Gary James' Interview With
Bertie Higgins

One song that's gotten a lot of airplay these last few months (April, 1982) is "Key Largo" by Bertie Higgins.

Hailing from Tarpon Springs, Florida and now residing in Atlanta Georgia, Bertie's "Key Largo" was the eighth most popular song on the charts when we spoke with him.

Gary James is proud to present an interview with one of the brightest talents on the musical horizon today - Mr. Bertie Higgins.

Q - Are you what people would refer to as an overnight success?

A - I've been struggling and working for a single record probably since 1969. Yeah, I would say that anything that happens this rapidly in this facet of the business can be considered "overnight". I've been at music about nineteen years, so if you look at the whole thing, it's certainly not overnight. But, the success of the record has certainly launched a career. Now the problem is building the career and keeping it afloat and making it more than a one-hit single career. That's what I'm trying to do right now.

Q - How do you adjust to sudden success?

A - Well, it took me a while. The adjustment didn't happen easily. It took a good two months to even start functioning, shifting into high gear, so to speak. At times I enjoy it, at other times I hate it. It's a lot harder on this side of the fence than on the other side of the fence. I feel like I've lost something, but of course if you gain something, you always lose something.

Q - How long did it take to write "Key Largo"?

A - You know, it's funny, I recall writing, but I don't recall the time. I guess an afternoon and then the re-writes, which of course are the key to successful writing. I think a couple of weeks of spending time with my producer.

Q - What did you do with the song after it was finally written to your satisfaction?

A - It took us four months to get the song out. It was a hard road, man. It was just amazing, we couldn't get anyone interested. A lot of people liked the song, they hated my voice. Kat Family Records turned me down and then eventually took it. It was distributed in a very limited fashion. Five thousand copies were printed and put out in the Southeast and that was it. And I find out now, it was their intention to let the thing die. They were just trying to fulfill a promise. And it took off.

Q - You once opened for The Beach Boys and The Stones?

A - Yeah, and Tom Jones, Roy Orbison...everybody in the sixties. I was in Tommy Roe's back-up band, a group called the Romans. I was the drummer. The band finally branched off on its own to ABC Paramount Records and started opening tours for The Beach Boys, Manfred Mann, The Rolling Stones, toured Europe some with Tom Jones. In fact, our bass player was Berry Oakley, The Allman Brothers bass player who was killed.

Q - Can anyone learn how to be a successful songwriter?

A - Songwriting can be learned in its purest formula form, simply by listening to what's successful. Listen to whoever had the top twenty out right now. Listen to each one. Figure out why they're happening. Some are happening because of the beat, some are happening because of the melody. They're all happening because of a song structure - verse, chorus, verse, chorus and having a chorus which is a hook to hook you, to make you listen. The other, which comes from the heart and soul is talent that you're born with and hopefully intelligent enough and aware enough to know you have it and to work on it, and then to allow yourself to go through the emotions of life and take them wide open. And then to sit down and write about them.

Q - Do you write best when you're depressed?

A - Yeah, or at least putting on a feeling of depression of something that happened in the past, wanting lost love and hurting for it.

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