Fifty Years of Dave Wegman
David Wegman hails from Fort Wayne, Indiana. He never attended any music or art school but taught himself to play music and had a wonderful uncle who showed him how to mix colors in oil.
In the 60s, Wegman built and raced A/Gas dragster. He raced all over the East and made it to South Florida. He discovered Key West, sold his dragster, bought an old Cuban sailboat, and started living on the hook near Wisteria (Christmas Tree) Island.
Wegman captured the Great Key West Snow Storm of 1971 in one of his first paintings, with a bit of dramatic artistic license. I was living in Miami and remember the snow storm of 71. Enough of a dusting of snow fell that I wrote “Help!” on my windshield but no snow drifts as Dave depicted in his painting. Dave started painting signs and doing what he needed to survive.
Later, Wegman lived in an apartment above Howie’s Lounge. He met Jimmy Buffett, the new folk singer in town who performed at Howie’s for $30 a night plus tips. The headliner was Coffee Butler who helped Buffett by allowing him to perform for free on his breaks before he got his own gigs there. Dave painted a sign showing Jimmy Buffett’s first gigs at Howie’s Lounge (copies are available).
In January 1981, Andy Baxter, then owner of Blue Heaven, gave Dave permission to have a birthday party for his brother Tim. He hired the Survivors band (Woody and Din Allen, Quint Lange and Marty Stonely). It was the first music in 40 years at Blue Heaven or west of Whitehead Street. Dave smoked a bunch of Kingfish, made a pot of Conch Chowder, and bought a keg of beer. Mayor Jimmy Weekly came by and Jimmy Buffett attended along with over 100 others.
Wegman built a 31-foot sailboat named Afrigan Queen II. Launched in 1980, he sailed around the Keys and the Eastern Caribbean for about ten years. He built the larger Afrigan Queen III, then took off and sailed around the world on an eight-year adventure in 1989.
Wegman has had an art studio in St. Barthélemy Island (St. Barts) in the Eastern Caribbean for almost 40 years. It’s above Le Select, a bar owned by friend Eddy Stakelborough. In 1980, Jimmy Buffet sailed into town, hung out at Le Select, and jammed with Dave and the owner. They later claimed it was home of the “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. Jimmy didn’t seem to mine.
In 1982, Wegman was anchored in St. Barts harbor on an 82-ft. boat that he chartered for it’s Key West owner. He had crew full of musicians who started a to jam one night and then the real fun began. Anchored next to him, aboard a boat called Water Pearl, was fellow music lover Bob Dylan. He heard the music, rowed over and came onboard, had a cool conversation with Dave about music and sailing for an hour, and then jammed with the other musicians on board.
Dave would go on to meet legendary Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards at Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. He took Keith to Ivan’s Campground because the owner Ivan played a Fender Stratocaster, same as the one Keith played. By the time Keith got the Strat tuned and ready to play, the power went out. So, he and Dave went out on the beach and smoked a joint. Within an hour, the power came back on and Dave got to jam with the great Keith Richards and Ivan for about two hours. Richards signed Dave’s Gibson guitar which now hangs at the Chicken Preserve.
Tony Jonas and Dave Wegman have shared the Key West “Chicken Preserve” home on Mickens Lane for 40 years until Tony’s recent passing. He found an old piano in the 80s and dragged it to the Preserve. Musicians would show up for pot luck dinners and bring their acoustic instruments resulting in some very cool jams. They kept everything the same, never changed a thing. Philanthropist Susan Meztger bought ten houses in Key West after 2000. She donated five to the Literary Society, kept the “Chicken Preserve” as an artist’s studio/gallery. She and her family continued to rent to Tony and Dave. Zack Brown would routinely visit the Preserve and jam with Dave for hours. Kenny Chesney stops by once in a while to this day.
Around 2000, Dave met Channing Lynn who became a sailing and music partner for over five years. They sailed the Caribbean together and along the way, she played her clarinet and learned several other instruments. Channing went on to graduate from Florida State with a degree in Music Therapy. They continue to be great friends and perform together at present day Andy’s Cabana.
Dave has captured these and many other stories in a new book with a serious sampling of his artistry, titled Fifty Years of Dave Wegman. The book is available at bookstores and gift shops in Key West.