“I don’t want this to be about me, because it’s not,” said Joe Cleghorn, the man behind Keystock. “There are so many people who are pouring their soul into this thing. To make it about me would be wrong.”
A native of northern Alabama, Cleghorn’s voice was as smooth and sincere as the cool breeze that poured over our table at Two Friends Patio, where I finally got Joe to interview. But I’ve heard lines such as these before. False modesty is followed by a confessional of self-affirmations and all I needed to do was wait out the initial wave of formalities. I studied Joe’s demeanor for an opportunity to penetrate the humble performance, but he simply smiled and said, “You really need to interview Howard Livingston, or Dave McGlarthery, or Linda Fay. They were there from day one. Or write about Homes for Veterans Inc. and interview the family that will be receiving a home from last year’s event. But don’t make this about me.”
And with that, my story about the Doobie Brothers, who will perform live at Keystock on May 3, along with the man responsible for luring them to the Truman Waterfront in Key West, had taken an abrupt turn. It was no act, Joe’s humility was just as sincere as his gesture to buy breakfast (which he did), and from there, a story about a small RV park on Sugarloaf Key and shared love of music between a group of close friends with enormous hearts was charted.
Just as many melodic legends are forged, much of the Keystock Music Festival was conceptualized in Nashville, Tennessee and solidified over blackberry moonshine in the back of Cowboy Troy’s (of Big and Rich) tour bus. Joe Cleghorn had just purchased Lazy Lakes RV Resort on Sugarloaf Key when Linda Fay, who Joe refers to as the heart and soul of the resort, mentioned he should meet her friend and Keys music legend Howard Livingston.
“From the moment we met our friendship just continued to grow,” said Livingston of Cleghorn. “It was one of those things I call ‘lifers.’ Joe is just a humble guy. Most of the things he does for others, people don’t even know about. I’m honored to call him a friend.”
From there, the two pals, along with Cleghorn’s business partner, Dave McGlathery and the incredible staff of Lazy Lakes (who proudly refer to themselves as family more than work associates), began a series of successful concerts at the resort. Names such as Jerry Jeff Walker, Mac McAnally and Blood Sweat & Tears began to draw hundreds of music lovers to the quaint peninsula of Lazy Lakes.
“We originally started the concerts to promote Lazy Lakes,” said McGalthery from the resort’s clubhouse. “Who would’ve thought that Howard and Cowboy Troy would end up right here and write ‘We’re all the Same’?”
As the concerts grew, Joe and his team knew they would be searching for a larger venue to host the demand they had created. And then it happened. Two defining moments would shape the future of their shows. The first took place on Cowboy Troy’s tour bus. While the complete details of the afternoon remain a secret, one thing is certain; a few laughs, mixed with the blackberry moonshine, led to the origin of Keystock’s namesake. After that, a trip to Nashville would add the perfect blend of humanity to their passion for music.
“Since I first met Howard, he and his wife Cyndy were involved with Care Camps, which provides children fighting cancer, along with their brothers and sisters, a summer camp experience unlike any other,” said Cleghorn. “Seeing Howard give back made me realize how little I do. His passion really motivated me.”
One evening, as Cleghorn and McGlathery attended a Big & Rich concert in Nashville, the promoters came on stage and used concert proceeds to award a new home to a selected war veteran. At that point, the two buddies simultaneously looked at one another as Cleghorn said, “Man, wouldn’t that be cool to do?”
Soon after, Cleghorn created Homes For Veterans, Inc., a non-profit established to raise funds for a paid-in-full home to be awarded to a selected veteran. Suddenly, the greatest concert series to ever greet the Keys would have a purpose just as mighty as the musical talent.
“A lot of my customers at Lazy Lakes are veterans,” said Cleghorn. “These are the people who should be first on our lists. But for many who don’t have family fighting in wars, it’s all too easy to forget they exist.”
Last year, Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24 Band opened for Three Dog Night at the inaugural Keystock Music Festival at Truman Waterfront. Although hosting thousands of attendees along with an international music icon was an unforgettable feat, the ultimate prize for Livingston, the staff of Lazy Lakes and Cleghorn was the ability to award a war hero and his family a new home.
“This is what the name ‘Keystock’ is all about … taking stock in the Keys,” said McGlathery. “I hope we can continue to give a home away every year.”
Cleghorn is quick to point out that donating a home could not be the work of one entity. Instead, he credits a notable list of charitable locals for participating in Keystock.
“It’s amazing what you can do in a small town that cares,” said Cleghorn. “I honestly don’t think you could get this kind of support in a big city. People like Sub Zero, Monroe Concrete, Waste Management, SHP General Contractor, KW Rotary and so many others really make this thing happen.”
The Doobie Brothers are set to perform on Saturday, May 3 at Keystock at Truman Waterfront in Key West. Funds will be raised to benefit veterans, the Key West H.S. Scholarship Fund, the Rotary Club of Key West and Key West H.S. football. And while thousands will depart into the night with stories of one of the greatest bands of all time performing live in Key West, somewhere the Lazy Lakes staff members, Howard Livingston, Dave McGlathery and Joe Cleghorn will finally relax. And maybe, have a sip of blueberry moonshine.
Some tickets still remain for Keystock Music Festival at: www.keystix.com or call 305-745-1079.