Three decades gone by. 1984 was a big year in my world, and the world in general. Apple introduced the Macintosh. Michael Jackson was burned filming a Pepsi commercial, and Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father. Prince released Purple Rain, Tina Turner released Private Dancer, Springsteen released Born in the U.S.A., and Van Halen released (of course) 1984.
And February of 1984 was when I performed my first gig in the Keys at the old Compass Lounge in the old Holiday Inn.
I had already been on the road a few years at that point, working in a duo with Sallie Foster, another veteran entertainer who still performs regularly during season at the Bull in Key West. The Holiday Inn in Marathon was just another road gig (so we thought) on a five-week South Florida leg that included a stint on the old SeaEscape cruise ship sailing daily to Freeport and back.
Neither of us expected the warm welcome and loads of gig offers we received when we got here. As a musician, it was an amazing gift to be able to perform in one wonderful tropical island destination, and make a living playing music without having to travel. Sallie and I played at the old Holiday Inn as it changed to the Marathon Inn and then the Days Inn of Marathon. Months later, we formed the Red Hots and played at Sombrero Resort. I left that band back in 1986 to pursue my solo career and other projects, and thus began the Perpetual Island Tour!
Marathon was a bit different in 1984. US 1 through town was mostly two-lane and didn’t become four lanes until the Overseas Lounge. During season, traffic could be problematic. During the three years of the four-lane construction, traffic was a legitimate nightmare. Aviation Boulevard was the Marathon construction bypass. There was no McDonald’s. No Wendy’s. No Walgreen’s. No Publix. Winn Dixie was where Beall’s is now. And where Winn Dixie now sits was a grocery store called Pantry Pride.
Bars could stay open 24 hours, and many did. Late nights turned into early mornings, and I recall more than a few nights coming out of a dark club and being blinded by sunlight. The Idle Hour, the Driftwood, the Overseas, the Dog House, the Reef Bar, and the Brass Monkey all stayed open as late or as early as the clientele hung out. And there was a place called Fanny’s… you might be able to guess what happened there.
In addition to all the solo gigs, I performed (a lot) with Roy McAdams and Glenn Faast, had a stint in the Brass Monkey band with Freddie Bye, Ronnie B, and Robyn Robbins (Google that name for a music history tidbit), and played in other bands with names like the Dead Parrot Society, Men Without Parents, Stark Naked and the Car Thieves, and (now) Storm Watch. And I’ve played in most of the places up and down the Keys at one time or another, including several that are no more.
During those thirty years, I’ve managed to have a few side jobs (writing, publishing, broadcasting, politics), but none could ever take the place of my “real job” – playing music. To celebrate the past three decades of my Perpetual Island Tour, I’m playing a special 30th Anniversary Concert this Sunday, 4:00 p.m., at Sunset Park in Key Colony Beach. Please stop by, say hello, and enjoy an afternoon of music leading into the KCB Sunset Singers. Thanks to the Key Colony Beach Community Association for having me as part of the Concerts in the Park series… and thank you to everyone who has enjoyed my music throughout the years and helped me realize that we truly are “The Heart of the Keys.” I don’t know if I’ll get another 30 years here… but I don’t plan on putting the guitar down any time soon! See you at the gig!