Royal Minstrel of the Conch Republic
CW Colt – Royal Minstrel of the Conch Republic.
Coul William Colt (aka: CW Colt) has been in Key West so long that when asked where he’s from, he quickly answers “here.” Music had deep roots in his family. His grandfather had an orchestra in Indiana. He was young when he began singing in the school and church choirs. In 1963, at age 12, he played in his first band. Van Morrison influenced his early music.
Born into a military family, CW had been around the world several times by the time he was sixteen. In 1968, his father was stationed in Viet Nam during the violent Tet Offensive. His dad vividly remembers the sights, sounds, and smells of war, and came back from the war with undiagnosed post-traumatic stress syndrome.
In the late 1970s, CW signed with an agency in San Francisco, and his career took off. That same year, he was diagnosed with cancer. He had a tumor near his vocal chords. After numerous treatments, CW didn’t know if he was going to live, let alone sing again. He saw a Chinese doctor in San Francisco, Dr. Kong, who had him drink a special tea for two months. CW credits this with his remission. The surgical removal of the tumor affected his vocals for the next fifteen years. At over 100 years old, Dr. Kong, who CW credits with miraculously curing his cancer decades ago, is still practicing herbology along with his son, in Petaluma, California.
After his near-death experience, CW moved to the Upper Keys, in the mid 1980s, to be near his parents. In 1989, the CW Colt Band became the house band at Holiday Isle in Islamorada, opening for Bertie Higgins. Some days, he would play a gig in Marathon, a later one in Big Pine, and would finish the evening playing in Key West.
He writes songs about real life and living in the Keys. When playing a gig, he takes great pride playing his original music. One favorite, “Best Love”, is about the special love of his daughter. It’s a beautiful song that every father can relate to.
Another of Colt’s signature songs, “Mi Amigo Mosquito”, was written while playing at Gilbert’s Marina on Jewfish Creek near Key Largo. Every night, like clockwork, as the sun went down, the wind would blow the mosquitoes in from the Everglades. They would swarm while he was trying to play. To this day, he doesn’t know how he got through the gigs. He wrote the song in about twenty minutes, during a break. A few days later, he played it for Gilbert’s patrons. It was an instant hit.
CW brought some special stars to perform with him in Key West: Jody Payne, long-time guitarist for Willie Nelson, Bo Roberts, lead guitar and bandleader for Hank Williams, Jr., and Freebo, longtime bass player for Bonnie Raitt. All three headlined several shows with CW along with Richard Crooks on drums.
Captain Tony and Mel Fisher had a special relationship with CW and both grace the cover of one of his albums. In fact, Captain Tony said ‘he remembered holding CW in his arms in 1954 when CW was only six months old’ – CW is not sure if this is factually correct but he loved Captain Tony.
CW, along with Michael McCloud, wrote “The Ballad of the Atocha”, about Mel Fisher’s amazing treasure ship discovery. In the early 90s, CW was playing nine hours a day at Hammerheads (now Irish Kevin’s). Fisher would come by and have lunch almost every day. NOAA was proposing a Marine Sanctuary that would restrict Fisher’s activities, and it was to be voted on a week later. He asked CW to write a song, “Say No to NOAA”, that he could use in the election.
Fisher asked if CW could record it and have it in his office the next day (unbelievably). CW didn’t get off work until 9pm. He quickly wrote the song. Blaire Mooney had a recording studio on Summerland Key close to CW’s home. He woke Mooney up at 11pm, recorded the song, and got it to Fisher’s office the next morning. From that moment forward, Mel Fisher designated CW Colt as the Royal Minstrel of the Conch Republic.
CW retired from performing a year after Hurricane Irma. He worked in Key West for decades, saved his money, and invested wisely … in cannabis, of course. He said he has nothing to do and all day to do it. He is working on a new album in his upgraded studio. He doesn’t need to tour. He doesn’t perform publicly. He’s not even sure if he’ll release any new music – he is just enjoying writing music and having fun with songs. Music is more therapeutic for him these days.
He remembers what Captain Tony said to him on his death bed, “Live your life, make every one of your heartbeats count.” CW feels if he can make you laugh or cry, and get you to think, “then I’ve done what I’m supposed to do with my music.”
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