David Stefanelli. Drummer, percussionist, guitarist, and music producer.



Key West And The President's Chair

In the early 1980’s Robert Ellis Orrall and band booked a three week residency at the famed Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West. Sloppy Joe’s is to this day, one of THE places for live music in Key West. And what a place! It originally opened in 1933. Its look and feel is as though a bit of both the movie Casablanca and the feel of the Caribbean have rubbed off on it. Indeed a great place especially when one is twenty one years old and on the road playing music.

Anyone who has been to Key West knows the bohemian vibe that the area is bathed in. It’s a place where you can be whatever you want to be and fly your flag proudly. The place is filled with artists, travelers, hippies, transients, trans, and all types of folks living alternate life styles or should I say what once were alternate lifestyles.

The band adapted well to Key West. Sloppy Joe’s even had a great band house that we all stayed in. It was a great time for me because I indeed loved my fellow band members. Still do. We always got along and looked out for each other. I was a bit younger than the rest of the band. They indeed were my big brothers and taught me lots about music and more.

As the week’s engagement moved along we immediately got friendly with many of the locals. There was a lot of music being played and of course a fair amount of partying being done. Young men living the dream of playing music on the road! Try this. Try that. Never anything too crazy but like I said, we were young guys having fun.

There was a young lady who was a regular at SJ’s that befriended us. She was very popular, meaning she was indeed a favorite person on the local scene, extremely smart, very kind and friendly. I will call her Beth. As our stay progressed and we got to know Beth better, she invited the entire band to her mother’s house for a home cooked dinner. We accepted the invite immediately.

When we arrived at her mother’s bungalow we could immediately see where our newfound friend got her looks and ways. Both mother and daughter had a very bohemian like existence. Key West all the way. Very liberal and very open in their way of thinking. Nice folks. No worries. I will refer to the mother as Jenny.

Jenny showed us all around her house pointing out amazing keepsakes that she had acquired from many notable figures we all would recognize. Turns out mother Jenny was a very prominent local figure who had many famous friends. She showed us photos and writings of her and societal figures and writers she was good friends with. One particular item she pointed out was an old wooden chair with an elaborate caned seat that was given to her telling us that the chair was once part of the furniture in the White House during the Lincoln administration. Wow!

Jenny returned to her kitchen to finish cooking and serving what was a much needed meal for us. Following the dinner, Beth brought out a plate of her homemade chocolate brownies for a quick dessert. She told us that they were not just regular brownies but were made with “Zowy Wowy’ for some fun. They were marijuana brownies.

I was not big on pot and normally if I was going to have a libation it would be a bit of drink but hey, we were rockin’ it on the road so I thought why not gave it a try.

I must note here that I had never before ingested marijuana and as I said let alone smoked it. Nor was I the best listener tending to plow ahead with things without listening to any warnings or instructions. I'm not sure there were any come to think of it.

I immediately grabbed one of the largest brownies and woofed it down. Not bad. I decided to grab another half and inhaled that one as well.

Twenty minutes later, and as the band and hosts conversed in the living area, the alarming effects of the brownies washed over me like a 40 gallon barrel of water being dumped on my head. I almost passed out then and there. My heart felt as if it were beating 5 times a minute and struggling to do so. My neck felt as if someone had a hair drier an inch away on high heat. I had dry mouth so severe, it was as if I had slept for 8 hours with my mouth wide open. This was NOT GOOD.

In my zombiesque state, I silently stared straight ahead and shuffled over to one of the band members who immediately came to my rescue. It was obvious I was blown out of my head and needed some help. Everyone else saw what was going on and started to swarm around me asking if I was OK, etc. In an attempt to help me they insisted for me to sit with hopes of my “coming down” and to start to feel better. Over to the closest chair I was lead. The White House/Lincoln administration chair. But instead of sitting in the chair, I grabbed its ladder back with my left hand and placed my right knee on the chair’s seat using my full body weight and plunging my knee straight down through the caned seating of this historical relic.

I don’t remember anything else from that evening. I haven’t been back to Key West since.

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David Stefanelli, Zildjian endorsed.

David Stefanelli uses TOCA percussion instruments.

David Stefanelli uses Zager guitars.