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In Key West With Lawson Little

Photos by Lawson Little | Words by Chuck Reece


Let’s think about what it means to be in the right place at the right time.

In one sense, it is simple happenstance. Let’s say you are behind the wheel, about 50 yards from an intersection, when the poor joe a couple of cars ahead of you gets T-boned at the crossroads. You were in the right place at the right time.

But in the other sense, being in the right place at the right time is something bigger. The time is not a moment, but a period, maybe even an era. And the place is not a random intersection, but somewhere that draws people who share certain sensibilities.

Think about the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Muscle Shoals in the 1960s. Or, for today’s purposes, Key West in the 1970s.

Photographer Lawson Little, now “semi-retired” in Florida, has been in many of the right places at the right times, as we documented several years ago in an extensive photo essay tracing Little’s 40 years of tracking country music’s evolution from Nashville through Texas and into California. But he also spent considerable time in the Key West of the ’70s, where an amazingly eclectic group of artists, writers, and musicians came to create and — truth be told — to attempt to out-drink the little island’s greatest literary lion, Ernest Hemingway.

Little’s photos were critical in our assembly of this week’s feature story by Michael Adno about the history of Key West. Today, we bring you a few more of Lawson Little’s Key West images.

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Shel Silverstein

Silverstein was a tremendously successful cartoonist and writer of children’s books. His “Where the Sidewalk Ends” was a landmark. He also penned a few hit songs, like “One’s on the Way” for Loretta Lynn and “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash. Silverstein died on Key West in 1999.

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Captain Tony

Tony Tarracino was a storyteller and a saloonkeeper, the founder of Captain Tony’s — a joint still in operation on Greene Street in Key West. Some called him “the conscience” of the island.

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Bobby Bare

Now 83 years old, Bare was a master country songwriter who penned perhaps the greatest tune about Southerners moving north for work in the middle of the 20th century, 1962’s “Detroit City.”

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Tennessee Williams

The Mississippi-born playwright authored some of the greatest works in American theater history, including “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

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Jimmy Buffett

Raised in Mobile, Alabama, Buffett tried to make it as a songwriter in Nashville, but he never hit the big time until he reached Key West in the 1970s. Say what you will about Margaritavilles everywhere, it’s inarguable that many of the songs Buffett wrote in Key West — think “A Pirate Looks at Forty” or “He Went to Paris” or “Come Monday” — are classics.

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James Merrill

Merrill was one of America’s greatest 20th century poets. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1977 for his “Divine Comedies” and twice won the National Book Award for Poetry, first in 1967 for “Nights and Days” and again in 1979 for “Mirabell: Books of Number.”

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Philip Caputo

Now 77, Caputo is a journalist and novelist, the author of 16 books — most notably the best-selling “A Rumor of War,” his memoir of his experiences in the Vietnam War.

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The original Treasure Salviors Crew

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