Buffett performing, January 2008
|James William Buffett|
|Origin||Mobile, Alabama, U.S.|
James William Buffett (born December 25, 1946) is an American musician, songwriter, author, actor, and businessman. He is best known for his music, which often portrays an "island escapism" lifestyle. Together with his Coral Reefer Band, Buffett has recorded hit songs including "Margaritaville" (ranked 234th on the Recording Industry Association of America's list of "Songs of the Century") and "Come Monday". He has a devoted base of fans known as "Parrotheads".
Aside from his career in music, Buffett is also a best-selling writer and is involved in two restaurant chains named after two of his best-known songs; he owns the Margaritaville Cafe restaurant chain and co-developed the Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant chain.
Buffett was born on December 25, 1946, in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and spent part of his childhood in Mobile, Alabama. He is the son of Mary Lorraine (née Peets) and James Delaney Buffett, Jr. In grade school years, he attended St. Ignatius School, where he played the trombone in the school band. Buffett's grandfather was a sailor, therefore he was exposed to sailing as a child which had an early effect on his life and later in his music. He later lived in Fairhope, Alabama. He graduated from McGill Institute for Boys in 1964. He began playing guitar during his first year at Auburn University before continuing his college years at Pearl River Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he received a bachelor's degree in history in 1969. He was initiated into the fraternity Kappa Sigma at the University of Southern Mississippi. After graduating from college, Buffett worked as a correspondent for Billboard magazine in Nashville, breaking the news of the separation of Flatt and Scruggs.
Buffett married Margie Washichek in 1969 and divorced in 1971. Buffett spent years working as the first mate on the yacht of industrialist Foster Talge on the Petticoat III in Key West while perfecting the "Caribbean Rock n' Roll" genre. Buffett and his second wife, Jane (née Slagsvol) have two daughters, Savannah Jane and Sarah Delaney, (Sarah was almost named Sara Loraine, after his mother, but was named Sarah Delaney after his father), and an adopted son, Cameron Marley, and reside in Sag Harbor, New York. They separated in the early 1980s, but reconciled in 1991. Buffett also owns a home in St Barts, a Caribbean island where he lived on and off in the early 1980s while he was part owner of the Autour de Rocher hotel and restaurant. He spends part of the summer traveling about the East Coast on his sailboat. An avid pilot, Buffett owns a Dassault Falcon 900 that he often uses while on concert tour and traveling worldwide. He has also owned a Boeing Stearman, Lake Amphibian, and Grumman Albatross.
His father died May 1, 2003, at the age of 83. His mother died a few months after her husband, on September 25, 2003.
In 2015, Jimmy Buffett spoke at the University of Miami's graduation ceremony and received an honorary doctorate in music. Wearing flip flops and aviator sunglasses, he told graduates, in a paraphrase of his song "The Pascagoula Run", that "it's time to see the world, time to kiss a girl, and time to cross the wild meridian."
Buffett began his musical career in Nashville, Tennessee, during the late 1960s as a country artist and recorded his first album, the folk rock Down to Earth, in 1970. During this time, Buffett could be frequently found busking for tourists in New Orleans. Country music singer Jerry Jeff Walker took him to Key West on a busking expedition in November 1971. Buffett then moved to Key West and began establishing the easy-going beach-bum persona for which he is known. He started out playing for drinks at the Chart Room Bar in the Pier House Motel. Following this move, Buffett combined country, rock, and pop music with coastal as well as tropical lyrical themes for a sound sometimes called "gulf and western". Today, he is a regular visitor to the Caribbean island of Saint Barts and other islands where he gets inspiration for many of his songs and some of the characters in his books.
With the untimely death of friend and mentor Jim Croce in September 1973, ABC/Dunhill Records tapped Buffett to fill his space. Earlier, Buffett had visited Croce's farm in Pennsylvania and met with Croce in Florida.
Buffett's third album was the 1973 A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean. Albums Living & Dying in 3/4 Time and A1A both followed in 1974, Havana Daydreamin' appeared in 1976, and Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes followed in 1977 and featured the breakthrough hit song "Margaritaville".
During the 1980s, Buffett made far more money from his tours than his albums and became known as a popular concert draw. He released a series of albums during the following 20 years, primarily to his devoted audience, and also branched into writing and merchandising. In 1985, Buffett opened a "Margaritaville" retail store in Key West, and in 1987, he opened the Margaritaville Cafe.
In 1997, Buffett collaborated with novelist Herman Wouk to create a musical based on Wouk's novel, Don't Stop the Carnival. Broadway showed little interest in the play (following the failure of Paul Simon's The Capeman), and it ran only for six weeks in Miami. He released an album of songs from the musical in 1998.
