Guitar Buddies – a special gift

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Guitar Buddies – a special gift

By Ralph De Palma

George Victory, Rolando Rojas, Marty Stonely, Yvan Agbo jammin at Schooner Wharf



Three wonderful Key West guitarists had a unique bond through music – George Victory, Yvan Agbo, and Rolando Rojas. Although these accomplished musicians came from very different musical backgrounds, they were drawn together, sometimes for a special gig performance, a new music idea to define, or just for their own enjoyment of ‘jamming together’.

Rolando and Yvan at a Blue Heaven gig.

Their individual guitar musicality was special. George was the most experienced but had recently learned, what he termed, the warmth of the Blues. Yvan could rip off extreme solos on a whim or switch from popular to classic with improvisation that impressed all. Rolando was classically trained in Chilean conservatories but his basic love of all music was overwhelming and infectious. Both Rolando and Yvan played guitar with fingers (no picks) and with a similar quick music style.

Together, they were “Guitar Buddies” fooling around at each other’s gigs, sometimes quite accidentally creating a sensational audience response to their version of an old cover they had made their own. Yvan celebrated the 5th year anniversary of his father’s passing with a profound solo acoustical instrumental version of Sting’s “Fields of Gold”. He recorded it on his iPhone and posted on Facebook. It received thousands of views and comments.

Yvan had a special gift that he shared with every audience.

Today, Rolando survives his friends. The amazing George Victory passed in July 2016, and Yvan Agbo passed in August 2018. It still hurts deeply, and he speaks of them often.

Two monster guitarist, great entertainers, and very special “Guitar Buddies”, together George Victory and Yvan Agbo.

George Victory grew up in Five Rivers, a village in the Arouca area of Trinidad.  Both parents sang – his mother sang in the Church choir.  At age 5, George started performing in Trinidad. After his father and uncles surprised him with his first guitar, George taught himself to play a Louie Armstrong tune, “That Old Black Magic”.  His father encouraged him to learn Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. George toured extensively with The Mighty Sparrow. Later, he toured with the Roy Cliff All-Stars, opening for Ike and Tina Turner in Madison Square Garden. He said Key West reminded him of Trinidad without the mountains.

Yvan Marie Claude Agbo was born in Dakar, Senegal, one of six brothers and sister, Margaret (his older brother Alain’s twin). The entire family played guitar. At age 6, he made his debut on Senegalese television. They formed a band called The Agbo Brothers. They loved John Fogarty, Credence Clearwater Revival, and had a special love for the solos of Carlos Santana, who mixed Latin and African music.

Two of the Guitar Buddies that have passed away, leaving a heart broken Rolando.

Yvan moved to Metz, France, then Lyon. He toured Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and then moved to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe for two years. While in Guadeloupe, Yvan heard about the special music scene in Key West. He quickly established himself in Key West. One comment by Key West guitarist Larry Baeder: “Yvan brought a perspective of popular music that is different from U.S. born guitarists. Not only did he play great, he played with an infectious joy.”

George and Yvan in their own space.

The surviving Guitar Buddy Rolando Rojas. He speaks of his friends often and I know he misses them when he is on stage.

Rolando’s home is Concepción, Chile. He was classically trained in Viña del Mar. Trained first on the piano, he was drawn to the guitar. Today, he is proficient on both instruments. Rolando moved to Key West in 1993. His first gig was with then twelve-piece Conjunto Caribe band, with Jose Rodriquez. Rolando has long running engagements at El Meson de Pepe, Sunset Pier, Sloppy Joe’s, and Little Palm Island. The high-end exclusive gig at Little Palm Island is all classical guitar. He says it helps him get his “chops.” Today, Rolando usually mixes up his repertoire of songs with Latin and popular songs, some with a distinct Latin flare.

Rolando first saw George perform at Dante’s and immediately thought he was great. He met Yvan at Virgilio’s and quickly found he could play anything. Rolando invited Yvan to fill in with Caribe at El Mason de Pepe. The three of them started to play together all over – the

Green Parrot with Raven, a Blue Heaven duet, a Sunday Ramble. Popular music or classical music – they simply loved playing music together.

While the Guitar Buddies came from different musical backgrounds, their differences combined magically when performing together on stage.

George and Rolando wrecking the stage together.

Their real bond was their love and approach to music and the raw pleasure of playing music together. The three would get together to work on a particular song or to try something new, but more often, it was just for their own personal joy of playing music together.

Yvan and Rolando played guitar very much alike, no finger picks, quick style.

One day, in Rolando’s living room, the three of them were working on an instrumental version of Bob Marley’s famous song, “Is This Love”. It was going so well that, as a lark, they setup an iPhone and recorded their magical version. Yvan later posted it on his Facebook page. In two days, it was viewed over 40,000 times. Rolando is glad to have recorded it as he is still able to enjoy a little magic with his good friends, playing a beautiful song, in his living room. Key West has been spoiled by many wonderful entertainers but the Guitar Buddies were a special gift.





Check out the Guitar Buddies:

Rolando Played a version for this song a few weeks after his good friend Yvan had passed, at the opening of one of his concerts, on stage at the Key West Theater as a tribute.

Fields of Gold   

This is the classic Guitar Buddies iPhone video together expressing their magical joy of playing music together. Check this one out.

Is This Love video  


The Guitar Buddies

George, Rolando, Marty Stonely, and Yvan doing what they loved the. most.

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