"Yippie Cayo Hueso"
“Yippie Cayo Hueso” Is up for nomination for song of the year with the TRMA!
While the expression “Yippie” needs no explanation, Cayo Hueso for many, may. Loosely translated it's the Spanish name for Key West. I’ll get to that in a second. Pronunciation for Cayo Hueso is:
KAI - o WAY-so. So the song is essentially, “Yippie Key West”!
The literal translation of Cayo Hues is Bone Key. You’ll hear some say it’s “Bone Island”, however, that would be “Isla Hueso, whereas Cayo/Key/Cay is a specific type of island. When the Spanish first arrived on the island they found the beach littered with human bones, the result of a Native American war that had previously taken place. The Spanish speakers of the world, to this day, call the island Cayo Hueso.
The song’s back story actually goes back to 2009, though the song wasn’t written until 2013. So there’s a story here! HA HA!
I was with my friends Gary Ek and Key Largo Joe Gowran one afternoon here in Key West. It was a long day of typical Key West activities. We started off at B.O.’s Fishwagon for several beers and a bite to eat. They left via a dingy Joe had and we made arrangements to meet up at Margaritaville later to see Amy Lee, who was playing there that evening. My plan was to ride home, grab a bite to eat, then head back to rendezvous with them at 8.
On the way home I passed Kelly’s Caribbean (today known as “First Flight”) and knowing they brewed their own beer, I essentially was, in effect, a human dividing rod for beer, on a bicycle. This was Key West living at it’s very best! I had several of their beers and suddenly realized I had about five minutes to get to Margaritaville! Where had the time gone? Where had the beer gone? Apparently, as good a time as I was having, time fell by the wayside as I quaffed my early evening away.
I peddled my way over to Margaritaville and met back up with Gary and Joe. We had a marvelous time listening to Amy’s fabulous sax! If I’m not mistaken, I believe there was also rum, beer, and tequila involved with somebody going over backwards in their chair, with no harm done, and the aforementioned alcohol acting as a trampoline, preventing the potential bruised ego which otherwise could potentially have occurred. If I’m not mistaken, I believe there was also an incident on a bicycle upon our disembarkation from the establishment.
All in all, quite a good round of Key West fun and memories!
So, now let’s zoom up to 2013. In the interim years I had done a lot of sailing with my friends Larry Poff and Michelle Dugan on Larry’s 41 ft. Morgan sailboat, named “Transition”. It’s always a must if you’re in Key West, to get out on the water! After all, here we are sitting well over one-hundred miles out to sea. If the opportunity is at hand, plain and simple, you get out on the water!
So here I am in 2013 and I get the inspiration to write a song that celebrates Key West! in doing so, I came up with the most fantastic name “Yippie Cayo Hueso”, which has a tongue-in-cheek tip of the hat, to the old cowboy song “Yippie Ki Yay”
Note: This next section is for musicians and the pedestrian section continues after. Please feel free to read it if you are not, but for some it may be tedious.
A celebration song needs to be upbeat, so that was my first goal. The subject matter would be getting out on the water and as a celebration song it would naturally have to be in a major key. I chose the key of E, however, I put the capo on the second fret using the D formation, as the first position E doesn’t have that majestic sound of the D inversion.
My #1 goal musically is always to sound like no one else and after that, not to sound like anything else I’ve ever done previously. If I can’t do either of those, I’ll shelve the project. That goes with any song I write.
Yippie Cayo Hueso got off on the right foot. The verse was musically 1 - 4 - 1 - 5 - 4. with the kick in the pants that was called for.
The bridge was really unique in that it jumps to the 4 chord as a Maj7 in the third position on the neck, then going to the 5, but not as a chord, but rather an octave, only implying the chord and giving a very unique sound. This gives the song a majestic, rising crescendo while the lyric is countering and offsetting that by saying “Back on the mainland they’re wound so tight..” At the same time while the chord and the octave are mathematically rising from 4 to 5, the inversions are receding from the 9th fret to the 7th, creating an entirely false illusion.
