BY REQUEST: THANK GOD THE TIKI BAR IS OPEN A couple of summers ago I was hired to play a Key West themed outdoor party. Yes, I’ve played Buffett stuff when requested, but, come to find out, I didn’t know very much about the “Trop Rock” genre. I found out that my friends Tim and Chris were HUGE “Trop Rock” fans and they provided a solid resource for material. They kept texting me tunes from that genre. I proceeded to learn as many as I could. I assembled a band of 5 or 6 guys and after months of planning, the gig happened. It was beautiful night at “The Works” in Newark and the band played like champs.

One of my favorite tunes that came from Tim and Chris was John Hiatt’s “The Tiki Bar Is Open”. I was really intrigued by the lyrics and wondered what they were all about. I listened to the song over and OVER. Such a great groove with a junky kinda beat. I loved it. As always, after I listen to a tune like that, I have to figure out how to transcribe it to work with my skill set. Ultimately came up with an arrangement and I love playing this tune on every gig to this day.

I read up on John Hiatt and what inspired him to write the song. Turns out he’s a big NASCAR fan and had been in Daytona for some of the races. Hiatt was returning to his hotel on the beach one night after a race. He drove by one of those many Mom-and-Pop motels and in his periphery, noticed a pitiful little neon sign that said “Tiki Bar Is Open”. He said he didn’t drink but if he did that little sign would be a sight for sore eyes. For John, the tiki bar being open meant that Daytona Beach was still there. He pays tribute to NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt within the lyrics.

Always intrigued by the creative process, I’m forever fascinated by the back stories of how a song or any great idea is born. Inspiration can come to all of us from the most unexpected places. You certainly do not have to be a musician or artist to embrace the gift of it. Keep watch for these little seedlings of inspiration. They can change the world. You never know when that thing or concept you’ve been dreaming of will grow into a great endeavor for you and those you love. I hope so.

THE PAINTING THE SCOOP: This piece is 12 x 12 on canvas panel. I used a variety of watercolor pans including some jewel tones along with some ink pen. Since we are in the dead of winter here in Ohio, and we are really HAVING winter this year, I ponder tropical scenes a lot from my cruising gig days for survival. One day I got to snorkel for my very first time in Grand Cayman with my fellow band mates. They really showed me the ropes and I’ll always cherish that memory. One of they guys gave me a little baggy of fish food. I released it while underwater and was instantly surrounded by a color explosion of fish, squid and whatever else came to me for chow. I feel that the indescribable beauty of sea life I got to see that day while under water played into this scene.

Tiki Bar is Open prints are available here:

Thanks for reading. If you are interested in reading past blogs, please go here: If you are interested in having me do a commissioned work please email me at:

Think tropical thoughts. The snow will melt soon.


#tikibarisopen #smithgirlarts #theartworkofgaylasmith