm taking a different approach. In the past, starting with “Shanghai'd and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)” in 2011, I'd send it to all of the Trop Rock radio stations and this worked great. The releases received good attention!

In the last couple of years however, the Trop audience has dwindled. Just one example of this is this particular blog. When I first started witing it, up until about a year ago, when I posted it, I would have between 200 and 500 views on the first day. Now? Maybe 75 in a week is avarage. Because of this, I've begun to look outside in order to augment sales, namely to Americana.

Trop Rock is limited in it's outreach/assistance to artists. No knock against it at all, it is what it is and doesn't profess, or strive to be anything that it isn't. There are two publications in the genre, however for what I'm looking for, they are not set up to do.

I wanted a review of the album, but I knew neither do reviews. With Americana I had no trouble whatsoever in getting a review and what a review it was!

Four days after the album was released, it was part of their top ten releases of the year!

So, we're off to a great start. You never know in this business however, so we'll see how the wave continues.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

All The Best From Key West

The music on this album was entirely inspired and written, in Key West and the Florida Keys, collectively known as The Conch Republic, of which Key West is the capitol. In my opinion, this is the best place to live in the world and for those who can't live here, it's the most incredible place to visit. The testimony to that is I am so fortunate to see them every year when they come for their vacations, often on more than one visit!

I've lived here for a dozen years and the songs on this album were all inspired by people, many of whom are specific, events, and places I've been! Anyone who's been here, be it a visit, or living, will tell you that one will bump into the most interesting people here and see the most beautiful things.

The album starts off with three songs that have been released as singles already. However, the ones here are all the final masters, done by Denis Blackham, who's mastered for many of the largest names in music (the Who, Lead Zeppelin, Crosby Stills Nash.... ). The earlier ones were not mastered. This is the one to have! I knew this project was going to be expensive and because of that, time consuming. Yes, I could have done something with non professionals, but in all seriousness, I only want my material done by the best people. Denis is a master, indeed! He's also done our Shanty Hound's Unleashed! Live at Grunts – Key West! What an outstanding job he did on that! Now,  on All The Best From Key West, it's truly stellar as well! Thank you Denis!!

Also, Producer/Engineer Ian Shaw was a God-send, once again! He hears everything!! I told him "You can hear dog whistles!” He did virtually all the recording and he's nothing short of amazing as well! Patience is a virtue that a producer requires. Ian was always up for my suggestions! When I proposed the dialog portion of Local Island Bar, I was thinking he might say "You're not serious?", but actually he said "Yeah, we can do that!" I'm very, very fortunate to have had everyone I had on this record! The icing on the cake was my much better half and life partner, Dani Hoy, a professional graphic artist for over twenty years, took my idea of having a postcard design and had it done in about a half hour... today! 😵😍  Thank you all!

"Dockside Bar", an upbeat bluesy piece written about an afternoon I spent in a bar in 2006. The situation is based on the actual events that I saw that day. There's a lot one can observe in an afternoon hanging out in a crusty, open-air bar on the water in the Keys! The men working on the dock, the fishing group, were actually there. It's fun being an observer and draw inspiration from actual events!

The song that follows that is "21st Century Kinda Girl". This one is an ass kicker that really gets up and goes! It's a rocker! It was inspired by several different young woman that I've met here who were very focused on their goals and went for them. However, at the same time they knew how to maintain a balance in their lives and how to enjoy themselves when the work day came to a close. My buddy Bobby DeVito plays the hell out of the Stratocaster that really kicks it's ass through the goalposts!

"Something About A Harbor" is a focus on the daily life that goes on in a harbor. The boats coming and going, Some of the goings on in the marinas, the bars, the work, the happiness, and the loss, plus the rewards. In my writing I like to use actual people that I know. In this song there's the mention of Captain Marlin, who has a couple of charter fishing boats Premium Time and The Reel Deal, that he runs under his charter company, Fishmonster, on the A&B Docks! In the song, he comes in "loaded to the gills" with fish! I tried to paint a 360 degree picture of life in a harbor with this song.

"Island Ladies" was written back in 2010. It was inspired by the marvelous attitude of the women who live here! They realize they are in paradise and make the most of it, taking advantage of every day! Emily Randle just takes off with the violin on this song too!

"Local Island Bar" was especially fun to record! For the background ambiance I had two parties at our house! During the instrumental you'll hear people talking in the background. Not enough to interfere with the music, just adding to the background color. Well, that was at the first party. I told everyone "Grab the libation of your choice and have at it like you're in a bar!" An easy task here in Key West which everyone has a good deal of experience at! We all had a blast!

On the second recording, track 6,  I added an additional intro and outro to the song. My friends Ian Riley and Heather Moss O'Shields acted as an English/Southern couple walking down the beach.  The recording here was fun because I wrote a loose script for them to follow, with freedom for each to improvise off of. Now, Heather lives just outside of Chattanooga, Tn. while Ian is in Pompano, Fl. Each recorded their segments on their iPhone's voice memos and emailed them back to me, from their respective homes!!!  I edited them together and it worked! To date, they have never met each other! 😮  During the outro, the second bar party we had everyone singing the song Local Island Bar as the couple heads back down the beach!

