Jimmy Buffet: a Musical Journey

Jimmy Buffett performs with the Coral Reefer Band during their performance at the 2022 New Orleans and Jazz Festival held May 8, 2020, in New Orleans, USA.  Jimmy Buffet, born and raised in Mississippi but raised mainly in Alabama, achieved global stardom thanks to his colorful stage shows and carefree songs. However, his musical roots ran deep within Nashville.

Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band performed at Exit/In in 2021 – half a century after first playing there at Elliston Place’s small club on Elliston Place which provided him with his musical start – 50 years since first performing there on Elliston Place – this club became one of Nashville’s oldest music clubs thanks to them both.

Buffett moved from New York to Nashville in pursuit of his country music career during the late 60s, serving as a reporter for Billboard from 1969 to 1970 from Nashville-based. According to legend, Buffett broke news regarding Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs splitting apart during this period – however, only remained with them for a short while due to releasing his debut album Down To Earth later that same year.

This album also shows Buffett’s influence as a writer; Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson recorded “Railroad Lady,” written by Buffett with Jerry Jeff Walker; this track was covered by Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson as well as Waylon Jennings from Music Man recording it himself and Doug Supernaw covering it two decades later in 1994. Additionally, Buffett co-wrote “Happiness Alone,” a track featured on Clint Black’s No Time to Kill album with Clint Black co-writing credits alongside Jerry Jeff Walker on its album No Time to Kill.

Buffett achieved chart status on Billboard Country Charts during the 1970s and 1980s with numerous hits such as “The Great Filling Station Holdup”, “Come Monday”, and his signature songs like “Changes in Latitude Changes in Attitude”, “Margaritaville”, and others; Hot Country Songs chart number 13. Additionally, in 1985 Buffett also enjoyed another country Top 20 hit “If the Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’s Me”.


Buffett has won two consecutive No. Buffett and Alan Jackson collaborated in 2003 on “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere,” an upbeat song about an underpaid blue-collar worker yearning to escape to an island paradise, becoming an instantaneous No.1 Country Airplay Hit for eight weeks and reaching number 20 on the Hot 100 chart. Kenny Chesney released “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems,” another island-inspired tune in 2004, further showing Buffett influenced this genre of music.

The song was initially written for Buffett; however, it ended up being pitched to Brooks instead. Benita Hill, Shawn Camp, and Sandy Mason wrote songs like “Toes,” Jump Right In” and their 2011 No.1 hit “When the Sun Goes Down”. Though their intention was initially pitched towards Buffett; ultimately it found its way onto Zac Brown Band’s latest hit track featuring him “Knee Deep”.

Buffett stated in a 2021 Billboard interview, that when contemporary countries took to the beach they were part of it. Buffett’s License To Chill album, featuring collaborations primarily with country artists including Chesney and George Strait as well as Clint Black, Martina McBride Jackson, Toby Keith, and Clint Black in 2004 reached number one on the Billboard 200 album chart.

Chesney paid Buffett an emotional farewell on social media by writing, “So farewell Jimmy, thank you for your friendship, and I will always cherish our songs together – “Sail On Sailor” written by our two singers together who had previously collaborated on “Trying To Reason With Hurricane Season.”

Chesney said in a later video that Jimmy’s song was true poetry and that it showcased both his ability to weave tales and capture events, as well as painting an image with words. Chesney noted, “Jimmy doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being such an incredible poet – he reminds me a great deal of Ernest Hemingway back then!”

1. “Too Drunk to Karaoke” With Toby Keith

This Buffett song featured Keith as part of Songs from St. Somewhere album released in 2013. This entertaining tale details a night spent at an increasingly packed karaoke club. As the night progresses, more hopefuls pile in.

They sing: “There’s no need for practice or tuneful singing; just prove the theory of drunketivity!”

