It started the first week we arrived with a jam on the back deck of Paul’s Blue Sky Catamaran. Guitars, ukulele, harmonica, and even a keyboard came out from below decks. That jelled into a band Elia named Hair Of The Dawg. We wrote and played the Salty Dawg Blues, with me singing in front of over 150 people at the Salty Dawg dinner, then Jimmy Buffet songs at the Thanksgiving day potluck. We rewrote Christmas carols and joined with 9 other dinghies to serenade the anchored boats in Maho bay on Christmas eve.
Slowly we are finding the musicians. Sharing the tunes. I’m playing more guitar than ever and getting over my fear of singing in front of people. Elia with her banjo and her public debut of Cripple Creek on the Catamaran back deck the other night was awesome. Brother Ed in and out with his guitar for the O’bros jams. Lots of people on boats with guitars, some playing a lot, others feeling like this would be a good time to learn. Giving guitar lessons. Let’s start with blues in E.
Wherever we go there are bands in bars.
The Steel Drum band that plays Sunday nights at Shirley Heights in Antigua high atop a hill in an Admiral Nelson era fort overlooking English Harbor. 20 or so guys all playing parts of an orchestra on steel drums and other percussion. Bag haired Rastas up front on the bass and treble steel drums. Full kit in the back, Young and old in matching T’s. Getting into it. Many different parts making up the whole. One guy just knocking on the wood block all night long, keeping up his end. Old rock standards with the island twist. Hard not to dance, to move.
Followed by what was billed as a reggae band, but was far from Bob Marley. Insistent, pounding, loud, singer out front rapping, singing, man on one song, woman the next. No break between sounds. Loud. No space. Island rave. We couldn’t keep up.
At Lagoonies on St Martin we made a rare late evening dinghy ride in for The Sound Experience from Antigua. Billed as a combination of swing and funk. Swunk! Sweaty young artist types creating something new. “I used to be a seaman, now I’m dancing with my demons” sung by the earnest long haired, shirt open post Jim Morrison lead singer. Bopping gal on a nord keyboard. Sparkling shirtless bass player with a teenage girl in spandex oozing up a flying hula hoop.
Scratch band on Virgin Gorda. Wrinkled, smiling old man playing banjo. All strum, no picking. Old timey sounding like calypso/ pre reggae. Rock standards done to the island beat, all influenced by a different musical history than my own. Grew up in a different kind of groove. Bass player looking bored playing the simple music. Talked to him later and he is in a jazz band, another reggae band. Plays any gigs he can.
George Werthmore at Sopers Hole on Tortola. Solo guitarist finger picking Hot Tuna, Jerry Jeff, Mozart. Bulging eyes, funky hat, all New York, stopped and stayed at our table sharing long stories of running a nightclub in South Africa and all of the crazy things that went down. Played with Hot Tuna once and has tales of Jack Cassidy backstage.
A local band at the lobster festival on Anegada. Huge bass speakers. Need to back way up, or get off to the side. Full sound of much percussion, but then to realize that there was only one drummer, and one guy on a computer that was programming in at least half the sounds. It felt like cheating. Then out one night to a beach bar to hear smooth island schmaltz played by three guys with matching shirts singing pop tunes, while Elia and I danced barefoot in the rain.
There was a local Jam night on St. Martin. A good old american rock and roll band was playing Tom Petty, Rolling Stones. They were ripping with 2 guitarists, weary and jaded looking at 30, smoking cigarettes, trading off licks. Old guy drummer was locked in, the bass solid. I just sat and grooved and smiled and felt a profound welling of joy inside. I understood the language they were using. I could speak it, and just appreciated it for being spoken well. The more I listen, the more I play, the more I hear. Damn I love the music.