I'm really lucky because everyone who hears the extended version of Local Island Bar just love it! The radio folks are largely gun shy on it, but we have the edition without the intro/outro, so it's good for everyone.

Like just about everything in Key West, it's FUN! The quest of this entire album is to convey what, at least is part of the life here! My hope is that the listeners from afar feels they are in Key West and maybe get a whiff of salty, Keys air! 😉

On my album “Shanghai'd and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)” I've had SO MANY people tell me that the turn it on for the drive through the Keys!

My two hopes for All The Best From Key West is that:

A) If you don't live here, you feel like you ARE in Key West when you're home listening, you feel the rhythm and soul of this little island town.

B) When you are in Key West, be it if you live here, or are visiting, you feel the synchronicity of the music and the islands.

The songs were written, arranged, and performed with the soul of the islands, fueling the inspiration and channeling the energy here that emits from the sand, sea, and coral rock. The blood running through the veins of these islands archipelago, has influenced so many long term residents who are artists, authors, and musicians. It's my honor to share what the table gives to me, with all of you.

Thank you!!!

Key West Chris” Rehm

“All The Best From Key West” was recorded at Key West Theater (rhythm sections) and Warmfuzz Studio here in Key West, by Ian Shaw. Several tracks were recorded at Din at The Vicarage, London, England, engineered by Julian Simmons. Nashville tracks recorded and engineered by Gary Carter.

Produced by Ian Shaw (with some suggestions by myself here and there).

Engineered by Ian Shaw

Tracks recorded in London, engineered by Julian Simmons

Recorded at Key West Theater, Warmfuzz Studios Key West, and Din At The Vicarage, London, England.


Chris Rehm vocals, acoustic and electric guitars
Bob Tucker - Bass on tracks 1.2,3
John Sausser - Drums tracks 1,2,3
Bruce Turkel - Harmonica
Ericson Holt – Keyboards
Matt Backer – Electrig Guitar tracks 4,5,6
Bobby DeVito Electric guitar track 2
Jackson Bunn - Organ
Emily Randle – Violin
Marty Stonely – Clarinet and Flute
Randy Morrow - Drums track 4,5,6
Claire Finley - Bass track 4,5,6
Alan Jax Bowers – percussion
Gary Carter – Pedal Steel
Dani Hoy - Background Vocals
Juliana Walker MacDowell - Background vocals

Album design – Dani Hoy KW TropiGal Art and Design

All songs written and arranged by Christopher R. Rehm, BMI

Release date: December 16th, 2019

Note: CD Baby handles the first listing. It sometimes takes a day or two for them to distribute it to the other carriers, such as Apple Music, Amazon, .... etc. Thanks! Download price: $5.99.

Need Christmas/Holiday gifts??? Check out my books and music! Thanks!

Thank you for reading my Blog! Please check out my book "Time Traveler - The Oddities and Adventures of a Key West Bartender". Follow Mark Straight's continuing journey and friendships from current Key West, back to historical Key West and elsewhere!

 Order paperback or download here! Paperback comes with a free download!

 26 Five-Star ratings!

Also, my first book, Bar Stories, is now available in paperback!

Available on Amazon! 18 Five-Star ratings!

Please check out The Shanty Hounds    NEW LIVE RELEASE!!!

Unleashed! Live at Grunts – Key West”

A true, authentic sound of Key West
Also available at:

iTunes Store

Monday, November 18, 2019

Ford v Ferrari

Being the race fan that I am, and have been my while life, I had the inherent calling to catch this movie A.S.A.P. One of the underlining reasons I was so compelled to go was the fact that automotive publications that I have a very high respect for, had seen previews and stated that it was excellent. Bear in mind that these are more often than not, publications that tend to be highly critical when reviewing these sorts of movies.

Just a short preamble on myself, when I was growing up, I played sports, football, baseball, a bit of basketball. However, I was the odd ball because my favorite sport was always auto racing. I recall as an 8 or 9 year old kid watching The Grand Prix of Monte Carlo, as well as the Indy 500, on the same day. This went on with me for decades and does to this day, work providing.

I was always acquainted with the events at hand in this movie, though it happened before my time. This is one of those stories that exist in the annals of auto racing classic stories that one had to know. It was required reading the same way that as a grammar school student in the U.S. one had to learn and know about the American Revolution. This story is on the same scale of Washington crossing the Delaware. An auto racing fan has to know about Ford at Le Mans and what sparked their rivalry with Ferrari.

Now, there are a certain degree of Hollywood moments that are side bars to the story, that may or may not have happened. I accept this because Hollywood needs to add a bit of pizzazz to any flick they make that is based on a true story. Having stated that, I will say that nothing they added made the story deviate from the original story line. The one part that made me laugh out loud was when the showed the Ford GT 40's speedometer at speed …. racing cars don't have speedometers, but that's for the general public in order to create excitement. That's good!


