MUSIC SCENE

The Green Parrot Bar: The House of Music


Jesse Wagner with the Happy Dog

Jesse Wagner with the Happy Dog

Once upon a time, Key West was a lot different than it is today. So maybe we will never get to see the magic of a Duval Street lined with mom and pops or see creative legends like Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams walking the streets, but the stories are still being told. This place isn’t like it used to be, and things have changed. But whenever I think that I’ll never get a chance to experience the way things were once upon a bohemian time, all I have to do is walk into the Green Parrot and see the quirky artwork, smell the slight nostalgia of freshly popped popcorn, hear the rhythm of live chords being strung and think that I am back in a time when things weren’t quite as complicated.

Since 1890 the white-paneled building with its distinctive dark green trim has been one of the pillars of the city, a meeting place for both locals and tourists, for the rich who vacation on Sunset Key and for the poor who sit on the bench across the street. Over the past 100 plus years it, like its hometown, has transformed and adapted. What started off as a grocery store is now one of the most authentic music experiences in the Florida Keys, a step into a world like no other. And although many of the other bars on our island like Sloppy Joe’s and Smokin’ Tuna have their own claim to fame when it comes to entertainment, most would argue that there is no place like the Green Parrot. Stepping into this house of vintage harmony feels like stepping back into the history of the island. It’s still got that old school spirit.

So, I decided to do something different in this article in part to pay respects to the establishment, but also to let those who understand it the most tell us exactly what it is that makes this place what it is today. Here is a collection of quotes from the musicians in town who occasionally grace the stage of the Green Parrot and who have lived through the bar’s constancy while the outside world continues to change.

“The music and energy that I feel from Green Parrot makes me feel at home. I am grateful to have shared and continue sharing that stage with the many great musicians of Key West as well as those hired in from out of town.”

— Rick Fusco, solo acoustic performer and member of the band the E’Claires

“The Green Parrot is more or less the local parish for Key West musicians. Many of us may not have been coherent for the sermon, but I’d say that we all get the message.”

— Tony Baltimore, solo acoustic performer and member of the Beatles Band

“Since I came here, 20 years ago, I loved the music there, but, almost more important to me were the collection of people working there…. and their stories.”

— Ken Fradley, trumpet player.

“I’ve been living in Key West for over three years, after a 10-year stint in Boston, MA. During these three years I’ve met, jammed with, and made so many wonderful connections with other musicians who have majorly influenced and re-inspired my career path in the music industry. This is just a piece of the magic of John Vagnoni and The Green Parrot. I jokingly call it my living room, but it truly is a place where I feel at home.”

— Claire Finley, bassist for the E’Claires, Key Lime Pirates, the Skank and the Sunday Ramble at the Key West Theater

“There is a reason a lot of the local musicians coalesce there at the end of the night. In addition to having the best music on the island, it is also a family living room/ gathering spot. John’s loyalty to the community and his unwavering standards in choosing bands and employees makes for a great place that has become a second home for many. Where did everyone go to call home after Irma?”

— Jesse Wagner, guitarist and vocalist

for the band the Happy Dog

“The Parrot is not a bar or even a club. Forget that they have one of the hippest booking policies in the country and that the ship is steered by a music visionary. The Parrot is really our Community Center where civilians and musicians mingle. It is always at the lead in coming to the aid of our those in need on our island. Key West is a much happier place because of John Vagnoni and the Green Parrot.” — Larry Baeder, master guitarist

“I remember seeing the Red Elvises at the Parrot, which was a big moment because here there were people who supported surf kind of music. It was awesome to see those kinds of bands play and then to eventually play there myself. To be able to get to play there means a lot. That bar is awesome. It’s a melting pot.”

— Jerrod Isaman, member of Billy the Squid and the Sea Cow Drifters

In the end, the Green Parrot is an institution, a sanctuary. It is where musicians of all shapes and sounds, from all places of the country and the planet come for all kinds of people to enjoy. It’s definitely worth its own article. It’s just one of those things that makes coming here a thing to remember and as it looks right now, to come back to for years to come. See the Green Parrots schedule of current local and out of town performers by visiting them on their website. ¦

The Green Parrot 601 Whitehead Street www.greenparrot.com

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