Local restauranteur Richard Hatch was born in Miami and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. He played both violin and standup bass in grade school through high school. He loved music but said he was not a gifted musician and his violin teacher was just plain mean.
He attended University of North Carolina and studied political science. His dog was killed accidentally, and he was really bummed out so he hopped into his 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible, in 1979, and drove to Key West. He partied at the Green Parrot the first night and spent a good part of the next day trying to find it again.
In 1994, Richard opened Blue Heaven. It’s a great restaurant and supports live music. Jimmy Buffett wrote a song about it, Blue Heaven Rendezvous. He schedules 14 gigs a week using our local musicians. He strongly encourages original music and shorter sets during the season. Hatch’s newer venue across the street, Andy’s Cabana, hosts a unique open mic, attracting some of Key West’s best musicians, for really cool old throwback jams. They also include puppet shows and poetry reading. Richard once performed a duo of “You Are My Sunshine” with Kenny Chesney at Andy’s Cabana. It’s Key West, you just never know.
Earlier this year, I published a sad salutation “Remembering Mike Gillis”, one of our long time and highly revered Key West musicians. Mike would photo copy articles that he thought I should read and gave them to me when I visited him. There were four articles, one from a Coconut Grove gig and the other three in Key West. One of the stories was written by then Key West Citizen beat writer, Richard Hatch.
A few days after the tribute, I ran into Richard at Andy’s Cabana and he commented on the tribute story. He loved Mike Gillis and was sad to hear of his passing. We talked briefly about Michael’s amazing career and musicianship. Richard told me he had a really good Mike Gillis story for me and we should hook up later.
In the late 80s, Hatch was working at the Key West Citizen, covering the crime beat and city council and school boards meetings. He didn’t go out much and doesn’t remember the exact reason for covering Gillis but he was performing at the Top of the La Concha with a beautiful vocalist, Louise Pearson. Richard immediately recognized and admired the level of musical expertise of Mike Gillis. He wrote a very nice story entitled, “The Cream Rises to the Top”. I included some of his words in the tribute to Mike Gillis.
They became good friends and when Hatch opened Blue Heaven, Gillis was one of the first musicians he hired. They built a small stage in the far northwest corner of what is now the dining area. It had a small door for musicians to enter and exit. Mike went through a period of time when he was partying really hard and would miss a gig once in a while but was usually pretty reliable. Richard was understanding and supportive and wanted Mike to be successful again.
One morning during this rough patch, a taxi driver showed up at the restaurant, asking for Richard. He said, “I’m here to pick up Michael Gillis’s guitar.” Hatch told the driver that Michael hadn’t played there for almost a week. They took a quick look around but no guitar. The taxi driver pulls out what looked like a list of local bars – La Concha, Schooner Wharf, Virgilio’s, and number five on the list was Blue Heaven. The driver crossed the name of his off, saying, “I have four more bars to go. He’s got a gig today and doesn’t know where his guitar is. He’s paid me well so I have to keep looking.”