Matt Damon and Christian Bale did an excellent job portraying Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles! Additionally, while the movie appeals quite well to someone like myself, the story itself and the movie production are second to none. The average person on the street who knows nothing of the story itself, which is so compelling unto itself, or even if they have no interest in auto racing whatsoever, will find this a fabulous movie! The direction of James Mangold, the writing by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller, and the production by Peter Chernin, James Mangold, and Jenno Topping produce a Grade A+ Movie that many are saying is the movie of the year.


As a musician, I'm naturally, always interested in the soundtrack. The soundtrack here was absolutely superb! It's not as though there's a hit song that will come from it. That could have taken away from what they did. However, the instrumentation of when the cars are in a race, boosts the adrenalin of those in the audience. The soundtrack is by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders.

This movie is superb! Do yourself a favor and go see this movie!!! You're in for a treat!

Thank you for reading my Blog! Please check out my book "Time Traveler - The Oddities and Adventures of a Key West Bartender". Follow Mark Straight's continuing journey and friendships from current Key West, back to historical Key West and elsewhere!

 Order paperback or download here! Paperback comes with a free download!

 26 Five-Star ratings!

Also, my first book, Bar Stories, is now available in paperback!

Available on Amazon! 18 Five-Star ratings!

Please check out The Shanty Hounds    NEW LIVE RELEASE!!!

Unleashed! Live at Grunts – Key West”

A true, authentic sound of Key West
Also available at:

iTunes Store

#JamesMangold, #JezButterworth, #John-HenryButterworth, #JasonKeller #PeterChernin, #JennoTopping, #MarcoBeltrami, #Buck Sanders, #Matt Damon, # ChristianBale, #CaitrionaBalfe,

Wednesday, November 13, 2019



Smile” is one of the most interesting songs in my catalog, for several reasons. To begin with, I started writing the song in 1982! At the time I was living in the back half of this cool little duplex in Miami with my first wife, Mercy. It had a little extension foyer for the front door, which was about 6 x 5, and the walls on the left and right were floor to ceiling jalousie windows. One evening it was pouring rain. I mean really intense rain! No wind, it was just coming down straight like there was no tomorrow. I went out in the foyer and brought my guitar with me. The jalousies were open about half way, so the sound of the storm was right there !The rain was pouring, the lightning was putting on a show, and the thunder was rolling in time to what was playing! I played and played this chord progression that just came to me that night, as the storm raged outside. There was no doubt that this was something, not just good, but special. In the end of evening I realized that the song needed more, not to mention lyrics once the music was settled.

I’d pick up my guitar over the years and try to find a chorus for it, to no avail. Then in 1996... fourteen years later, it finally dawned on me why I couldn’t come up with a chorus for it. The reason I couldn’t find the chorus, was elementary: The music I had, was the chorus! Hello. Epiphany #1
Having finally realized this, I set out on the rest of the song. I came up with it, but it was one of those things that just didn’t hold water. Listening to myself playing it, I realized the new part just didn’t do any justice to that chorus I had written in 1982. Speaking frankly, it flat out sucked, so I pulled it and stored the chorus on the shelf. However, at least now I realized what I had was a chorus! To what, I didn’t know?
In 2015 I had the urge to write an up-beat, fun, positive song. The very first thing I thought of was my chorus that I had written... thirty-three years earlier! Additionally, it was perfect for what I had in mind! Suddenly an idea came to me musically. I pulled out my old guitar “Bell”, a 1975 Guild D25, that had since been retired, but the guitar I wrote that chorus on in 1982. It was the right way to continue the script, the tale and especially the music.

The chord progression for the verses came very, very quickly.... a lot like the chorus had, so many years ago. Additionally, the new chord progression for the verses was quite unique. I’d say it was a study of the C chord and it’s immediate family. The best part was that it all fit together perfectly! Lyrics would be next.

As I was saying before, I wanted the song to be fun, positive, and upbeat. I was thinking that it would be fun to share writing the lyrics with Dani. However, she wasn’t feeling it at that moment. As a song writer, you have to be able to make the song part pf your life. For that moment it wasn't in her persona. I had done a bit of work on it and had several verses written for it.

 I touch up-edited the lyrics a bit to make it fit the music, but all-in-all it fell together pretty well. I figured Dani might want to give it another look, but we became too busy with gigs, projects, and life. A few months later I picked up lyric/chord sheet and canvased the entire song, thinking it could use another verse, or something? After going through it, Epiphany#2 struck me: This song, “Smile” is done and it had been done for quite some time, I just didn't realize it! It was akin to "Can't see the forest for the trees". I filed it with BMI in 2018. 

All songs are given to us, as writers. This one came in stages, but it got here! Additionally, it was kind enough to allow me to put my name as the songwriter. Thank you to the power of the universe for including me!

Time waits for no one. but it waited for "Smile!" for thirty-six years!

Hopefully we can get it recorded sooner rather than later.
                                                            Cajun Rehm - Smile with Cajun!!

© 1983/2015/2018 by Christopher R. Rehm BMI

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