In August 2000, Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band played on the White House lawn for then-President Bill Clinton.
In 2003, he partnered in a partial duet with Alan Jackson for the song "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere", a number-one hit on the country charts. This song won the 2003 Country Music Association Award for Vocal Event of the Year. This was Buffett's first award in his 30-year career.
Buffett's album, License to Chill, released on July 13, 2004, sold 238,600 copies in its first week of release according to Nielsen Soundscan. With this, Buffett topped the U.S. pop albums chart for the first time in his career.
Buffett continues to tour throughout the year, although he has shifted recently to a more relaxed schedule of around 20-30 dates, with infrequent back-to-back nights, preferring to play only on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. This schedule provided the title of his 1999 live album.
In the summer of 2005, Buffett teamed up with Sirius Satellite Radio and introduced Radio Margaritaville. Until this point, Radio Margaritaville was solely an online channel. Radio Margaritaville has remained on the service through Sirius' merger with XM Radio and currently appears as XM 24. The channel broadcasts from the Margaritaville restaurant at Universal CityWalk in Orlando, Florida.
In August 2006, he released the album Take The Weather With You. The song "Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On" on this album is in honor of the survivors of 2005's Hurricane Katrina. Buffett's rendition of "Silver Wings" on the same album was made as a tribute to Merle Haggard. On August 30, 2007, he received his star on the Mohegan Sun Walk of Fame.
On April 20, 2010, a double CD of performances recorded during the 2008 and 2009 tours called Encores was released exclusively at Walmart, Walmart.com, and Margaritaville.com.
Buffett partnered in a duet with the Zac Brown Band on the song "Knee Deep": released on Brown's 2010 album You Get What You Give, it became a hit country and pop single in 2011. Also in 2011, Buffett voiced Huckleberry Finn on Mark Twain: Words & Music, which was released on Mailboat Records. The project is a benefit for the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum and includes Clint Eastwood as Mark Twain, Garrison Keillor as the narrator, and songs by Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crow, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, and others.
Of the over 30 albums Jimmy Buffett has released, as of October 2007, eight are Gold albums and nine are Platinum or Multiplatinum. In 2003, Buffett won his first Country Music Award for his song "It's 5 O'clock Somewhere" with Alan Jackson, and was nominated again in 2007 for the CMA Event of the Year Award for his song "Hey Good Lookin" which featured Alan Jackson and George Strait.
Buffett has performed at the Xfinity Center amphitheatre (formerly known as Great Woods) in Mansfield, Massachusetts, 58 times, the most of any venue in his career.
Buffett began calling his music "drunken Caribbean rock 'n' roll" as he says on his 1978 live album You Had To Be There. Later, Buffett himself and others have used the term "gulf and western" to describe his musical style and that of other similar-sounding performers. The name derives from elements in Buffett's early music including musical influence from country and western, along with lyrical themes from the Gulf Coast. A music critic described Buffett's music as a combination of "tropical languor with country funkiness into what some [have] called the Key West sound, or Gulf-and-western." The term is a play on the form of "Country & Western" and the name of the former conglomerate Gulf+Western.
Other performers identified as gulf and western are often deliberately derivative of Buffett's musical style and some are tribute bands, or in the case of Greg "Fingers" Taylor, a former member of Buffett's Coral Reefer Band. They can be heard on Buffett's online Radio Margaritaville and on the compilation album series Thongs in the Key of Life. Gulf and western performers include Norman "the Caribbean Cowboy" Lee, Jim Bowley,Kenny Chesney, and Jim Morris.
Buffett has written three number-one best sellers. Tales from Margaritaville and Where Is Joe Merchant? both spent over seven months on The New York Times Best Seller fiction list. His book A Pirate Looks at Fifty, published in 1998, went straight to number one on the New York Times Best Seller nonfiction list, making him one of eight authors in that list's history to have reached number one on both the fiction and nonfiction lists. The seven other authors who have accomplished this are Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, William Styron, Irving Wallace, Dr. Seuss, Mitch Albom, and Glenn Beck.
Buffett also co-wrote two children's books, The Jolly Mon and Trouble Dolls, with his eldest daughter, Savannah Jane Buffett. The original hard-cover release of The Jolly Mon included a cassette tape recording of Savannah Jane and him reading the story accompanied by an original score written by Michael Utley.
Buffett's novel A Salty Piece of Land was released on November 30, 2004, and the first edition of the book included a CD single of the song "A Salty Piece of Land", which was recorded for License to Chill. The book was a New York Times best seller soon after its release.
Buffett's latest title, Swine Not?, was released on May 13, 2008.
