Terry Cassidy, a wonderfully talented long time Keys musician and songwriter, has been hosting an annual fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity for quite a few years. It’s held at Boondocks Grille and Draft House on Little Torch Key. Boondocks is an unusually large covered venue with a great stage and sound system.
The events are very well attended, silent auctions are always loaded with donations, and they raise a good deal of money for a very worthy cause. Musicians that always volunteer for these events are local stars, and the music is the big draw for most of the patrons.
Key West musicians perform almost every day but take time out of busy schedules to support this much appreciated charity event. They’ll play 45 minutes to 1 hour shifts of music. The volunteers jam with each other, rocking out special cover songs or a favorite original tune. Some musicians play multiple shifts or “sit in” when another musician has to leave for a previous commitment.
To Terry’s credit, it’s very difficult to organize and fill out a single performance, let alone a fundraiser with 20 or more musicians and getting four or five ensembles together for the different sets throughout the day performing at a high level. One year they had two stages setup where one group would be performing and a second group would be setting up for the next performance. The transitions are very smooth as these local musicians have been performing together and know each other’s music and styles.
Keys musicians are always the first to volunteer for local fundraisers but the Habitat for Humanity fundraiser is a very special gig. Housing in the Keys is expensive and rentals are usually in short supply. Habitat builds homes all over the Keys and makes them available at very affordable prices, and local banks fund the purchases at discounted rates to qualifying families. It’s a great organization that has brought tremendous joy to young families and is hugely popular in the Keys.
Terry Cassidy goes out of his way to organize the best music possible. There are usually plenty of guitarists and keyboard/piano players. Bass players are always in demand and drummers are sometimes hard to find. The music ranges from blues, country, trop-rock, and even some occasional jazz tunes. Everyone brings their “A” game.
Local Legend Bill Blue is always a favorite performer and is a regular supporter of Habitat for Humanity as well as many other fundraisers in the community. He is always ready to help a good organization or a friend in need. Rumor has it that Bill Blue has raised enough money to buy Miami.
The local musicians line up to “sit in” with the legendary Bill Blue. Once he showed up at a Habitat fundraiser with just a guitar and amplifier. He made a quick walk around the room and in a few minutes, had put together a killer five-piece ensemble of locals that knew all his music. They played for an hour and the sound was great.
At one particular event as Terry recalls, circa 2009, he had a great lineup of musicians for the whole day. He held back Bill Blue as the headliner, performing the last hour. By that time quite a few of the local musicians had left for other gigs. They had a good bass player, keyboardist, and Terry was going play rhythm. At the last minute, they found they were short a drummer.
For those of you that are not familiar with Bill Blue’s music, his performances can get complex quickly. Bill takes over the stage and everyone has to follow closely. His songs range from crisp ballads to rocking out knock’em dead blues. He changes his beat often and will cut loose a slide guitar solo that can shatter windows. Bill covers very few pop artists. Most of his musical sets are filled with his original songs, written and performed the way he likes music to be played.
Most musicians in Key West have either heard Bill Blue’s music often at his monthly “Sound Checks” or have set in with him and his usual band enough to be able to keep up. This day, however, we were no longer in Key West. We were 25 miles away in Little Torch Key with a population of about 250 sunburnt fishermen and about the same number of Key Deer. Finding a fairly good drummer was important.
The Doerfels are a local family of extremely talented very young performers. Their mother was a music teacher. All of them started at a young age and by 2009 had been performing together for over 5 years. The four brothers, Edward, Ben, Joe, and Kurt, have since morphed into a high-energy group of razor sharp, very accomplished musicians. The name of their current band is “Fuel on Fire”.
Their drummer, Kurt Doerfel was hanging around the fundraiser listening to others perform and was quickly recruited by Cassidy to perform with Bill Blue. Kurt was probably a mature looking twelve years old at the time and eager to cut it loose with the “Legend”. Truth be told Kurt seemed confident and probably wanted to just play some music. Terry Cassidy, at his whit’s end trying to put the final ensemble together for his headliner, was thankful for Kurt’s acceptance to sit in.
By this point, Bill Blue was on stage tuning. The rest of the band was on stage and ready to go. Bass player Dan Simpson asked Terry in a concerned voice, “Who’s the kid? Can he play?” Terry gets Kurt setup behind the drum kit and shyly asks the young drummer if he knew any of Bill’s music. He gets a pensive look that did not inspire great confidence, and Kurt says something like “yeah man, let’s do this”.
Terry, standing next to Bill on stage, leans over and voices a concern, “Maybe we should let the young guy know what song we’re going to do before we start.” Terry thinks Bill heard him because Bill looks back and gives him a sly grin. Bill calmly stepped towards the microphone and said, “One, Two, Three, Four…”.
Epilogue: Those Doerfels know how to play music and Kurt Doerfel did just fine. In fact Terry Cassidy said “…he nailed it.”
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