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Tuesday, October 30, 2012


^Listen to 'Raise My Glass To The Upper 48" while you read the blog!^

For those who have read the blog for over a year, may recall I did a piece around this time last year, regarding the Florida State highway A1A? I’m covering it again because not everyone who reads this blog today, read it last year.

My friend Renn Loren, from Norway, by way of Hawaii, wrote me this week from the cold Scandinavian country regarding his trip back to the Keys(he arrives here tomorrow) and said “Maybe we could travel up A1A and you could show me all of the significant places!” My reply was easier than he expected, I suspect. “Oh I can tell you right now! It starts at the end of Bertha St at the water. First you’ll pass the Sheratan hotel on your left, heading north, with Smathers beach on your right, a couple of condos there on the left as well. The salt ponds will follow on the left, while Smathers Beach remains on the right.

One mile up from Bertha Street you will see the Mile Marker 1 sign, as A1A does not have a Mile Zero sign. Continue up A1A and the airport and East Martello Tower ( where Robert the haunted doll is) and a seawall on the right. Curving around on the right is where the old Houseboat Row used to be and somewhere around here is Mile Marker 2.


Over a small bridge and on to the intersection with US 1 and you’re done! A1A continues again up in Miami/Dade County.”
Fact is, A1A is only about 2 ½ miles long in the Florida Keys. That’s it.
When Jimmy Buffett wrote the song about “Strolling up the avenue that’s known as A1A” he was talking about walking along that beach stretch of road. The majority of people from out of town thought that A1A was the Overseas Highway to the Keys. However, A1A stands for ”Atlantic 1 Alternate”, giving the traveler an option of traveling on either US1 or A1A. “Alternate” is the key word. If there is no other road to travel on, you can’t have an alternate route, so at these points you re-join US1. Welcome to the Keys, where we take pride of having only one road in and one road out of the Keys and that Road is US 1, which starts at the corner of Whitehead and Fleming Streets and runs 2,377 miles (3,825km) up to the Canadian border at Ft. Kent, Maine. Another significant note is that A1A is a state road, where US1 is a federal highway.

We’ve had a change in our “TROPICAL SONGWRITERS IN PARADISE” show. Allen “Frankendread” Holland ran into some obstacles up where he is in Illinois and regretfully won’t be making it down. We however had a pool of players on the waiting list and brought in Rich McGuire, who lives up in Florida somewhere and plays in the band Schooner and the Wharf Rats. Rich will be playing in the same time slot as Allen was , 3:30 – 4. Also, Ryan and Andy from Homemade Wine have a rehearsal with a horn section, so regrettably, they had to bail. On the flip side, we did pick up Todd Sparks from up in the panhandle of Florida! Here’s the schedule!

November 1st at T’s Bistro and Bar 1114 Duval St. Key West (around the corner from the Southernmost point) Noon – 8 PM
11:55 -12:25 Key West Chris Rehm - Conch Republic
12:30 – 1:00 Renn Loren - Norway/Hawaii
1:00 – 1:30 Dani Hoy – Pennsylvania
1:30– 2:00 C.W. Colt – Conch Republic
2:00 – 2:30 John Friday - Florida
2:30 – 3:00 Swim Skinny – Ohio

3:30 – 4:00 Rich McGuire - Florida
4:00 – 4:30 Loren Davidson - California
4:30 – 5:00 Adrienne- Conch Republic
5:00 – 5:30 Steve Tolliver – Florida
5:30 – 6:00 Ray West - Conch Republic
6:00 – 6:30 TBA
6:30 -7:00 Young Rebel Goombas’ – Richie Saccenti, Cosmo Mallardi, Rob Cutts Long Island, N.Y.
7:00 – 7:30 Todd Sparks - Florida
7:30 – 8:00 Rich In Spirit – Conch Republic

Saturday, October 13, 2012


^ Listen to “Key West Blues” featuring the Key West Junkanoos, who were recorded LIVE in the Goombay Festival parade!!! ^


Fantasy Fest is rapidly approaching. Buckle your seat belts and hang on. This year’s theme is “Aconchalypse” is this year’s theme, in recognition of the Mayan prediction for the end of the world coming in December.