Buffett wrote the soundtrack for, and co-produced and played a role in, the 2006 film Hoot, directed by Wil Shriner and based on the book by Carl Hiaasen, which focused on issues important to Buffett, such as conservation. The film was not a critical or commercial success. Among his other film music credits are the theme song to the short-lived 1993 CBS television series Johnny Bago; "Turning Around" for the 1985 film Summer Rental starring John Candy; "I Don't Know (Spicoli's Theme)" for the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High; "Hello, Texas" for the 1980 John Travolta film Urban Cowboy; and "If I Have To Eat Someone (It Might As Well Be You)" for the animated film FernGully: The Last Rainforest, which was sung in the film by rap artist Tone Loc.
In addition, Buffett has made several cameo appearances, including in Repo Man, Hook, Cobb, Hoot, Congo, and From the Earth to the Moon. He also made cameo appearances as himself in Rancho Deluxe (for which he also wrote the music) and in FM. He made a guest appearance in the season two of Hawaii Five-0 on CBS in 2011. Buffett reportedly was offered a cameo role in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, but declined the offer. In 1997, Buffett collaborated with novelist Herman Wouk on a musical production based on Wouk's 1965 novel Don't Stop the Carnival. In the South Park episode "Tonsil Trouble", an animated version of Buffett (but not voiced by Buffett) was seen singing "AIDSburger in Paradise" and "CureBurger in Paradise". Jimmy has also appeared on the Sesame Street special, Elmopalooza, singing "Caribbean Amphibian" with the popular Muppet, Kermit the Frog. Buffett appeared in an episode of Hawaii Five-0 in November 2011. He played a helicopter pilot named Frank Bama, a character from his novel Where Is Joe Merchant?. Another character mentioned that he preferred "margaritas"; Buffett's character replied, "Can't argue with you there." He reprised the role with a brief cameo visiting McGarret on the March 30, 2018 episode "E Ho'oko Kuleana".
Buffett made a cameo in the 2015 film Jurassic World, where he is seen holding two margaritas while the dinosaurs are set loose in the park.
In 2017, Buffett was the musical guest on the NCIS: New Orleans episode "Rogue Nation", playing the song "I Will Play for Gumbo" in Dwayne Pride's (Scott Bakula) newly rebuilt bar.
Buffett has taken advantage of his name and the fan following for his music to launch several business ventures, usually with a tropical theme. He opened the Margaritaville restaurant in Key West, Florida, in 1985. He owns or licenses the Margaritaville Cafe and Cheeseburger in Paradise Restaurant chains. As a baseball fan, he was part-owner of two minor-league teams: the Fort Myers Miracle and the Madison Black Wolf. Buffett has also licensed Margaritaville Tequila, Margaritaville Footwear, and a Margaritaville Foods, including chips, salsa, guacamole, shrimp, chicken, and more. Between his businesses, album sales, and tours, he was estimated by Forbes to earn US$50.5 million in 2017 and to have a net worth of $550 million.
In 1993, he launched Margaritaville Records, with distribution through MCA Records. His MCA record deal ended with the release of 1996's Christmas Island and he took Margaritaville Records over to Chris Blackwell's Island Records for a two-record deal, 1998's Don't Stop The Carnival and 1999's Beach House on the Moon. In the fall of 1999, he started Mailboat Records to release live albums. He entered into a partnership with RCA Records for distribution in 2005 and 2006 for the two studio albums License To Chill and Take The Weather With You.
Margaritaville Casino opened at the Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in May 2013. The center features a restaurant, two bars, a coffee shop, a retail store, and a gaming area.
From May 8, 2009, through January 5, 2010, Sun Life Stadium (formerly Dolphin Stadium) in Miami, the home of the Miami Dolphins, was named LandShark Stadium pursuant to an eight-month naming rights deal. Buffett also wrote new lyrics for the team to his 1979 song "Fins", which is played during Dolphins home games. Despite Buffett's partnership with the Dolphins, Buffett is a diehard New Orleans Saints fan, having attended the team's first game at Tulane Stadium in 1967 and later had Saints head coach Sean Payton serve as an honorary member of the Coral Reefer Band at a concert in New Orleans on April 1, 2012, in protest of Payton's suspension by the National Football League as a result of the Saints' bounty scandal.
In 2012, a "Margaritaville Online" game was released by THQ for Facebook. The game was discontinued less than two years later. In 2016, it was announced that Buffett had partnered with FunPlus to develop a new Margaritaville game.
Latitude Margaritaville is a $1 billion retirement village planned in Daytona Beach, Florida. The project is a joint venture between Minto Communities and Buffett's Margaritaville Holdings, with the development being built on land close to LPGA Boulevard and about a mile to the west from Interstate-95.
