I am originally from Memphis, Tennessee, and have been in the Florida Keys for five years. I was told by a friend of mine in Memphis about a wonderful place that I had never heard of; that place turned out to be Islamorada and the Key Largo area. So, I packed up and moved down.
When I first got here, I started playing with the Dana Collins Band. I was also working as a server at a couple of local restaurants, but then I decided to try and play music…period. It took a little while because I didn’t really know anybody down here, but so far I’ve been pretty successful. Of course, I’m always looking onward and upward.
My show is basically anywhere from Stevie Wonder to Stevie Nicks to Steve Perry …I can do any of the Stevie’s! I play music from the 50’s through today, but I’m a child of the 80’s and 90’s so I do a lot of that. I’m also from Memphis, so there is a lot of soul in what I play. So, you got Otis Redding to the Beatles and anything in between. You want it you got it. I play piano; I’m also a vocalist, and play saxophone, some guitar and some percussion. I’m trying to do it all; a one man band, a duo or trio. Whatever you like, I’ll step it up to the next level, beyond your expectations. Especially with the people I have behind me, like Scott Youngberg. We will rock your socks off. I have some wonderful friends that I play with; Scott and Rusty Lemon, and a myriad of different people who have helped me along the way, and helped me grow as a musician here in the Florida Keys.
I’ve been playing music since I was 14. Saxophone was my first instrument, my first love. Piano came second; my mom put a piano in the living room, and I thought, hey it’s sitting there, might as well learn to play it! I started playing sax in the school marching band, and eventually went to the University of Michigan on a full music scholarship. (On a side note to all the people out there: Do not let them take away school music programs. I know that’s a threat right now, but I am proof that it makes a difference, and that people get scholarships.) After Michigan, I went back home to Memphis, the music mecca of the world, to pursue music…real music. But, I was ready for a change when my friend told me about this wonderful place, and it was a good move.
There may be an album in my near future. I want to be remembered as an excellent song writer first of all. My ultimate goal is to be a song writer; to write a song and have someone like Keith Urban record it! Music these days is all so universal, you can write what you actually feel, and then let other people put the beat they want on it and shape it to whatever genre they want. I want to reach a large audience with my music, not just one area or one genre.
In the last few years, I’ve been playing shows from Orlando to Key West, and back and forth and back and forth. Someone actually wants me to go play in Cape Cod for a few weeks, and another person from New Jersey said I could play up there this summer as well. So, there are things in the pot! I’m putting in ingredients, stirring it up, boiling it down, and we’ll see what happens. I love what I do; very few people get to do what they actually love. We all complain about our jobs. No one is exempt from that. But I truly love my job. Even if I won the lottery, I would keep playing (I would just buy better equipment and more toys!) Sammy Hagar bought a tequila company and made it huge, then sold it for 400 million dollars. So, here he has four-hundred million dollars in his pocket, and he still plays these festivals for five thousand, or maybe even three. Because he’s the Red Rocker, and that’s what he does, what he loves.
The keys are my home. I just love the people here. It’s extremely laid back. I can go fishing if I want to; I just go right over there. I can go swimming if I want to; I just go right over there. And, I don’t have to be cold. That’s important to me. Plus, there are always tourist coming in and out, so I get to meet new people all the time. The people who come down to the Keys want to get away from the big city hustle and bustle. They want to come down here, have a good time, meet the musicians, meet the caterers and the bartenders; they are really interested in what you’re doing, how you got down here.
I love the Keys. I like getting out on the water, and I’ve had some interesting adventures. I fell off a boat once, and fell off a jet ski once. The first time I went stone crabbing…(I didn’t even know you could do that!)… I went out with friends who had traps set. They made me pull them by myself and its hard work. Then you have to get them out of their shells, and they have claws. So, yes, I got pinched a few times. But, then I got to eat them!
I go to a lot of benefits and events for causes, like the Relay for Life - which is going to be cool, by the way. That’s how we do things in the Keys. If somebody is hurt or needs help, we get together and help them fix it. No questions asked. That’s what I really love about this community. A lot of people won’t do that. The community is what keeps me here. It took a while, but I feel like I’ve paid my dues now and I’m excited that people are starting to involve me in things and I’m a part of the community.
I’m a simple man with simple needs. I love it down here... It’s fun. And it’s not cold.
(For more about Lee’s music, visit: www.leesharpmusic.com.)
(Photo credit: Emily Marks Campagna)