Fantasy Fest is far and away, the wildest celebration in the United States and quite possibly, the world. Fantasy Fest is a ten day festival which actually starts with the Goombay Festival. The African American population in Key West, by and large traces their roots to the Bahamas (likewise in Miami who also have a Goombay Festival) and that is where the Goombay Festival originates. The Goombay Festival includes a parade with the Key West Junkanoos, a Key West Bahamian Street band consisting of many drums, often brass instruments, and always very colorful costumes. This parade is a MUST see! They start on Whitehead St (just a few doors up from my place) at the corner of Whitehead and Truman. They head up Truman, then down Duval to Petronia St., where they turn left and go to the end, where a concert is held.

At night the place to be is the Blue Heaven restaurant where a smaller ensemble of Junkanoos play on the water tower. Regretfully, in the last two years the establishment across the street from Blue Heaven has been blaring their “music” to the point that the Junkanoos over at Blue Heaven, are all but drowned out. Hopefully this year they’ll be more respectful. Everyone can enjoy their music without being oppressive on others.


The Goombay Festival starts on Friday and on Saturday it’s basically a street food festival with food from the Caribbean and South America. Sunday a few things start hopping on Fantasy Fest and Monday they close Greene St in front of Captain Tony’s after six. As the week continues, the festivities continue down Duval St, which is likewise closed. Different bars have different parties. There’s a plaid party at Captain Tony’s, where everyone wears plaid. Finnegan’s Wake has a green party; Sloppy Joe’s has a toga party. Kelly’s has … a wild party, while The Green Parrot usually has The Russian Elvises playing. These parties are held throughout the week, so the revelers go to one party one night and another party the next.
Body paint is considered clothing, indecently. Because of this, nudity is not uncommon at all, some to more degrees than others. The funny thing is that everyone is very, very respectful during Fantasy Fest. If you want to take a picture of a girl in body paint, you simply ask and the answer is inevitably, “yes!”.
The Fantasy Fest parade is always held on the last Saturday of the month. On this day, 90,000+ have gradually arrived on the island over the week and the parade of over fifty floats rolls from the Truman Waterfront, up Southard St., down Whitehead St, across Front St, and down Duval to its culmination at United St.
I could go on for hours and hours, but if anyone wants to see Key West, Key West’s absolute panicle is Fantasy Fest. Often the visitors of other festivals held here come and think they are really getting wild. Nothing comes remotely close. Nothing. It’s akin to winning at a little slot machine, verses breaking the bank in Monte Carlo!

Here I’m posting some pictures from years past and be rest assured, we’ll have more from this year’s as well!

MOTM is also coming to Key West again, officially from Wednesday, October 31st to Sunday, November 4th. Unofficially of course, it starts on Monday, October 29th. The official event is held at the Casa Marina, with very, very few minor exceptions. What baffles me is that there are people who actually go to “The Casa”, as it’s known locally, and never leave! Really? What’s the point of coming to Key West? I can see staying there as a hotel and perhaps seeing some of the events, but actually staying there full time… why bother coming to Key West in the first place?

Fact of the matter is, Key West is hopping all over town with trop rock events everywhere. Plus, this is KEY WEST, not main street U.S.A. How many times when I was working in the gallery when I first got here, did I say to people visiting “You know? This is a different country” and EVERY ONE AGREED! “It really IS!!” All in all, there will be about 6,000 visitors to Key West for the MOTM related festivities. For those of us who are locals, this always pales in reference to the ten days of Fantasy Fest, which directly precedes it, where 90,000 + descend on our fair island hamlet, often with revelers dressed in outlandish costumes, or less. After that extravaganza, anything would pale beside it. However, it’s a very nice break at the same time.