The bridge continues, albeit completely changing to a minor chord mode giving an entirely different color and feel to the song while Dani Hoy sings solo “Just take a sail on a sunset eve, in the twilight you can’t believe.” with ending by changing from E Major to E Minor for that second to last chord of the bridge (Em + 9) and resolving on a 5/5 sus/5.
This is followed by the instrumental section, which again, is unique. What makes it unique is that it features a rhythm guitar solo. This is loosely a backward version of the first section of the bridge in that it does the 4 octave to the 5 Maj 7.
Coming out of this it just rolls directly right into the last verse.
This is followed by a rousing “GO!” which brings it back to the chorus and a rousing full stop 4 – 5 – 1 ending.
The song celebrating Key West, showcases a sail out on the water. Being a celebration it starts off with the chorus, whereas most songs have the chorus after a couple of verses. On the live album, our friend Patricia Henriques lead the crowd and had the entire bar singing along with us! It was fabulous!!!
Thank you everyone, and Pat for taking the bull by the horns!
I've always been so moved being out on the water in any capacity, sailboat, or powerboat. Some say we, as humans, have a subconscious connection with the ocean, as that's where we evolved from, as well as the fact that 60% of our human body is water. Combine that with a sailboat is perhaps the most peaceful experience that exists on the face of the earth.
Think about it, here we are on this Utopian island, well over one hundred miles out to sea, we go out on a sailboat on an incredible day, perfect breeze, it's sunny, and a pod of dolphins are swimming with the boat.
If that's not an inspiration to write a song, nothing is!
So, I wrote the song about being on the boat sailing out to Sand Key, which is nine miles west of Key West, just north of the light out there. We've done this many times, so it's autobiographical.
The song also talks about dolphins swimming with the boat. Out sailing, when dolphins swim with your boat it is such a moving experience! So much so that I mention it in two verses! When dolphins swim with a boat, everyone on the boat is smiling! The dolphins are too! They are having fun!
The chorus mentions how tense people are on up on the mainland. Down here in the Keys we suggest visitors take a sunset sail. … They really need to!
The third verse talks about a pelican “flies like a B25 a half a foot off the waves”. It's always amazing to watch a pelican gliding for one to two hundred yards across the water, virtually not flapping it's wings at all. Talk about elegance and grace! This is it!
The reference to the B25 goes to Lt. Col. James Doolittle, who lead a raid in WW II where his group of 16 B25's flew just over the water to avoid enemy radar. Their flight was quite similar to that of the pelicans, in that they both flew mere inches above the water.
Pelicans also fly high and often appear to be smiling, which is likewise noted!
Well, I finished the song and I played it for Joe and Gary and Joe says “You used Yippie Cayo Hueso!”
I reply “Yeah!”
Joe: “I always use that saying!”
Joe: “You must have heard me say that?”
Me: “I don't recall”
Then Gary chips in: “Yeah, Joe says that all the time! Remember that time at B.O.'s Fishwagon and later at Margaritaville? I think he may have come up with it that day?”
(Joe Gowran talking to son Fantasy Fest Floozy)
That afternoon/evening was a crazy day. I didn't doubt either of them.
Back when I wrote the song “Raise My Glass To The Upper 48” My friend George Cornejo was visiting from Miami and as he was leaving said “Wow! You're here in Key West and we're in the upper 48!”. I had never heard the term “Upper 48”, but I was motivated to write a song about it!
It's not a practice of songwriters to give credit in a situation such as this. I recall reading Jimmy Buffett talking about how he heard a phrase and ended up writing a song about it. It's a common practice with songwriters and it's fully acceptable.
With George, had he not made that statement, I would have never written the song. Because of that, I gave him co-writing credit! I felt it was the right thing to do.
With Joe, it was slightly different in that I completely forgot both his discovery and use of the phrase “Yippie Cayo Hueso”. However, apparently it was buried somewhere in my subconscious! Like “Raise My Glass To the Upper 48”, “Yippie Cayo Hueso” never would have come about had it not been for Joe!
Therefor, in my book, Joe gets the co-writing credit! Thank you Joe Gowran!
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