Beverly Higgins is in her Tarpon Springs, Fla., kitchen, gathering up coupons for a trip to the grocery store. She stops and laughs about the day Bertie Higgins came back into her life 13 years ago.
“I was living in Atlanta in an apartment by myself, and Bertie comes whisking by in this brand new Cadillac,” she says.
Mind you, she hadn’t seen the struggling singer-songwriter in the two years since their breakup over past indiscretions. “The day I go out on you is the day I leave you,” she recalls telling him during happier times. “The day you leave me is the day I write a hit song,” he replied.
“So, here he comes up and knocks on my door,” Beverly says. “He said, ‘Do you have a stereo or a radio?’ I said sure. He told me to put it on 88-point something, a crossover country station. He said to just wait, didn’t tell me what I was listening for.
“About five minutes later, ‘Key Largo’ came on … and he said, ‘I wrote that for you.’ “
Bertie Higgins had been heartbroken for quite some time.
“I couldn’t get over this woman,” he says. “There is no getting around it, so I figured the only way I’m going to turn her around is to write for her and get something on the radio.”
Beverly laughs again.
“Me, knowing a little about music, I said, ‘Well, you’re flat on this second verse.’ He’s got a hit record out on the radio and I bring out a negative!”
Higgins changed the verse (she was right) and “Key Largo,” using the romantic imagery of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, peaked at No. 8 on Billboard’s pop singles chart in 1982.
A year later, the two married and have lived happily ever after. Only, Bertie Higgins’ career stalled somewhat in the states since “Key Largo.” His old record company went bankrupt; his songs and his career were in limbo.
Undaunted, Higgins found steady work in the Far East and Australia and New Zealand, consistently scoring hit albums in countries like Japan, Taiwan and Singapore. He bought a bar in the Keys, and the Higgins family returned to Bertie’s hometown of Tarpon Springs.
“The moral of the story is that on June 7, I went to New York and got my own record deal with Epic,” Bertie says.
The result: “The Best of Bertie Higgins: Then and Now,” released in mid-November. “Key Largo” makes its long-overdue CD debut, along with “Just Another Day in Paradise” and “Casablanca.” The other tracks are new, among them the first single, “Jamaica Me Crazy,” co-written by Bertie and Beverly.
Bertie Higgins turns 50 on Dec. 8. He doesn’t look a day over 35.
“I don’t tell anyone about my age,” he says. “I don’t think it’s good … I’m fortysomething. What I find most amazing, normally record companies don’t give people my age record deals. I’ve beaten the odds.”
BWF (before we forget): Several years after this story first appeared, Higgins had several run-ins with the law, including charges of spousal abuse and DUI.