Music Industry

Miami: Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll | Part 1

by Shelby Wall

The Secrets of Miami’s Music Industry
By David Greenberg | South Miami Recovery Social Media and Blog Writer

(Editor’s Note: the primary source quoted in this article is a recovering addict who is active in the music and entertainment industry in Miami. In order to protect his anonymity, we are using an assumed name for him).


Miami is the Spot

So, you may think it’s L.A. or New York or some other city in the U.S. or around the world, but for the last 50 years, the place to get in trouble with sex and drugs is right here in Miami. Interestingly, it’s also the best place to get clean if that trouble leads to abuse and addiction.

Sam should know. He’s been in the thick of it for almost 40 years. Sam has worked in the music and entertainment industry since the early ’80s. He’s seen it as a recording engineer, writer, producer, label executive and publisher. He’s worn every hat and participated in hundreds of recording sessions.

He’s seen and been through it all – not just professionally. He has been to the seedy underbelly of it as well, as celebrities and high-profile people in his field and others find their way to Miami and then find themselves in trouble. He, himself, has been in recovery more than five years.

“We like to say that it’s not the heat; it’s the stupidity,” he said. “There’s something about this town. It’s a combination of different things. We’re very multi-cultural. That Caribbean and Latin influence can loosen people up. Because of our location, there’s tremendous access to legal and illegal party favors. Plus, our climate lends itself to being outdoors. People roam around a lot. Doesn’t get cold enough to huddle indoors to stay warm. You can be out getting half naked and many people do. So, with that whole mix, you add music and dancing, and you get hot, sensual, sexual things. It’ all very inviting and often leads to trouble.”

And back in the ’80s, adding drugs to that mix was easy.

“It was crazy in the bars,” he said. “We used to go to the Mutiny in Coconut Grove. Being at the bar there was like being in a movie. But that wasn’t the only one. People would be pulling out bags of cocaine and shoving it in their nose. There were a lot of the parties. Between coke, Quaaludes and cheap reefer, it was free flowing. It was easy to get and everywhere, making it that much easier to get in trouble. You didn’t have to look hard for it to happen.”

The Rich and Famous Find Trouble

In his industry alone, there were many high-profile people who found trouble in Miami. And being in the industry since the 1980s, Sam has seen some of the rich and famous. He’s watched some recover, and known others who did not survive it.

One of the most famous was Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees.

“I really only knew Maurice through mutual friends,” he said.

But Gibb’s story is well known. A recovering addict, he was often seen by others in 12-step rooms in Miami. He relapsed after the death of his brother in 1988, but later got clean again. He passed away in 2003 after a heart attack and other medical issues.

Another famous singer who found trouble in many places, including Miami, was Dion DiMucci, known to most people simply as Dion. With a musical career that dates back to the late 1950s, he is well known in the industry, and Sam describes him as someone he has met several times.

For Dion, recovery from his heroin addiction came through treatment and religion. Born in 1939, he is still active in the music industry and lives in Boca Raton.

“There were many more,” Sam said. “Some I knew well. Other not as much. Two of the most famous were Jim Morrison, whose story is well documented, and Steve Tyler, who lives in recovery in Fort Lauderdale.”

One of the behind-the-scenes people in the music industry was Leas Campbell, who was once referred to in the Miami Herald as Miami’s King of Rock and Roll. The bands and entertainers he worked with included Elvis, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Neil Young, The Allman Brothers, The Moody Blues, Tina Turner, Crosby Stills and Nash and Bob Dylan.

In recovery himself, Campbell spent decades helping others suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. He created the Sobe Room, described as a home for recovery on South Beach.

“I knew Leas very well,” said Sam. “He used to tell stories about his experiences with some of the famous people in rock and roll. For a time, he was the road manager for the Allman Brothers. Duane (Allman) told him to switch his cigarettes to Kools. Duane said they get arrested a lot, and Kools were like gold in jail.”

One more behind-the-scenes person, Sam knew well was Walter Yetnikoff, who was the president of CBS Records in the 1970s. In his book, Howling at the Moon, Yetnikoff talked about his own drug addiction.

“My father and Dion helped him get into recovery,” said Sam.

More Than the Music Industry

But if you think it’s only people in the music industry who get in trouble in Miami, you would be wrong.

Well-known athletes come to Miami and find themselves in all sorts of trouble, probably for the same reasons Sam described earlier.

It’s been just a few months since the Super Bowl was hosted here, and surprisingly, there was very little noise about athletes getting into trouble this time around. One of the most famous of those incidents occurred in 1989, when Eugene Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons was busted the night before the Super Bowl for soliciting a prostitute. Earlier that same day, he was honored as the player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community. After his arrest, he returned the award.

And if you think athletes get in trouble more in other cities, again, you would be wrong. Days before this year’s Super Bowl, USA Today released a report indicating that the Miami metro area has had the highest number of NFL player arrests and citations since 2000 – and not by a little. Since 2000, at least 60 NFL players (active at that time) were arrested or cited in the Miami metro area, with only a third of those playing for the Miami Dolphins. The next biggest hot spots for NFL player trouble are metro Atlanta, New York, Denver and Minneapolis, each with just over 40.

So, if you got in trouble in Miami, you’re not alone. Some of the most famous people in the world have walked the same path as you. Next time, we will talk about why, if you’re going to get into trouble, Miami may not be such a bad place for it.


South Miami Recovery is a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center located in Miami, Florida. To learn more about our unique approach to recovery, call 305-661-0055 today.

David Greenberg is a recovering addict celebrating 35 years of recovery. He got his start in recovery at Mount Sinai Hospital and Concept House and remains active following a 12-step lifestyle.