Key West is an interesting enigma. On the one hand it’s considered Mecca for the Trop Rock world, on the other hand there’s really not all that much Trop Rock that goes on here the other 51 weeks of the year. Willie T’s will have Trop Rock artists for maybe half the month, albeit on one of their three shifts, the other two shifts being a rock set of one nature, or another. Schooner Wharf might have a Trop Rock band in about once every six to eight weeks. Having said that, they DO have Michael McCloud there every Wednesday through Sunday in the afternoon. Margaritaville always has Trop Rock acts in, however who wants to go to Margaritaville? It’s a tourist trap, no different than Sloppy Joe’s, or the most obnoxious bar on the island, Irish Kevin’s, which is geared to the 21 - 30 year old crowd anyway.

An excellent bar is Smokin’ Tuna Saloon. Smokin’ Tuna will often find Scott Kirby playing there, as well as the occasional Trop Rock performer, during an event or a promotion. Also, maybe once a month or so The Hog’s Breath Saloon will feature a Trop Rock performer on one of their sets. Again, like ‘Tuna, during events such as MOTM, they’ll load up.

This year I will be hosting an event “Tropical Songwriters in Paradise”, which will be held at “T’s Bistro and Bar” at 1114 Duval. Thursday, November 1st! There is no cover charge!!! (any place that has a cover charge, excluding cruises, avoid. 51 weeks a year cover charges do not exist in Key West, so don’t allow someone to treat you like the village idiot, just because you’re unfamiliar with it. As I say, the cruises are different and well worth every penny).

This event is the quieter end of Duval, not far from the Southernmost point and the songwriter event will accordingly fit the neighborhood. Because of its nature, it will be held during the day, noon – seven pm. Here songwriters will both explain their songs, as well as their craft.

It’s going to be an intimate affair; up close and personal with the artist. Most will be solo, though there are a few who will be up there with co-writers as well. Additionally, there will be national acts, international acts (where else will you get to hear a Trop Rock artist from… Norway???) plus artists who make their home here in the Conch Republic, as far up the Keys as Marathon. You can see what music written in the Keys sounds like! It’s a wide gamut indeed! Conch Rock!!!


T’s Bistro and bar offers both inside and outside seating, plus a full bar. They also have an outrageous menu, with about six breakfast items at $4.95. Home cooked meals at fast food prices. They also have a nightly dinner special every night at $9.50. These go on every day, seven days a week.


As for the “Tropical Songwriter’s In Paradise” event, here’s the tentative schedule:
Tropical Songwriters Schedule
11:55 -12:25 Key West Chris - Conch Republic
12:30 – 1:00 Renn Loren Norway/Hawaii
1:00 – 1:30 Dani Hoy – Pennsylvania
1:30– 2:00 C.W. Colt – Conch Republic
2:00 – 2:30 John Friday - Florida
2:30 – 3:00 Swim Skinny – Ohio

3:30 – 4:00 Allen “Captain Frankendread” Holland – Illinois /Pennsylvania
4:00 – 4:30 Loren Davidson - California
4:30 – 5:00 Adrienne- Conch Republic
5:00 – 5:30 Rich In Spirit – Conch Republic
5:30 – 6:00 Ray West - Conch Republic
6:00 – 6:30 Homemade Wine’s Ryan Sheley & Andy Westcott
6:30 -7:00 Young Rebel Goombas’ – Richie Saccenti, Cosmo Mallardi, Rob Cutts

Stop By and enjoy the fun! Artists will have their CDs available. Additionally, artwork from our pal Artist Koz is adorning the walls, all over T's Bistro and is available for purchase!!! How cool is that?

I will be playing at additional events as well:
Monday at the Rum Barrel with Loren Davidson's open jam.. starts around 8 I think?

Wednesday - 9:30am to 12:30pm Loren Davidson and Dani Hoy's cruise gig

Wednesday - 7:00 - 7:15 Schooner Wharf

Thursday - I kick off the songwriter's Gig at T's Bistro & Bar at noon

There’s an event on Friday that I will be at, which hasn't been announced as of yet, so I’ll extend the courtesy and wait for them to do so first.