Phase one of the community will have 400 homes with a potential of 6,900 homes, once the project is completed. As of March 2018, 250 lots have been sold, with home prices projected to range between the low $200,000's to the mid-$300,000 range. The community will have a pet salon, a grocery store, and a private beach when it opens in April 2018.
In 1994, Buffett began developing a musical based on Herman Wouk's 1965 novel, Don't Stop the Carnival. Buffett wrote the music and lyrics and Wouk wrote the book for the show. Don't Stop the Carnival debuted in Miami, Florida in 1997 to negative reviews from critics. In response, the producers approached Buffett and told him that Wouk needed to be fired and a more experienced playwright needed to rewrite Wouk's script. Buffett refused to remove Wouk from the project and any further productions of the show were canceled. Buffett turned the show into an album that was released in 1998.
A new musical, Escape to Margaritaville, opened at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego in May of 2017 and ran until July. The show then performed limited runs in New Orleans, Houston, and Chicago, and was well-received by critics. The show features a book by Greg Garcia and Mike O'Malley and uses Buffett's classic songs, some of which he rewrote the lyrics to in order to better fit in the context of the story. The show began previews at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway on February 16, 2018 and offically opened on March 15 under the direction of Tony winner Christopher Ashley. The Broadway production received mixed reviews from New York critics. In June that same year, the producers announced that the production would close on July 1 after 29 previews and 124 regular performances. Along with the announcement of the show's Broadway closing, it was announced that a national tour will launch in Providence, Rhode Island in the fall of 2019. 
Buffett has been involved in many charity efforts. In 1981 the Save the Manatee Club was founded by Buffett and former Florida governor Bob Graham. It is the world's leading manatee protection organization.West Indian Manatee In 1989, legislation was passed in Florida that introduced the "Save the Manatee" license plate, and earmarked funding for the Save the Manatee Club. One of the two manatees trained to interact with researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory is named Buffett after the singer. Buffett is also a longtime supporter of and major donor to the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory.
On November 23, 2004, Buffett raised funds with his "Surviving the Storm" Hurricane Relief Concert in Orlando, Florida to provide relief for hurricane victims in Florida, Alabama and the Caribbean affected by the four major hurricanes that year.
Buffett performed in Hong Kong on January 18, 2008 for a concert that raised US$63,000 for the Foreign Correspondents' Club Charity Fund. This was his first concert in Hong Kong and it sold out within weeks. Not only did Buffett perform for the groundlings for free, but he also paid for the concertgoers' tequila and beer.
On July 11, 2010, Buffett, a Gulf Coast native, put on a free concert on the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The concert was Buffett's response to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf. The concert was aired on CMT television. The 35,000 free tickets were given away within minutes to help draw people back to Alabama's beaches. Buffett played several popular songs including "Fins", "Son of a Son of a Sailor", "A Pirate Looks at Forty" and modified versions of "Margaritaville" (where the lyrics were changed in the chorus to "now I know, it's all BP's fault") and "When the Coast is Clear" (the lyrics in the chorus also referencing the Deepwater Horizon disaster: "That's when it always happens / When greed and crude collide"). The concert featured Jesse Winchester and Allen Toussaint.
The earliest controversy with Buffett was his recording of "God's Own Drunk" on the album Living and Dying in 3/4 Time. In 1983, the son of the late entertainer Lord Buckley sued Buffett for $11 million for copyright infringement, claiming that Buffett took parts of the monologue from Buckley's A Tribute to Buckley and claimed it as his own work in "God's Own Drunk". The suit also alleged that Buffett's "blasphemous" rendition presented to the public a distorted impression of Lord Buckley. A court injunction against Buffett prevented him from performing the song until the lawsuit was settled or resolved, so starting in 1983, Buffett would get to the part of his show where he would normally perform "God's Own Drunk", he would say that he was not allowed to play it because of the lawsuit and instead played a song he wrote called "The Lawyer and the Asshole" in which he accuses Buckley's son and lawyers as being greedy and tells them to "kiss his ass."
In January 1996, Buffett's Grumman HU-16 airplane named Hemisphere Dancer was shot at by Jamaican police, who believed the craft to be smuggling marijuana. The aircraft sustained minimal damage. The plane had previously been carrying Buffett, as well as U2's Bono, and Island Records producer Chris Blackwell, and co-pilot Bill Dindy, but they were not on board at the time. The Jamaican government acknowledged the mistake and apologized to Buffett, who penned the song "Jamaica Mistaica" for his Banana Wind album based on the experience. The plane from the incident is now at Orlando City Walk's Margaritaville.
