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Craig Jolly ,Fenton & Ray
May 4 @ 7:00 pm - 11:00 pmPurchase Reserved Seating
After minoring in music in college Western Michigan University, Craig had to decide on a career. “I figured I’d be nothing more than an average singer and performer,” he says. “My prospects were much better as a writer,”
Craig got a job with a small ad agency writing for large corporations. He also wrote for the NBC affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Later, he moved to Los Angeles where he attended UCLA and launched a 30-plus year freelance career. Along the way, he wrote 35 screenplays on speculation, but sold just three of them. One of them, “Cold Warriors,” told the story of the Bay of Pigs invasion from the perspective of Key West resident Arturo Cobo. “It was my best screenplay,” Craig says, “but the subject matter wasn’t very marketable. It was a period piece, expensive to produce and hard to cast. Hollywood breaks your heart every time, but I knew I could make good, consistent money writing for large corporations,” he says.
Craig says his mother had spent the wars years in West Palm Beach and that prompted him to move to Key West for a year back in the late 1970s. He attended FKCC, bartended at the old Black Angus and got a taste of island life, living in a trailer on Stock Island for $80 per month. About 20 years later, he pulled together the money to buy a modest property in Truman Annex, but music wasn’t the focus. “I didn’t even have a guitar down here; I had gotten away from it,” he says.
Then, about five years and one fiancée ago, he got the bug and started learning the major and pentatonic scales on his guitar. He also started sitting in with other players for food and modest tips. “I have really benefitted from being around people with interesting and divergent musical interests,” Craig says. “Jamaican Hugh Fenton has taught me how to skank a guitar and play reggae and soca. I’m really still learning it. Haitian Willie Jean-Paul has exposed me to Caribbean sounds. There’s a lot about this music I don’t know.”
Together the three formed the band, Bahama Village Social Club. “We wanted a name that wasn’t too serious,” Craig says. Other players who rotate in include Tyler Smith, Ray Spence and John Sausser.
Craig’s first CD, “Wake Up,” can be purchased on Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby, etc. You can also hear his songs on YouTube. A few of the songs get local radio play. The title track, “Wake Up,” is in rotation on 101.7 pirate radio and is also on the “Best of Key West Volume Three” CD and. “Alligator Rock” is a favorite of 99.5 radio’s Bill Hoebee and is also played on iHeartRadio.
Over the last few years Craig and the Social Club have played at venues across the Lower Keys including Blue Heaven, Hogfish Bar and Grille, Geiger Key Marina, the Tiki House and the Little Room Jazz Club. They have also played the Goombay Festival and other events. Craig currently plays most Saturdays at the Blue Macaw with the re-branded Jean-Paul trio, 4 to 7 p.m.; and Sundays at Mary Ellen’s Bar, 4 to 7 p.m. The group has additional dates coming up at Babalou’s and the Green Parrot. Additionally, Craig fills in occasionally as a singer on Fury’s Commotion on the Ocean.
Going forward, Craig is focused on writing more songs. He has a relationship with a songwriting/producer who has sold many songs to Nashville publishers and artists. “I’m trying to sell something on a national scale,” Craig says. “It’s not easy.”
Craig says what he loves most about living and working here in Key West is the joie de vivre. “I grouse about things like the drunks and vagrants, but I never seem to leave.” ¦