Like good Cuban food,
Hugo’s music is a combination of a little bit of this, a
little bit of that, and a whole lot of down-to-earth
ingredients that come together in an adventure of the senses.
You can’t really describe it; you just have to try it in order
to understand and appreciate the flavors and subtleties of
whatever it is that you've just been presented."
Such are the elements of this remarkably talented
Singer/songwriter/storyteller. Duarte blends of a bit of
Country, a pinch of Bluegrass, a handful of Southern rock, a
cup or two of Blues, a dash of Island music, occasionally
sprinkled with some American history, or tales of the sea, to
form an eclectic style that doesn’t fit into the traditional
definitions of the Rock and Roll world, the Tropic/Island
sound, Blues, Country or any other particular genre.
Born of Cuban, Chinese, and Scotts-Irish ancestry, Duarte’s
music is as diverse as his origins. His early childhood years
were spent in Tigerville, South Carolina, an extremely small
community in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was
there he came to understand the basics of life in that
close-knit, rural community where life was simple, where
everyone’s parents parented everyone else’s kids, and music
and song were an integral part of everyday life.
Somewhere along the line, Hugo’s family moved to North
Carolina where Duarte’s musical influences drifted away from
the native Bluegrass and traditional country music that had
been so much a part of his life and began to take a new
direction. He began to focus on the Allman Brothers, the
Marshall Tucker Band, Poco, the Eagles, Billy Joel, Elton
John, Pure Prairie League, the Outlaws, Loggins and Messina,
and many others. And that focus didn’t stop there. It also
included Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Crosby, Stills and Nash,
Led Zeppelin, Glen Miller, John Phillip Sousa, Aaron Copeland,
and other equally divergent styles.
defining moment in Duarte’s young life occurred when his
long-time friend, Darrell Stafford, loaned him a guitar; an
old Stella that had once belonged to Stafford’s grandmother.
At a formative time in a boy’s life, when dreams take root,
when idealism is at its strongest, when words and melodies
trigger the search for self, the loan of that old Stella
marked a pivotal point on the compass in Hugo’s young heart
Visualize a 14 year old boy, with that loaned Stella,
sitting by the radio or dropping LPs onto a turntable and teaching
himself to play along. This is the point where Hugo began developing
his own brand of music, a style he dubbed "country music" because it
wasn’t that big a departure from what he’d grown up with. It was
also during this time period that Hugo wrote his first song called
"Dance For Me", a song about a ballerina.
As Duarte continued to develop his music skills using various music
styles as his guide, whether it was Soul, Country, Beach music, Rock
'n Roll, Classical, a unique blend emerged and began to meld
together into his brand of "All Music". Hence the origins of Hugo’s
eclectic style… a style that really began to surface while at the
University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Growing increasingly serious about his music, Duarte left college
and began playing clubs in Charlotte, North Carolina and then on the
road in places like the ‘Tween Waters Inn in Captiva, Florida and
Crow's Nest in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. It wasn’t long
before he realized he could make a living doing what he loved the
A few years later as he drifted down that music highway playing gigs
with his ever expanding group, The Full Sail Band, he found himself
as far south in the US as one can go. Searching for a connection to
his Cuban heritage, he arrived in the Florida Keys and fell
immediately in love with the area.
The Full Sail Band strummed and sang at Rick's, Sloppy Joes, the
Hog’s Breath Saloon, Turtle Kraals, The Bull, The Top, and Casa
Marina. Name it, Key West fans, and he's most likely played there.
It was in those early Key West years that Hugo met and developed a
professional friendship with the Calypso Poet, Jimmy Buffett. Over
the years Buffett would call or stop by when he was in town, often
sitting in with Hugo and the band. They occasionally shared the
stage at a locally owned bar called Del Rios, which today is the
site of the original Margaritaville Bar and Restaurant.
Sometimes other friend-musicians stopped by as well.
Anyone happen to be there on New Year's Eve when Hugo Duarte and The
Full Sail Band made room on stage for Jimmy Buffett, Steve Winwood,
and Steve Cropper. Other Key West on-stage collaborations have
included the likes of Sam Clayton, Russ Kunkel, Billy Dean, Fingers
Taylor, Michael Utley, Robert Greenidge, and Larry Michael Lee.
Larry Michael Lee is also the producer of Hugo’s CDs,
Another Day In
Paradise, Places Along the Road, and
Don’t Be Fooled By The Hat.
Yes, Hugo Duarte’s music is unique. It demands something of the
listener, especially if the listener really wants to "get it". Yes,
you can put it on in the background and it will sound great, or you
can choose to listen closely and that’s when a door to a truly
unique awareness really begins to open.
So……Why settle for standing outside and peering through the window?
Open that door and step inside…really inside, where you will hear,
see, and feel the magic.
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