2. “Attempting to Reason With Hurricane Season” With Kenny Chesney

This song was written by Buffett and included on Chesney’s 2018 album Songs For The Saints as part of his work with Ziggy Martin and Mindy Smith after Hurricane Irma devastated areas such as The Virgin Islands and Bahamas in 2017.

3. “Trip Around the Sun” with Martina McBride

This collaboration reached No. 20 on the Country Airplay chart in 2004 and appeared on Buffett’s 2004 album Licence to Chill, featuring collaborations between him and several country artists such as Kenny Chesney Alan Jackson George Strait Clint Black among others.

4. “Hey Good Lookin” with George Strait

This track from Buffett’s 2004 Licence to Chill Album features Clint Black, George Strait, Kenny Chesney Alan Jackson Toby Keith in their rendition of Hank Williams Sr’s classic. Buffett’s License To Chill album earned a spot on the Billboard 200 chart for the very first time!

5. “Knee Deep” With Zac Brown Band

This 2011 hit peaked at No.5 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and ZBB member John Driskill Hopkins told Billboard in 2010 of their partnership due to an accidental meeting in 2009. Hopkins reported meeting him last year during a camping excursion and sitting beside the fire for some time, before parting ways shortly thereafter.

They described him as an extremely nice individual with a great sense of humor who didn’t have too much ego – in short, a perfect person! We decided to record some vocals at his house in Key West while he was present and it turned out brilliantly, sounding just like Buffett tunes when singing along! “Whenever he sang anything it sounded fantastic! Every time he sang a tune it sounded fantastic; whenever he sang along to Buffett tunes!”

6. It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere” with Alan Jackson

One of Buffett’s best-known country collaborations with Jackson was their 2003 hit song, ‘It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere,’ made popular by Jackson’s iconic musical intro: ‘What Would Jimmy Buffett Do? The song spent 8 weeks at #1 on the Country Airplay Chart and earned Buffett his third CMA Award Vocal Event of the Year award.

Jackson and Buffett have previously collaborated. In 1999, Jackson and Buffett performed “Margaritaville” together on Jackson’s covers CD Under The Influence and Jackson stated in its liner notes that she is an ardent admirer of Buffett whose music she enjoys while also appreciating how passionate he is about his craft.

At Least For A Day, The Entire World Will Be ‘Margaritaville,’ As A Tribute To Jimmy Buffet

As a mark of respect to him and Florida Key West where his famed hit song has become the unofficial theme song for life and legacy. Clayton Lopez, Key West’s city commissioner, noted that everyone associates this song with Key West; indeed, Margaritaville itself can be considered part of Key West itself.

On Sunday afternoon, Key West held a memorial on Duval Street – home to many restaurants and music venues including Chart Room where Buffett performed earlier in his career. Jimmy Weekley owns Fausto Restaurant, one of Key West’s landmarks. Jimmy Buffett had many fans in Key West; on Saturday tributes poured forth online in their memory.

Joe Biden extended condolences “to Jimmy Buffett’s loved ones and to his millions of fans, who will continue to support him as he embarks on new shores.” Former President Bill Clinton wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that Jimmy Buffett’s music “brought happiness to millions”. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys posted: “Love and Mercy Jimmy Buffett.” Paul McCartney referred to Buffett as one of the “kindest and most generous individuals.”

“Jimmy Buffet” Left us forever

Matt Urben received news that Buffett had passed away while living in Brooklyn and immediately convened his fellow fans in New York City to share memories. Urben is 32 and has seen 48 Buffett shows since his college years; each experience brought emotion. “Their performances were special and fun; each show brought back so many memories!” Urben expressed.

He and his friend headed straight for Margaritaville Times Square, part of Buffett’s empire and an “island-inspired oasis” located right in New York City. Reid Johnson enjoyed singing along to “Margaritaville”. Although not a Parrothead himself, he claimed to be familiar with their musical aesthetic.

