Local band to play Keystock on April 2

In many ways, Howard Livingston personifies all that is good with the Keystock Music Festival. After all, the local music legend and festival pioneer has been instrumental since day one, integrating his uncompromising love for music with a passion for giving back — which is the fabric of the Keystock Music Festival.

Howard Livingston and the MM 24 Band will open the Keystock concert for headliners , which this year boasts Huey Lewis and The News on Saturday, April 2 at Truman Waterfront. 

Howard Livingston gave up his tie 10 years ago and switched his neckwear to a white puka shell necklace. By then, he had already written hit trop rock songs while baring cold winters in Chicago and a job that sent him traveling around the globe.

“I was sitting in a business meeting overseas, and someone asked me what time it was in Chicago,” he said. “I was daydreaming about my dock in Summerland and said I had no idea, I was living on Key West time.”

“Living on Key West Time” became one of Livingston’s hugely popular hits, which led him to meeting up with Joe Cleghorn, owner of Lazy Lakes RV Resort located at Mile Marker 24 in the Lower Keys and the co-founder of Keystock in 2009. “He’s the real dreamer who made this all happen,” said Livingston.

After playing two Keystocks at the campground, the two quickly realized they outgrew the area and upgraded to Truman Annex Waterfront.

What started as 3,000 people rocking out at Lazy Lakes RV Resort at the first event in 2009, which brought in country singer Cowboy Troy, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Mac McAnally at the Lower Keys location, turned into a night of jamming found nowhere else on the island chain. With more than 5,000 people coming through the gates for past events, to hear the likes of Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Three Dog Night, Grand Funk Railroad, and The Doobie Brothers, Keystock has grown to an eventful evening with some of music’s most talented.

“It’s an incredible feat to get these names down here,” said Livingston, on the bands who have played at Keystock. “Key West isn’t on the way to anywhere, no one is just passing through.”

The concert funds Homes for Veterans, a nonprofit which helps veterans with housing. Since its inception, the concerts have raised more than $250,000. 

“This community never ceases to amaze me,” said Livingston. 

Besides the tropical songs and great music, Livingston’s fans (and yes, he has his own fan club) look forward to seeing the famous Johnson marine outboard he hauls on stage to mix margaritas. At some events, he “sells” the first cocktail to raise money for charities such as KOA Kid’s Care Camps, which sends children with cancer to a weeklong fun camp free of charge — one of Livingston’s greatest passions.

The philanthropy has spread to his 13-year-old grandson, Micheal. At last year’s Black Friday Toys for Tots event, Micheal made a couple hundred dollars from selling his artwork, which he in turn went and spent in a gift shop. “I thought he was going to go blow it on toys and candy for himself, and he walked out with his arms filled with toys that he dropped into the Toys For Tots box,” Livingston said. “He truly has a heart of gold.”

Now, Howard’s life is all about his family, his dogs, and watching the sun set every night. And, he hasn’t put a tie back on since.

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