Today Jimmy Buffett is best known for the Margaritaville brand and the legions of Parrot Heads who fly into his shows from across the country, but his story does not start with the hit song that would give its name to his hotels, cocktail-making machines, and other enterprises.The Parrot Heads can trace the birth of their movement to a concert in 1985; Margaritaville was released in 1977, but Jimmy had been out in Nashville trying to make a name for himself for a whole decade before that.
For nearly 60 years, Buffett has been a star of a style of music that defies pigeon-holing, an admired frontman for the Coral Reefers and the leader of a fad that quickly became a way of life.
Buffett was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi on Christmas Day in 1946, although he would end up spending a large part of his childhood years in Mobile, Alabama. As a young man, Jimmy enrolled in the University of Southern Mississippi where he studied for a degree in history and developed a passion for writing.
In fact, there was two clear influence on his young life that would stay with him throughout his career. The first was his talent for writing, which would later lead to a job writing for Billboard and success as an author; the second was Buffett’s sailor grandfather, who provided a love of the ocean from an early age. He joined Billboard in Nashville upon graduating but soon chased his dream of being a musician.
Music Has Been A Part Of Jimmy’s Life From Long Before The Days Of Margaritaville.
The first song title that comes to mind when discussing Buffett’s work is Margaritaville, from the 1977 album Changes in Lattitude. This was to be the man’s first platinum-selling album, but it was certainly not his first recorded album. In 1969, his debut sold just 369 copies and hopes of future stardom initially faded. Later work in the 1970s quickly proved the doubters wrong.
Margaritaville is now ranked 234th on the Recording Industry Association of America’s list of the “Songs of the Century” and Volcano emerged as a hit album in 1979. Buffett had hit his stride, and the late seventies became a turning point for him as a live performer. A lot of this is down to his collaboration with his band.
The Coral Reefer Band And The Creation Of That Unique Sound.
In 1974, the Coral Reefer Band was established. What started as a fictitious idea with made-up characters called Marvin Gardens, Kay Pasa, Al Vacado and Kitty Litter progressed to the real thing.
At first, it was just a bunch of guys put together in Key West for a tour, but the chemistry and progression that was created through this partnership meant that the ever-changing line-up of guitarists, percussion players, and other musicians turned into a staple part of the Buffett experience. Parrot Heads don’t simply go to their shows for the singer/songwriter; they go for the full band experience.
The problem with this blend of instruments and styles is that many critics, and even the fans, have had some trouble understanding what to call this music. Jimmy himself began to refer to it as “drunken Caribbean rock ‘n’ roll“, which seems apt with the themes and energy involved, and he later coined the phrase “gulf and western” – a blend of country and western styles with influences from the Gulf of Mexico. The band continued to experiment with the sound and are still producing the album to critical acclaim.
The success and accolade kept coming in the latter stages of his career. In 2004, Jimmy received his first Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals for the song. It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere. The song would go on to win Single Of The Year and Video Of The Year at the 2003 Academy of Country Music Awards.
Whatever The Music Is Called, It Certainly Gained Popularity, And As The Parrot Heads Emerged, Margaritaville Culture Exploded.
The term Parrot Head for the fans of Jimmy Buffett was first used at a concert in 1985. It didn’t take long for this name to stick, and it became a large part of a growing culture surrounding the song Margaritaville and the general message of the music.
Fans encouraged each other to take a laid back view of the world and embrace the feel of this fictitious town of sandy beaches and perfect drinks. Before long, Margaritaville became a reality. In 1987, the Margaritaville Cafe joined the Margaritaville Store, and there has been branding on alcohol for the Margaritas, machines, hotels and all sort of merchandise. Then there is the Cheeseburger in Paradise chain. The list is seemingly endless.
Today, Buffett Is The Head Of An Empire, But He Had Not Forgotten His Charity Work, His Love Of The Margarita Culture And – Most Importantly – His Fans.
In recent times, Buffett has used his influence in environmental causes. The love of the ocean and the landscape has not faded in his old age and Jimmy still respects the environment that provides such inspiration. He supports some environmental causes to help preserve marine areas and creatures like the manatee.
He is also involved in Singing for Change, which looks to inspire “personal growth, community integration, and the enhanced awareness that collectively, people can bring about positive social change”.
It is clear that he has not sat back to watch his empire grow as he is still incredibly active. He is still writing, recording and performing on a regular basis, providing new albums and large-scale concerts for his adoring fans. 2016 I Don’t Know tour is proving to be a big hit and is surely not his last.
If he wanted to, he could retire on his sailboat, the Euphoria II, drinking his Margarita’s on the ocean. The truth is that there is still too much to say and too much fun to be had, especially when he gets to fly to shows in his own Dassault Falcon 900. A Buffett show is still like a kind of pilgrimage for keen fans, and as long as they carry on wearing those costumes and singing his songs, he will play for them.