Jeanne Fetner was on her way to New York City with her daughter Avery when they heard about the tragic events in Las Vegas and made plans to celebrate “Cheeseburger In Paradise”, one of Jimmy Buffett’s songs that had always been her favorite song. Fetner then remembered a trip he had taken during spring break years earlier to Key West; remembering this trip brought back fond memories.

Fetner remembered, “My friends and I went with me to Buffett’s home, where we rang his doorbell. Savannah Buffett, his youngest daughter, appeared and thanked all for coming; her message said he can’t make it but appreciates us being here.”

Tracy Smith of Tampa, Florida arrived with her daughters at Times Square Restaurant between Broadway shows to enjoy a margarita. She said: “I own all his music and love him – it brings joy and makes people happy!”

Buffett was known for both his musical work and literary output; his albums earned eight gold and nine platinum certifications, as well as appearing on three bestseller lists in both fiction and nonfiction categories of The New York Times Bestseller list. Songs like Margaritaville, Cheeseburger in Paradise, and Son of Sailor won him many fans who became known as Parrotheads – their signature bird representing the idyllic scenes Buffett painted.

Buffett is an avid supporter and graduate of the University of Mississippi, earning both his history degree and Kappa Sigma membership there. A historic bronze marker near “The Hub,” Hattiesburg Campus’ historic student activities center, commemorates where Buffett met Greg “Fingers” Taylor – together they formed a chart-topping music machine, The Coral Reefer Band!

Buffett was honored with induction into both the University of Southern Mississippi Hall of Fame Alumni and Alumni Hall of Fame. “The Southern Miss Family mourns Jimmy Buffett’s passing. His work ethic and global success are testaments to Southern Miss’s pride,” stated USM President Joseph S. Paul. “Our hearts go out to his family, all his friends, and anyone else who knew and admired him.”

Jimmy Buffett, an active supporter of USM and philanthropist, honored his mother Loraine’s commitment to education by creating the Mary Loraine “Peets” Buffett Scholarship Endowment in 2002. This scholarship supports Mississippi freshmen with financial need who maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 in an arts or letters program – 35 scholarships were granted during its inaugural year of existence.

Jimmy Buffett, Lucy Buffett, and Laurie McGuane donated Miss Pettisy B to the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Marine Education Center in 2011. This boat took its name from Mrs. Mary Lorraine Buffett’s nickname of Peetsy; Peetsy still sails today teaching students about local coastal environments.

Jimmy Buffett: Journey from Barrooms to Margaritaville

Buffett began his musical career by performing solo and with The Upstairs Alliance band at various student hangouts such as Hattiesburg Campus. Following graduation, Buffett and Taylor met playing guitar at “The Hub”, an area used for students on break. Taylor asked Buffett if he’d like to join his harmonica ensemble; thus sparking one of America’s most celebrated musical collaborations: Coral Reefer Band from which both were members from the mid-1970s through 2001 before being honored with induction into Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame in 2004.

Buffett’s music has inspired an avid following known as “Parrotheads.” To show their respect and gratitude to these fans and their hero, in 2011 and subsequent years the University of San Mariano Baseball team honored both by wearing Buffett-inspired jerseys during “Parrothead Night At The Pete.”

Taylor noted in an interview with Buffett there was an immediate and strong ‘bonding’ between them when they first met, knowing they would “play music together someday”. Recognizing Buffett and Taylor’s musical contributions to American popular culture is only right, according to Dr. Chester Morgan – then University Historian at Southern Miss. 

What occurred after their session at The Hub is also significant,” Morgan noted. Buffett was known for his songwriting, touring, and performing talent; but his most noteworthy feat may have been founding Margaritaville restaurants and resorts.

“Jimmy Buffet” Passed Away

Jimmy Buffet died peacefully surrounded by family, friends, and his beloved dogs on September 1st evening, leaving behind many fond memories to those left behind. “Jimmy lived his life fully to its very end – leaving a markful legacy behind he will surely be missed by many.”


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