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Bertie Higgins: The Original Trop Rock Troubadour


Bertie Higgins

Singer/Songwriter. Screen Writer. Actor. Producer. Story Teller.

Within a few moments of talking with Bertie Higgins, it’s obvious he’s living an extraordinary life. Most of us know his number one hit song, “Key Largo,” or his top ten charted song “Another Day in Paradise.” He’s also released 22 albums, is a Gold and Multi-Platinum artist and soon to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Florida Music Hall of Fame (January 2016).

Higgins and his sons, Julian and Aaron Higgins, have ventured into the movie business, creating four feature films together. Bertie taking on roles such as screen writer, producer and occasionally actor.

He’s an international star and one of China’s most sought out American musicians, performing on China’s televised New Years Eve celebration to 1 billion people. Just last week he played for the 70th United Nations Assembly in New York. This month, he’s performing at what he humorously referred to as “a chili dog joint” in Brooksville, FL because his longtime friend asked.

And there’s more to come. Releasing his latest album and touring for the winter isn’t enough for Higgins. He’s working with his sons on a documentary, he already has a new idea for his next album, he’s been working on a book for a few years, oh and he’s looking to act and produce another holiday movie. He tells me “Every day I wake up with a gorilla on my back, not a monkey, a gorilla. There’s so much I want to get done.”

The Original Trop Rock Artist

Many of us use the term “Trop Rock” as a genre today, thanks to the renaming of the Trop Rock Music Association in 2012. It’s an agreed upon term to categorize the musical artists whose songs conjure up visions of beaches and oceans or escaping to a tropical paradise. Where did this term originate?

The earliest I’ve found the term “Trop Rock” mentioned was in a 1986 magazine interview where Higgins described his style of music as “Trop Rock,” calling it a Florida sound. He’s quoted as saying “A California sound is the same feel as the Beach Boys sound – hot rods and beaches. Florida is more sunsets and moonlit nights, palm trees and Ernest Hemingway, hurricanes and pirates…. That’s Florida” and that’s Trop Rock.

Excitedly, the first comment I said to Higgins in our interview was “I think you actually coined the term Trop Rock” and he so casually declared “I believe I did.”

He elaborated “I’ve always been a water guy.” At one time, he owned a bar in the Florida Keys  “it started dawning on me that this was a genre of tropical rock we were playing, which is Trop Rock. It’s as simple as that.” He later named his 6th album Trop Rock.

And there you have it. A genre labeled by Bertie Higgins, one we’re embracing with enthusiasm 25+ years later. Of course, he continues to create Trop Rock music and in 2014 released his 20th album titled Cowboys of the Caribbean. In the title track, Higgins gives a nod to Jimmy Buffett and Parrot Heads as he heads down to the Caribbean:

Bertie Higgins and Jimmy Buffett

They certainly know each other. Jimmy Buffett had his biggest hit “Margaritaville” in 1977. Bertie Higgins hit number one with his song “Key Largo” in 1981. Although both had other songs chart over the years, neither saw another hit in the U.S. quite like those. Even if popular radio left these Trop Rockers off their rotation, we know they continued to create the songs that speak to our tropical soul.

Higgins grew up on the west coast of Florida and like Buffett, his music has been heavily influenced by the miles of coastlines along the Gulf Coast.

When I asked Higgins if he knew Buffett, he said “Of course, know him well” and joked “We have the same lawyer.” In Bertie Higgins style he rattled off an entertaining story of their crisscrossed lives. Higgins said of Buffett “He’s a damn good song writer.  ‘A Pirate Looks at 40’ was written for a dear friend of mine named Phil Clark and a dear friend of his [Buffett]. Phil was in my wedding party and he was living with me for awhile in Tarpon Springs.”

Seems it was a small world in Florida in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Dancing in the Tradewinds 2015 CD & Tour

Bertie Higgins recently released his new CD Dancing in the Tradewinds, submitted for consideration to the Grammy Awards. Trop Rock exudes from a majority of the songs. Just take a look at the track titles such as “Islands,” “The Tropics,” and “Port O’ Call,” all perfect Trop Rock themes.

Higgins loves to talk about his family, he’s very proud of his children and admires his parents. He wrote a poignant song about his father on this CD titled “The Old Man and the Sea.” Higgins wrote it in a single afternoon (not unusual for him) because most songs spend about a year, sometimes two, rolling around in his head before they make it down on paper. He misses his father and declared “Daddy was the best. Taught me all about the ocean.”

The entire CD fits nicely into the Trop Rock style with it’s focus on story telling, one of Higgins’ best attributes. The acoustic style, tales about islands and the oceans that separate them is a winning combination.
Next week, Higgins’ embarks on the Florida segment of the Dancing in the Tradewinds tour, all of which are acoustic duo and trio performances, instead of Higgins’ full band. Higgins says it’s about getting back to his roots, recalling:

“It’s how I started. I played on the west coast of Florida in any beach bar that would have me. I began my whole career with a big ‘ol acoustic Martin guitar, sitting on a stool.”

He’s going back to where Trop Rock began.

Find out more information at: Bertie Higgins
Upcoming Florida Tour Dates:
Oct. 16th The Retro Room, Clermont, FL
Oct. 17th The Spanos Center, Tarpon Springs, FL. Charity event for the Daughters of Philoptochos
Oct. 18th The Abbey, Orlando, FL
Oct. 23rd Tarpon Turtle Grill & Marina, Tarpon Springs, FL
Oct. 24th Coney Island Drive Inn, Brooksville, FL
Oct. 25th CD Release Party at Skippers Smoke House, Tampa, FL

For Booking Bertie Higgins, contact 615 Entertainment Agency at 501.888.7777 or 615.830.7121

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Pat Semrow

Thursday 8th of October 2015

Great article. It's kind of funny how many times I've played songs like, "Christiansted," "Day Off," or, "The Redneck Riviera," and parrotheads would ask, "Who's this?" Two of his songs are on my Top 40 of Troprock list.

I'll definitely look into the new CD.

Tammy Camp

Thursday 15th of October 2015

I know what you mean Pat! Keep spreading the Trop Rock word! :-)


Tuesday 6th of October 2015

Great Article Tammy, he is an amazing guy! One of my all time favorite songs, but now I am glad you reconnected with him and I have been listening his new great songs! Would love to see him in Tampa!

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