I may also do a mini house concert here at my place on Sunday, November 4th, serving the Key West Bar Tending With Boris’ Carl Tanzler Bloody Mary/Bloody Maria…This IS the best “Bloody Mary” in the entire Conch Republic, Bar None!!!! not sure on that one yet however..
(See video)


It’s expensive to live here. Housing is very expensive. For a single bedroom loft apartment in Key West, I pay the same as I did in Cutler Bay, Florida, only 138 miles north of here, for a three bedroom house, with a built in pool. A lot of the people in town live paycheck to paycheck. Personally, I have very little tolerance for someone who doesn’t tip fairly. Frankly, they are thieves and they are stealing from the people who render services and time to them.

Here’s the golden rule of thumb on gratuity:

If you can’t leave an 18% or more tip to your bartender or restaurant server, you have no business ordering anything there to begin with.

It’s really that simple. Elementary my dear Watson, as Sherlock Holmes would say! I use 20% because it’s both fair and easy for a simple mind like mine. ;-)

So, if your bill is $40.00, you leave $8.00, or $48.00 total.



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Trop Rockers from Norway, Poker Run, The Birdman Flies

Trop Rockers from Norway, Poker Run, The Birdman Flies

^listen to “Raise My Glass To The Upper 48” while you read the blog!^

Wow! So much has gone on since my last blog, I’ll try to condense things.
Lets see.. Renn Loren and Jocky (say “Yocky) arrived in the U.S. from Norway, of all places. Renn is a great songwriter and fabulous guy, who originates from Hawaii. Exactly why he ever settled in Norway about twenty years ago, I never grasped a hold of however. Perhaps a blessing in ice, shall we say, as Norway is far and away the strongest economy in Europe, by far. Renn and Jocky landed somewhere on the mainland of Florida and stayed with Renn’s longtime pal, Ned Daniels up in Punta Gorda. After about a week they headed down and stayed with me for several days, then off to another location nearby.

They played at Smokin Tuna with a group of local musicians, featuring a couple of guys I played with, Richard Crooks and Ericson Holt, on drums and keyboards, then also Bo Fodor on lead guitar. A wonderful sound emitted from the stage and I was happy helping to put everyone together prior to Renn and Jocky’s departure from Scandinavia. Kind of a twist on what I regularly do and I did find it fun! It should be also noted; Renn and Jocky constantly talked about how much they appreciated Charlie Bauer’s hospitality as well. It was fun having two Trop Rockers in from Norway. From Norway! Who would have thunk?


During their stay here, which in total was over a month, we ended up doing a lot of things together as well, outside of music. Together with my old friends and their new friends, Rick and Cindi Hogan, we also went on a few expositions out on the water here. One was Marvin Key and another was Pick Nick Island. Marvelous days on the water indeed! It was such a pleasure to see the joy and excitement of two people who never experience a tropical climate and water where they come from.

We also had the 40th annual Poker Run, which was started by Phil Peterson’s Harley Davidson dealership in Miami. This event usually draws about thirty thousand bikers and friends to town, many of which don’t even come on motorcycles, but arrive for the festivities nevertheless. Those who participate in the run itself, leave from either of the two Peterson Harley Davidson dealerships in Miami and Cutler Bay (southern Miami/Dade County). The Poker Run takes them through the magnificent Florida Keys. Island hopping, key to key and having designated stops at particular establishments all along the way. The drive through the Keys has been consistently reviewed over the years as being one of the top ten scenic drives in the United States. Who am I to argue with that? You have the Atlantic Ocean on your left and the Gulf of Mexico on your right. In 1997 I wrote a song for my then band, The Rabble Rousers, called “Poker Run”. One of the lines went “Got the Atlantic on my left, the Gulf on my right, thirteen fifty cc’s between my theighs…”


This year’s Poker Run was a fun event, as always, although I will say that the crowd seemed a slight bit down from last year. The bikes, as always, were stunning!
The establishments on Duval and off, appreciate the Poker Run as well. The bikers really support the community. Sure, they come in and have parties in the bars, however they also stop by other establishments as well. I recall back when I was in the art business; the gallery always had an excellent weekend. I recall selling a few high ticket Giclees myself back then. Plus, the people in the service industry, the bars and restaurants, always look forward to the Poker Run. These folks tip at worst, fairly. They are great! The next blog will cover tipping more in depth and have instructions

