‘Mangrove roots’ take hold for Keys musician
June 12, 2019
UPPER KEYS — Acoustic guitarist Scott Youngberg quotes a Lauren Bacall line from “Key Largo” to explain his longevity as a Florida Keys performer: “The roots took hold. Now I’m like one of those mangroves.”
“I just love playing music down here,” Youngberg said. “It’s the Caribbean soul — the people, the culture and the islands. … The tide rises and falls. You’ve got to understand the rhythm of life in the Keys.”
That includes being on friendly terms with other talented musicians who have settled in the Upper Keys for the long term.
“‘I worked in Nashville where it can be cut-throat. It’s not like that here for the most part,” Youngberg said. “We keep massive phone lists and work together at community events like the Key Largo Original Music Festival.”
Soon after moving to the Keys in 1997, Youngberg was six weeks into his job waiting tables at the Lorelei in Islamorada when the Case and Davidson duo invited him on stage.
Youngberg met his wife, Suzi, in Tennessee.
“We both knew, independently, that we wanted to move someplace with a beach,” he said.
A vacation trip to Key Largo nearly a quarter-century ago convinced them to put down those mangrove roots.
Suzi penned lyrics for half of the original songs on Scott’s “Idle Speed” album.
In live shows, Youngberg “mostly plays about 50 percent classic rock, and 25 percent ‘sun-sea-and-sand’ songs. The rest is original and electric.”
It doesn’t take much prodding for him to dip into his stash of popular TV theme songs.
“The ‘Cheers’ theme is always good,” he noted.
While the Netflix series “Bloodline” was filming in Islamorada, stars Kyle Chandler and Jamie McShane dropped by the Zane Grey Lounge where Youngberg was performing. He had the series’ melancholy theme down pat and worked it into the set.
“They bought me a tequila,” he said.
Youngberg appears regularly at the Zane Grey Lounge, usually on Saturday nights. Regular shows in Key Largo are Tuesdays at Gilbert’s Resort and Thursdays at Skipper’s Dockside. Performances generally begin at 5 p.m.
“It’s a pretty good summer schedule,” he said. “When you work in the Keys for a long time, you can build strong two-way loyalties.”
He actively supports the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life events in the Keys, including the July 13 Cycle for Life, a 100-mile bicycle ride from Key Largo to Key West.
Youngberg in 2014 spent seven months in Boston where specialists worked to treat his chordoma cancer, a rare type of spinal cancer.
“I’ve had a lifetime dose of radiation,” he said of his 72 treatments. “That was my 2014. Now I get to live and play music in the Florida Keys.”
For Youngberg’s future appearances and contact information, visit scottyoungberg.com. Song downloads can be purchased on Amazon, iTunes, Napster, CDbaby and other digital outlets.