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Sunday, April 11, 2021

"Who Was The First Trop Rock Artist...?"

Someone, not from the U.S. asked me once a while back, about Trop Rock music, of which he had limited exposure to. He mentioned that my music didn't sound like the other Trop artists he had heard. He mentioned that my music was going in different directions than everyone else. I laughed and thanked him replying “I'm kind of the black sheep of the genre”.

We talked for a while, then he put out a perplexing question, asking “How did the genre start, Santana?”

What an interesting question!

First off, Santana's first album came out in 1969, while his band had been together since 1966.

Santana is a very curious individual. Born in Mexico in 1947, his family emigrated to the US about ten years later. Musically, his influences were not from Mexico however, but rather primarily  the US and Cuba. This is a major curiosity. Cuban music, specifically Afro-Cuban, isn't something one hears in Mexico.

I thought for a moment. Antonio Carlos Jobim pre-dated Santana, and while his music was certainly very tropical, it wasn't Rock, it was Bosa Nova.

Growing up, my parents were big fans of Martin Denny. However, like Jobim, Martin Denny's music, though extremely tropical, wasn't Rock, it was called Exotica.

The more I thought of it, the more I pondered his observation. Santana was a rock band with it's roots in Rock, Blues, and Afro-Cuban music. Listen to Soul Sacrifice. Hear the forces of rhythm of the drums, congas, bongos. Hear Santana's guitar crying out. You can't help but feel like you're in a Santeria ceremony in the jungles of Cuba.

Trop Rock? I don't know what else it could be?


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Thursday, November 5, 2020

TROP ROCK STRONG - Key West 1 of 2



This year's Trop Rock event in Key West was put on as Trop Rock Strong. The usual signature event, MOTM, was cancelled by it's organizers, PHIP, back in April due to COVID 19. 

Trop Rock Strong was started to begin with to help Trop musicians. “Artists and Songwriters who have lost employment due to cancelled shows and events during this pandemic”. Key West fell into place, as many still wanted to attend, both performers and fans. The City of Key West cancelled all recognized events for the year, so this was an “under the radar, pirate event” if you will. Thank you Trop Rock Strong!

As far as The Shanty Hounds went, our first event was the Pitstop Party at Boondock's. We're very familiar with Boondocks as we've played there dozens of times, including every pitstop event they've had there. As always, Steve Toliver and the Trop Rock Junkies hosted the event.

Here's a little insight. The PA system set up can either make you or break you. If it doesn't sound the way you want it to, you'll be trying to compensate for it the entire gig. We played one event where my guitar sustain instead of going “Boooooooooong!” with marvelous resonance, went “Thunk”. Trust me, this effects the way you play and you'll never stand a chance of playing anywhere near your best.

                                      Photo by Michael Ruetz

At Boondocks, the system was perfect! Thank you Steve Tolliver!!! This was our best performance of the entire event. Why? Because our minds were not preoccupied with the sound system. We just sat back and everything flowed. The lead guitar player (Hello!) had a brain fart at one point, but other than that, we could have recorded a live album from that set. It was that good. Again, thank you Steve Toliver and the Trop Rock Junkies!!!!

Our Tuesday gig at Rick's went well as far as playing goes and we were grateful that a few of our friends stopped in.

Other events pretty much went well, overall. We did SWIM's event at Schooner Wharf on Wednesday and although it went somewhat well, through no one's fault but our (read that: Me) own, it was a bit frantic as we arrived in the nick of time. I'll get into SWIM later in the blog! Great stuff!

Thursday was refreshing! Our Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch gig at Two Friends Patio Restaurant was VERY well attended! Thank you all for stopping by! Great time!

Then we had a fabulous time aboard Makara, a 47 Ft. Catamaran, on which we had a sunset sail gig on! Makara is a very exclusive, high end yacht. We were allowed a total of four passengers. What a night! 

Check them out! 

Thank you Tad, Lindsay, Dani, Susan, Joe, and Wyndy

Friday we pretty much took the day off.

Saturday day was the Tiki Man Radio Songwriter Showcase Key West Bound! Trust me, this event takes all year to organize. Seriously, I doubt there was a day Brian Fields Michelle Tafoya, Danny Lynn, and Heather Moss O'Shields are not talking to someone in the process of putting this together.

As often happens, in the eleventh hour something hits the fan. In this case there was a construction issue with the venue they were going to play in with one week to go! However, Brian saved the day and got together with Rick's Key West, moving the venue to their Durty Harry's facility.

It was a fabulous afternoon there and as always, run like clockwork.

Saturday was The Shanty Hounds night gig at Two Friends, which again, was very well attended! Thank you!

Sunday we had our Trop Rock Strong open mic. This was a live and learn gig. Not one Trop Rock artist came to play. Because of COVID, a lot of artists didn't have a place to play, as most places weren't hiring outside talent. So, I thought an open mic would be a good thing! Like I say, live and learn. I was wrong. Guess what we're not doing next year? On the other hand, we had a great crowd!! Thank you all!!! Plus, we made some fabulous new friends in Dave Signs and Beth Travers!!!

Monday we had our traditional "After Party" In years past we've had between 50 and 65 over the party, however this year we had a little over a dozen, because of COVID.

One of the fabulous things about this year was that I spoke with several people who said to me “You know what? I didn't feel the pressure this year of having to be here there and everywhere and compress a 40 hour day into a 24 hour day. I relaxed a lot! This was really nice! I want to come back here in the Spring and just relax and hang out. I've never done here that before!”

The crowd attending this “non event” was better than expected! Thank you very much! I'm guessing it was perhaps 1/3 – ½ the usual crowd. Under the circumstances of COVID 19, that's impressive. Additionally, everyone followed the rules regarding masks.


As mentioned earlier, PHIP/MOTM was not here because of COVID 19. This actually opened up some doors for others and perhaps these doors will stay open? I hope so!  We'll see.

 PHIP's core, is it's first and foremost, a Jimmy Buffett fan club and that's it's priority. They're not there to support independent artists. As I'm told, that was the reason for this year's upheaval.

Two groups emerged after this, though actually not related to the PHIP upheaval. The aforementioned Trop Rock Strong, and also SWIM (Salt Water Independent Music) have come into play. Trop Rock Strong started because of COVID closing venues, and hence, eliminating the income of working Trop musicians. SWIM had been developing in the works longer, but made it's Grand Entrance just after PHIP's upheaval, so at first, to many it appeared to be a by-product of that. It wasn't, however. Jerry Diaz had been putting it together for over a year. SWIM is designed to promote Trop artists.

As a working musician, my first responsibility is to make sure I have a roof over my head. I don't do this as a hobby, or an interest on the side. It's a hell of a way to make a living and I'm very fortunate to be able to do so! This is my profession. The events that I have participated in over the years during MOTM week have not been part of PHIP's MOTM, which was held at the Casa Marina. The one's I've run, and also participated in, have been independent ancillary events that went on outside the Casa. These events that I've run over the years have assisted in keeping that roof over my head. 

SWIM and Trop Rock Strong, are focused on independent performers. So, we're on the same team!

This year there was no PHIP/MOTM, but there was Trop Rock Strong. It went really well too. What Trop Rock Strong was, was a Trop event. While most of the performers may have had Buffett as a major influence, there were those who didn't and this was not a Buffett related event in Key West. This was an event that focused only on Trop musicians and songwriters. And I thank all those who broke their backs putting it together for all of us, particularly under the COVID 19 situation. 

And equally important, gratitude, to those who came down in person, as well as those from afar, watching gigs on streaming cams and social media, to support all of us. Thank you!

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