If you want a break from the winter weather that’s got the country in a snow-white funk, you can easily find one through music. The ever-strengthening “Trop Rock” movement which had its beginnings with Jimmy Buffett years ago can now be found through many delightful internet radio stations and some commercial AM/FM outlets, as well. The announcers and programmers who bring us this music have a real love for tropical topics and a great relationship with many of the artists they play.
I have been very fortunate to have many of my songs included in many Trop Rock playlists. If you follow my music, you know that I refer to it as “Hillbilly Blues Caribbean Rock & Roll” because of the variety of my musical influences. Having played in a high school rockabilly band and a college bluegrass group, I brought the influences of those styles, along with blues and New Orleans music I grew up hearing to my act when I began playing beach bars in the 1980s.
Back then, my friend Danny McCann and I played nightclubs, yacht clubs, organized and extraordinarily impromptu parties up and down the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle to New Orleans. Among our destinations as the occasionally referred-to duo “Whistle Stop” were DeFuniak Springs, Long Beach, Pensacola, Pascagoula, Fairhope, Mobile, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and points beyond. It was all aboard for anyone who would listen to us play originals and covers.
Among the highlights Danny and I experienced was a show at the Flora-Bama during which someone threw a smoke bomb into a trashcan. Smoke began to fill the room (we were on the back deck which had an awning over it) and the people on the crowded dance floor continued dancing as if nothing strange were happening. As it began to get difficult to see the neck of my guitar at the end of my arm, I looked at Danny and said, “What should we do?” Danny can not only play anything with strings connected to a tuning key, he also plays “low-key” very well. I would say that Danny McCann has brought subtle calmness a rousing crescendo, if that’s possible. So he looked at me deadpan through the smoke and quietly said, “I guess we keep playing.” So we did.
Among the people who were playing then on the Upper Gulf and, like me, still playing now, there and elsewhere, are Brent Burns and Greg Memphis. I always look forward to my Greg Memphis Christmas card from Orange Beach because I know it will bring some warmth to a Tennessee winter. Greg, Danny and I first played together in 1980. I became aware of Brent when I had a poolside gig at the Holiday Inn in Gulf Shores in 1983 during the afternoons and he played the inside bar at night. He had a great original tune then that I hope he still plays called Champagne in a Paper Cup.
So the good news is that you can now find this music anytime on the Internet. I am happy that songs I wrote and recorded on the Gulf Coast with titles like Pool People and Destination: Gulf of Mexico are being played along with songs by Brent, Howard Livingston, Tiki Thom, Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown and Barefoot Man, who is based in the Caribbean. Barefoot Man recorded a song I co-wrote with Jim Sparks called “Voice Mail” on his Three Coconuts album and I’ll always be grateful for that. Oh, and there’s the guy who started it all, Jimmy Buffett.
So crank up the blender, put some water on for the shrimp and tune in some Trop Rock for a little warmth this winter.
Here are some of the online outlets to this fun music (or just Google “Trop Rock” and you’ll find these and others):
www.radiomargaritaville.com (I don’t have to tell you who runs this one)
www.beachfrontradio.com captained by DJ Jeff Allen
www.pvradio.com – Permanent Vacation Radio, with skipper Thomas Fraser
www.wbwc.com ‘s Island Time Radio with Dennis King, who’s had me as a guest several times
Learn More about Les at www.leskerr.com