Key Largo is an island off the coast of Florida that was the setting for the 1948 movie of the same name starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who were married in real life and one of the most glamorous couples in Hollywood. Bertie Higgins grew up in Tarpon Springs, Florida and spent a lot of time in the Florida keys. He based this song on the movie, with a failed romance also serving as inspiration.
In the book Behind The Hits, Higgins said: "I lived with a girl a long time in Florida. Here name was Beverly Seaberg. We used to watch old movies on the weekends, and to us, the Bogart and Bacall romance was a phenomenal one: because of their age difference - she was 20 and he was 45 - and because the world was clamoring constanly for them to make a relationship work in Hollywood. Bev left me, and I hurt for about two years. Finally, I said, 'Well, I've got to reach her somehow.' And the only equipment I had to reach her with was a song. So I wrote the song 'Key Largo.' It was a plea for her return. And she did We became engaged."
The couple got married a year after the song was released, but split in 1995. They had two children, Aaron and Julian.
This was the only hit for the singer/songwriter Higgins, who started his career in the early '60s as the drummer in Tommy Roe's backup band, The Roemans. He was living in Atlanta and playing in clubs when he wrote "Key Largo." The song was released as a single in 1981 on Kat Family Records, a CBS imprint that existed for just a short time in the '80s (their biggest act: Major Lance). Higgins' debut album, Just Another Day In Paradise, was released the next year and included another movie-themed song in "Casablanca." The album's title track provided Higgins' only other Hot 100 hit: it went to #46 about two months after "Key Largo" peaked on the charts. In 1983 his song "When You Fall In Love (Like I Fell In Love With You)" from his second album Pirates And Poets reached #34 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
Higgins carved out a niche in the "trop rock" genre with island songs in the Jimmy Buffett vein, but never again reached the charts, leaving him a one-hit wonder. He had some run-ins with the law, and in 1997 served 80 days in jail for a DUI arrest, but has released a steady stream of albums.
Higgins wrote this song with his producer, Sonny Limbo, who suggested incorporating the Bogart line, "Here's looking at you, kid," into the lyric.
This wasn't the only hit from 1981 based on movie stars: Kim Carnes hit #1 in the US with "Bette Davis Eyes
" the same year.
"Key Largo" was a #1 hit on the Adult Contemporary chart.