On February 4, 2001, he was ejected from the American Airlines Arena in Miami during a basketball game between the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks for cursing. After the game, referee Joe Forte said that he ordered him moved during the fourth quarter because "there was a little boy sitting next to him and a lady sitting by him. He used some words he knows he shouldn't have used." Forte apparently did not know who Buffett was, and censured Heat coach Pat Riley because he thought Riley--who was trying to explain to him who Buffett was--was insulting him by asking if he had ever been a "Parrothead", the nickname for Buffett fans. Buffett did not comment immediately after the incident, but discussed it on The Today Show three days later.
On October 6, 2006, it was reported that Buffett had been detained by French custom officials in Saint Tropez for allegedly carrying over 100 pills of ecstasy. Buffett's luggage was searched after his Dassault Falcon 900 private jet landed at Toulon-Hyères International Airport. He paid a fine of $300 and was released. A spokesperson for Buffett stated the pills in question were prescription drugs, but declined to name the drug or the health problem for which he was being treated. Buffett released a statement that the "ecstasy" was in fact a B-vitamin supplement known as Foltx.
Before 2003, songs played at every Buffett show were known as the Big 8. With the success of the Alan Jackson duet "It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere", and the rising popularity of "One Particular Harbour", the list of songs played at every show went from 8 to 10. The "Big 8" were:
Since "Why Don't We Get Drunk" has been knocked off the standards list, only nine songs are played at almost every show in recent years. However, neither Buffett nor the Coral Reefers have ever used the term "Big 9" for the new line-up.
This list does not necessarily mean that those songs have been played at every show. "A Pirate Looks at Forty" was not played during the George, Washington '92 show. "Cheeseburger in Paradise" was excluded from two setlists during the 1998 tour. "One Particular Harbour" was left out of 11 shows during the 1997 tour, not to mention every show during the 1988 & 1989 tour. "Why Don't We Get Drunk" was not played at all during the Bama Breeze tour, and has since only returned to be played on an occasional basis. "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes" did not appear during the opening shows of the 1998 and 2003 tours. "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" was omitted from first of the two Irvine shows in 2006.
Other notable songs that are played at almost all shows are "Son of a Son of a Sailor", Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" and Crosby, Stills and Nash's "Southern Cross", bringing the total number of songs played at the vast majority of concerts since 2004 to 12.
In an interview on KLBJ radio in Austin, TX on May 2, 2013, Buffett humorously referred to the fact that they have to "play the ten that everyone wants, or else we'll get killed", and then went on to play "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" on air. The set list for the event on May 3 at the Austin 360 Amphitheater, his first outdoor show in Austin in 17 years, did include the "ten". The show was one of the very few in Buffett's career that had ever been rescheduled on account of weather conditions (extreme wind in Austin forced the move to May 3 from the original date of May 2).
In the years 2010-2016, in 262 advertised appearances Buffett performed the song "Margaritaville" 248 times, "Son of a Son of a Sailor" 236, "Volcano" 235, "Changes in Attitudes" "235, "Come Monday" 235, "Fins" 232, "A Pirate Looks at 40" 232, "Cheeseburger in Pardise" 228, "Five O'Clock Somewhere" 225, "One Particular Harbor" 221, and "Southern Cross" 220. (Many of the appearances had short set lists such as guesting on television shows).
On January 26, 2011 (Australia Day), Buffett was performing a concert in Australia at Sydney's Hordern Pavilion and fell off the stage after an encore. A concert-goer said, "He just went over to the edge of the stage, like he had numerous times through the night, just to wave, and people were throwing stuffed toys and things at him. And he just took one step too many and just disappeared in a flash. He didn't have time to put his arms out to save himself or anything, he just dropped." Coincidentally, one of Australia's leading trauma surgeons was at the concert and close to the stage; Dr. Gordian Fulde treated Buffett at the scene. Fulde said, "I thought he'd broken his neck.... I heard the clunk of his head on a metal ledge, he has a deep gash on his scalp, which is all right now.... But at first I thought: this guy is going to be a spinal injury." Dr Fulde turned him on his side so he could breathe and administered first aid. Buffett regained consciousness within a few minutes. He was then transported to St Vincent's Hospital Emergency centre for treatment and was released the next day. Buffett returned to Australia in 2012 for two shows in Brisbane and Melbourne, and made much fun of the incident during those shows. In the Melbourne show in the historic Palais Theatre in the Melbourne beachside suburb of St. Kilda, he presented additional verses of "Margaritaville" in which he made humorous references to the accident, much to the audience's delight.