Saturday, March 1, 2014

Miami Some Background And Hitting The Road

Miami Skyline
"Its hard to believe this city started as a trading post..."-Jimmy Buffett
Hello and welcome back to Old Highway Notes as we begin our investigation of what Interstate 95 has to offer in virtual adventure by way of music and history. Lets look into a little bit of the background of this important highway. Its not a glamorous road, but it is a workhorse connecting up the eastern seaboard.

Interstate 95 Background

The Interstate Highway system was not begun until the 1950's. Obviously the East Coast of the United stated had been heavily settled for literally hundreds of years by then. A wide network of roads and highways connected the major cities of the Eastern seaboard. Interstate 95 for the most part took those existing thoroughfares and stitched them together to form a highway that would run from Miami to Maine. The road would pass through the most states of any highway number in the Interstate System.

Passing through Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, The District Of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. It runs for 1924 1/2 miles.In many areas it is commuter corridor. As is common in the Eastern US, in many areas the road is a toll road.

Looking into the history of the highway is mostly a look at a resistance to the highway in many of the cities along the way. Citizens fought its construction in many cities achieving some successes. In Washington D.C. and in Boston the highway, which was originally planned to pass through the center of the cities, was diverted in both case to an outer bypass loop.

In New Jersey,  the highway has a  gap between Trenton and New Brunswick with construction underway to fill in the gap that is slated to be completed in 2017. Currently drivers are diverted onto the New Jersey turnpike as connecting link between the southern and northern section of I-95.

So there is a little bit of the history of the highway. We begin our journey in the South. South Florida to be exact. We begin in Miami. 

Miami History

Miami had been a lightly settled small village in South Florida until, in 1891 a Cleveland widow named Julia Tuttle relocated to South Florida following the death of her husband. She purchased 640 acres of land on the North Bank of the Miami River. She then tried to convince railroad magnate Henry Flagler that he should extend his Florida East Coast Line past the Orange growing region of Central Florida to her plot of land which could be developed as a housing and tourist destination. At first he declined her suggestions, but her perseverance-as well as a few crop destroying freezes in Central Florida-convinced him that passenger traffic could be sought with an extended line. Late in 1895 construction began.

Miami grew fast. In 1900, 1,681 people lived in Miami, Florida; in 1910, there were 5,471 people; and in 1920, there were 29,549 people. In the early 1920's legal gambling and lax enforcement of prohibition helped contribute to major land boom in South Florida. The population doubled in just three years. The great influx of people strained the infrastructure which caused a slow down that burst the bubble. Then a hurricane in 1926 and the stock market crash of 1929 stunted the cities growth for decades. The Marx Brothers parodied the days of the Florida land rust in their Vaudeville stage play that was adapted to a film in 1929, The Cocoanuts. Its a hilarious film that gave us the phrase "Why a duck?" which would resurface later in Groucho Marx's career as he hosted You Bet Your Life in the early days of television. This is a short review of the film that has some clips in it.

The arrival of World War II caused a large number of military installations to be built in South Florida, adding to the population growth significantly with many staying around after the war ended. Then in the 1959 Castro took over Cuba in a communist revolution. Many Cubans of means were forced to leave Cuba, often with few of their personal effects and fled to Miami settling in an area that became known as "Little Havana". In the 1960's nearly half a million Cubans arrived and gave Miami the Latin flavor that it exhibits to the present day. Wave after wave of immigrants have come to Miami from not only Cuba, but from Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America, Th large Cuban population are largely influential in Latin American television production, and has earned the city the nickname "The Capital Of Latin America".

That point of entry that mentioned, is also a major pipeline for drugs, especially cocaine, to enter the United States. The 1980's hit television series Miami Vice showcased the glamor and lawlessness of the cocaine smuggling business of the time and the detectives pursuing those smugglers. It was a very 80's stylized program that featured a music video in every episode, a groundbreaking idea at the time. The cities point of entry is also a point of departure. the busiest cruise ship port in the world and home to fleets of Caribbean crusie ships it is also known as the "Cruising Capitol of the World."

Miami Playlist Additions
Amazon Store

While not the most musically well represented city in my collection, I do have some Miami related items to share with you. We start off with a voice that is more known for the Florida Keys even farther south. Jimmy Buffett sings how "Everybody's Got a Cousin In Miami" that celebrates the city and its history.

  • Everybody's Got A Cousin In Miami Fruitcakes Jimmy Buffett    7:19

Moving on and actually going back in time to 1985, we come upon Gloria Estefan and The Miami Sound Machine with their hit "Conga". Honestly the song is "clubbier" than I generally prefer but it was part of a larger package of Latin pop called ¡Caliente!: The Best Of Latin Pop, which appears to be out of print. The song certainly is representative of our host city of Miami and Gloria Estefan has become a musical diplomat of sorts both for Miami and its Cuban expatriate community/
  • Conga (Single Version)    ¡Caliente!: The Best Of Latin Pop    Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine    4:17
Also from 1985, and the popular hit series Miami Vice I have Grandmaster Melle Mel Throwing down some early hip hip with Vice (Miami Vice)
And our admittedly short Miami set comes to a close with a band that is not from Miami , but is from further up highway 95 in Washington D.C. In the 90's I subscribed to CMJ Monthly which showcased new and emerging college music. It came iwth a CD every month showcasing artists featured in the magazine. The March 95 issue featured the band Air Miami with their track, "Airplane Rider". It is barely relevant to the city and it's story. The only real Miami reference is in the bands name, but I am feeling generous. Besides it is a decent song and was a minor college radio hit. so what the heck, we'll add it to the list.

While we were at the airport with Air Miami and Jimmy Buffett ("He's bewildered by the plane ride and the immigration line until he sees his Christian name upon a cardboard sign"),  we must have just missed the Beatles and the Dead Kennedys. Apparently they were here, but now they're Back In The USSR as the song says "Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC didn't get to bed last night". That makes the list.

  • Back In The USSR    White Album Demo    The Beatles    2:56
  • Back In The USSR    The Beatles (White Album)    The Beatles    2:44
  • Back In The USSR.    Love    The Beatles    1:53
  • Back In The Ussr    Live At The Deaf Club    Dead Kennedys    2:31

So that's it for Miami in my music collection. Pretty sparse pickings.  Actually, I do have a lot of Afro-Cuban Jazz and that is certainly something that you would hear in Miami. Since that music came from Cuba and not Miami, I decided to hold off. I have vague notions of maybe Old Highway Notes taking a Caribbean cruise. If and when that happens we may have to defy the embargo and visit Cuba. In the meantime, if any of you readers would like to recommend some good Miami oriented music, reach out in the comments and let me know.

Thanks for joining us for this weeks Old Highway Notes. Join me next week, as we return to Chicago on Route 66. In two weeks we will continue to our Highway 101 adventure before returning to South Florida and Interstate 95. Until then, keep your hands on the wheel and the rubber on the road.

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