Not long before moving back to his hometown of Charleston, S.C., Larry Strickland met Ben Taddiken during one of Ben’s shows at Captain Tony’s Saloon. Entirely devoid of high-maintenance fuss and fluff, the easy-going musicians struck up a harmonious chemistry right away. As such is the test of life, serendipity often moves in right before a departure and even though the distance would make entertaining as a duo rather difficult for them, they decided to do it anyways by traveling thousands of miles just to play together. It’s been six years and they are still going strong.
“Ben and I played our first set together a month before I left to go back to Charleston” Larry explains. “When I left in 2012 we started playing here six to eight times a year. It’s been fun. We don’t take anything too seriously and it’s always fun.”
“I love when Larry gets on percussion and shakes an egg instrument, while playing the bongos and the tambourine at the same time,” Ben adds.
Without missing a beat, the conversation shifts back to Larry as if on rhythmic cue. “Ben still astounds me after all these years. One of the compliments we get a lot is that there might just be two of us playing, but it sounds like a full band,” he boasts cheerfully. Their sets include a variety of genres from tropical to ’90s alternative.
Thanks to an unofficial artist residency at Margaritaville, Larry and Ben have always had a place to come back to and consistently perform even though they were never able to rehearse as much as they would have liked to. At the time of this writing they had just finished a three-week record-breaking run at the Jimmy Buffet famed joint. This sort of home base has allowed them to keep their roots firmly planted in the Key West community and continue to develop the sound and reputation that would set the stage for their return to the island.
“It was June of 2017 when I called Larry and said I’m moving back and would you be interested in joining me and doing the duo thing full time?” Ben says, “I barely got the words out of my mouth and Larry was on the other end saying yes, yes of course.”
Again, it seems that their cosmic union was meant to be. If timing is everything then that phone could not have rung at a better time.
“The mortgage company that I was working for wasn’t really working out and then while I was sitting there and thinking about coming back Ben calls me,” Larry recalls. “And I’d already been thinking about it for a while so my business partner from back home and I decided to open another mortgage company based out of Orlando which would allow me to do my work right out of the Keys. The theme of music and mortgages has been my own personal theme and now I’m able to do them both here — so that’s going to be our thing. Ben is learning about mortgages a little bit, too.”
But their common ground will always be music before anything. Ben’s story officially begins at church gospel sings and in school choirs while Larry got a late start after watching several of his band friends doing their thing and thinking, “I want to do that.” Experience happened quickly for Larry and he immediately got invited into the Diesel Brothers Band which was actually what landed him at Margaritaville in the first place. Meanwhile, Ben was busy with a modest debut of solo gigs at Mallory Square and on Duval Street and then at places like the late Rumrunners and of course Captain Tony’s where he would eventually meet Larry.
These days Ben is happy to be back where he can ride his bike with his guitar securely in his backpack. Larry is happy to get back to his laid-back lifestyle. Together they are ready to take this thing to the next level now that they are, in fact, together again.
“We play here by choice. It’s cheaper and easier to play somewhere else but we play here because we want to,” Ben says.
“The gist of the whole thing is that we are thankful to be playing here,” Larry chimes.
You can find the band schedule for Strickland Taddiken Duo on Facebook by searching for @ben.taddiken.music and yes that is an acronym STD to go along with their slogan “the only one you want to catch in Key West.” You can also learn more about Larry’s mortgage business by visiting his website, www.themortgagefirm.com/larrystrickland.
I guess you could say that they have finally come full circle, bringing everything back to where they started. Now they get to have hopeful plans for future bookings at more places and to do the things that most working couples like to do like rehearse or maybe even record an album and dare I say stop denying that this is the place for them. Welcome home, Larry and Ben. ¦