Without a doubt, the musician that is most often associated with Key West is the legendary Jimmy Buffett. Long before Parrotheads around the world were singing and dancing to Margaritaville, the world of jazz crowned Key West native Theodore “Fats” Navarro as one its greats.
Navarro was born in Key West in 1923 to Cuban-Black-Chinese parentage. While growing up on Thomas Street in Bahama Village, his mother, Miriam Williams, worked as a cook in the home of Earnest and Pauline Hemingway. Although Navarro began playing piano at age 6, he did not become serious about music until taking up the trumpet at 13. After graduating from Douglas High School and ready to see the world, he joined a dance band and headed for the Midwest.
As a trumpet player, Navarro was a pioneer of the bebop style of jazz improvisation in the 1940’s—playing with Charlie Parker, Benny Goodman, and Lionel Hampton. He is ranked with Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis as one of the most gifted and original stylists in the development of jazz. Theodore “Fats” Navarro died New York City, at the young age of 26, in 1950. Six days before his passing, he gave his final performance with Charlie Parker at the landmark jazz club Birdland.
Keith & Dean