It’s with a very heavy heart that I pass on the following Key West News: Mark Bergen, a.k.a “Birdman” or just “Bird” passed away this last week. “Bird” and I worked together when I first arrived on the island at Wyland Gallery. Naturally, this put us in close, constant contact over the duration we worked together, which was over a year, I’d say. I never heard anyone call him Mark, I don’t think, save for his girlfriend Sharron perhaps. They called him Birdman because he and Sharron had an African Gray Parrot, which was a large bird in itself. It was funny working with Bird and I always got a kick out of it. We always got on great. He was always honest and really had no room for those without ethics. Sometimes he would vanish from the gallery and everyone would ask “Hey! Where’s Bird?”. Turned out he had slipped over to the Small Bar, just a few doors down, and grabbed himself a libation, in the best of Key West traditions!

After a long time Bird decided that he wanted to pursue other endeavors and he left the gallery. He picked up a job selling ocean sails and sunset cruises in booths on the street. Bird was a natural at it and did well at it. However, as long as I knew him, (four years) poor bird never seemed to have any money. I’d bump into him in a bar and he’d always speak of himself in the third person. “Well, do you think you might buy the Birdman a beer?” All you could do was laugh and buy him a beer!
It’s a funny thing in Key West. A lot of tourists come here to see a specific musician. ”Yeah! We just arrived and our first order of business is to see Michael McCloud play at Schooner Wharf!”.

Bird had the exact same appeal with people and I've seen it on many occasions. People would arrive in Key West and look up Bird! A guy who sold them tickets for a sunset cruise and actually hooked up with them later and personally showed them the fun side of Key West, escorting them to the places he knew they would like from his conversation with them. It happened all the time. “Hey Chris! Hey! I want you to meet my friends Bill and Joanne. They are in from Tulsa and it’s great that they met you as you’re a Key West musician and an interesting person!”. We’d hang out for maybe a half hour and then Bird would be off with them to another bar. Every time these people would return, they’d be sure to look Bird up!

Once Bird asked me, “Hey Chris! I have these friends coming to town and they are getting married over at the Pier House tomorrow. Could you play for their reception at The Pier House? I did, naturally and in talking to the bride and groom, they told me “Oh, we’ve always come here and hooked up with Birdman! This is our fifth time!”.

Bird was the ultimate Key West Ambassador, if there ever was one.

Bird enjoyed his drinks and that is one of the endearing qualities he had. He often was banned from Captain Tony’s, which was a funny thing unto itself actually. At one point, it was “banned for life”, however common sense prevailed and it was repealed. When Bobby D and I played there he’s always ask if he could sing “Creep” with us and sometimes “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. He did well at them too! Never out of key or anything! Plus, the crowd, whomever they were, loved it.

Birdman may never had money, but he always managed to keep a roof over his and Sharron’s head, whom he loved very, very much.

I saw him about two weeks ago, across from the Green Parrot. I was riding home from picking up groceries at Fausto’s. I always stopped to talk to Bird when I’d see him and this was no exception. After the usual greeting, Bird told me he was trying to get some sort of assistance, as he had been diagnosed with cancer of the liver. We talked a little and I wished him the best. A week later I learned he passed away after having fallen into a coma. I was very sad to learn that I had lost a friend. Whenever I either thought of Bird, or bumped into him, he brought a smile to my face. What an incredible epitaph, something we all should strive for indeed.

Key West lost perhaps it’s greatest ambassador. Mark “Birdman”/ “Bird” Bergen was a true Key West character, if there ever was one. Godspeed Bird. I was always proud to say you were my friend.


Photo by Al Subarsky


Photo by Kenneth Hines

Bird was a Key West character through and through. He would be the first to raise his glass to the upper 48, while having no intention to ever leaving the Conch Republic. Fly on Bird!

(Special thanks to Al Subarsky and Kenneth Hines for the pictures of the Birdman)

Key West Chris' music is available at iTunes, CDBaby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio. Search "Key West Chris"