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Keys’ Conch “Musicians” Honk Their Way To The Top

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Conch shell musicians blow shells during an annual Key West contest (Source: AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Rob O'Neal)

Conch shell musicians blow shells during an annual Key West contest (Source: AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Rob O’Neal)

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KEY WEST (CBS4) – Puckering up and performing his own renditions of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” and Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” a Key West musician took honors in the men’s division at the city’s 49th annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest.

“The trick is to get the shell vibrating, and that’s how you make the sound,” said 58-year old Steve Gibson who has taken second place in past contests.

Gibson said he learned how to blow the conch shell about five years ago.

Blowing it has been a Key West tradition since the early 1800s, when seafaring settlers used the conch shell as a maritime signaling device.  The shell of the queen conch is a symbol of the Florida Keys, often called the Conch Republic.

“I don’t play the conch shell much because it’s so loud,” he said, “but every now and then to scare my neighbor.”

In the women’s division Kate Miano, who a Key West hotelier, won after blowing a strong 16-second blast to win a tiebreaker against another leading female entrant.

The top group entry was a self-described “conchestra,” whose two dozen members saluted the queen conch with a conch-shell accompaniment and offbeat dance to a recording of Abba’s “Dancing Queen.”

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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