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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2007/07/29
by Mike Gruenberg

Barefoot Man

In My Life
The difference between success and failure is not always hard work. Yes, being diligent and focused in addition to working hard are key ingredients for success. However, the most important aspect of navigating through the seas of uncertainty on the voyage to success involves the understanding of the situation around you and most importantly knowing your own strengths and weaknesses.
All of us have specific strengths and weaknesses. How we use those assets to our advantage and understand our shortcomings will ultimately decide everyones fate. For example, we all have seen people with great athletic abilities, whose success was all but assured even at an early age. Unfortunately, many of those gifted athletes never achieved the level of success they were destined to obtain because some of them did not understand that they had an inherent weakness which was a lack of committing to hard work and training. Most of the time athletic ability alone will not guarantee success. Being honest with oneself to understand both their strengths and weaknesses is difficult, but essential.
In the entertainment business, success of an artist is often copied by a slew of people trying to duplicate that persons last hit record. As a result, what started out as a unique sound is often copied to death. Usually, the original artist will continue to roll along while others ultimately fall away searching to copy the next successful artist. Being unique is important. This is called creating a niche for oneself.
On my recent annual Cayman Islands vacation, I wandered in to a number of the souvenir shops that line the streets of Georgetown, the main city in the Island chain. There were a number of musical CDs on racks being sold at all of these stores. Perhaps the most abundant of titles on those racks were by an artist called the Barefoot Man. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that most of the tunes included on his many discs were seemingly humorous in nature. Titles such as Thong Gone Wrong, Manure Happens, Blame It On The Rum, etc. were but a few of the songs offered by the Barefoot Man.
Since I am not a fan of song parodies I decided not to purchase any of these discs. It occurred to me that whoever was behind the Barefoot Man had done a great job of creating a niche marketing plan in the Cayman Islands for this act. One night, we went out to dinner and in this particular restaurant we were told that there would be live entertainment. Much to my surprise, the entertainer was none other than the Barefoot Man.
The Barefoot Mans band included himself on guitar accompanied by a person on keyboard/synthesizer and a percussionist, who turned out to be the wife of the keyboard player. Their set was most entertaining with lively Caribbean Island style music combined with the Barefoot Mans humorous stories and anecdotes between the songs.
As it turns out, the Barefoot Man is not only an excellent musician and song writer; he has defined the words niche marketing to create a cottage industry based around his bare feet and humorous songs. He owns the record company that records and sells his music. His wife is the accountant and he is also the photographer and writer. He sells T-Shirts, CDs of his songs in addition to CDs for kids, CDs of diving songs and Christmas CDs on his website and at his performances. It also looks like he has worked a deal with Cayman Airways along with The Reef Resorts in the Cayman Islands and Nippers Beach Bar in the Bahamas for them to advertise on his CDs as well. He has branched out to the Bahamas where he has an album that has been a Top 10 hit for four years. He has won Grammys, Gold Records and is enormously popular on both the Bahamas and Cayman Islands. His music was used in the movie, The Firm which was filmed in part in the Cayman Islands. There is a scene in the movie where Gene Hackman is dancing to one of Barefoots songs.
Barefoot Mans real name is George Nowack who landed on the Caymans in 1971. In that time, he realized that he had a talent for writing and performing humorous songs. He also had a love of the sea, sun and sand which combined with his musical skills meant that living and working in a Caribbean environment would maximize his chances for success.
I purchased his Gone Coconutz album which was written after the devastating hurricane Ivan that caused enormous damage to the Cayman Islands in September of 2004. Released in 2005, this album was a Grammy Award winner. The album is pleasant, humorous, and upbeat and is everything one could hope for while relaxing on a lounge chair by the sea with a book and a Corona topped off with lime.
During his performance, Barefoot humorously acknowledged the success of Jimmy Buffet who certainly has achieved superstardom. While Barefoot may not be as huge as Jimmy, in the Caymans, the Barefoot Man is king.
Barefoot Man Discography
Thong Gone Wrong
Barefoot Man – Gone Coconutz
The Best of Calypso – Best of the Best, Volume 1
Hot Hot Hot Collection – Best of the Best
Barefoot’s Best – Volume 3
25th Anniversary Box Set – Best of Volumes 1, 2 and 3
Fake Boobs and Belly Buttons
Big Black Dick
Loud Shirts
Only the Good Stuff
The Best of Scuba Do
Reggae ‘n Rum
Best Ever CD From the Cayman Islands
Barefoot in the Bahamas
Children of the Caribbean
We Need a Vacation

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