James William "Jimmy" Buffett (born December 25, 1946) is an American singer-songwriter, author, actor, and businessman. He is best known for his music, which often portrays an "island escapism" lifestyle, and the often humorous things he has experienced throughout his life. 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, "Cheeseburger in Paradise" and "Margaritaville". He owns the Margaritaville Cafe restaurant chain and co-developed the Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant concept with OSI Restaurant Partners (parent of Outback Steakhouse), which operates the chain under a licensing agreement with Buffett.
Buffett was born 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. He later lived in Fairhope, Alabama, mentioned by him as his "Home Town" during a 2001 concert. He graduated from McGill Institute for Boys (now McGill-Toolen Catholic High School) in 1964. He began playing guitar during his freshman 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 (ΚΣ) 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; they divorced in 1972. Buffett and his second wife, Jane (née Slagsvol) have two daughters, Savannah Jane and Sarah Delaney, 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's flagship plane is a Dassault Falcon 900 that he often uses while on concert tour and traveling worldwide.
His father died May 1, 2003 at the age of 83. His mother died a few months after her husband, on September 25, 2003.
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. Following this move, Buffett combined country, folk, 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.
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".
With the untimely death of friend and mentor Jim Croce in September 1973, ABC Dunhill tapped Buffett to fill his space. Earlier, Buffett had visited Croce's farm in Pennsylvania and met with Croce in Florida.
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 twenty 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, the Margaritaville Cafe was opened. During the 1980s, Buffett played at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. He briefly changed the name of the band from the "Coral Reefer Band" to the "Coral Reef Band" to honor the HLS&R's request; they thought "Reefers" was a drug-related reference. HLS&R is a charity event that provides student grants to children and young adults who compete in agriculture contests (FFA).
Two of the more out-of-character albums are Christmas Island, a collection of Christmas songs, and Parakeets, a collection of Buffett songs sung by children and containing "cleaned-up" lyrics (like "a cold root beer" instead of "a cold draft beer").
In 1997, Buffett collaborated with novelist Herman Wouk to create a short-lived 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 of any kind 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 three-decade 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. The title of his 1999 live album reflects this: Buffett Live: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays. Purchasing tickets is difficult, with most of his concerts selling out in minutes.
In the summer of 2005 Buffett teamed up with Sirius radio and introduced Radio Margaritaville, and as of November 2008 is also on XM radio channel 24. Until this point Radio Margaritaville was solely an online channel. 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 refers to 2005's Hurricane Katrina. Also on the album he pays tribute to Merle Haggard with his rendition of "Silver Wings" and covers, with Mark Knopfler playing on the track, "Whoop De Doo." On August 30, 2007, he received his star on the prestigious Mohegan Sun Walk of Fame.
On 8 December 2009, Jimmy Buffett released his 28th studio album entitled Buffet Hotel.
On 20 April 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, 8 are Gold Albums and 9 Platinum or Multi Platinum. In 2003 Buffett won his first ever Country Music Award (CMA) 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 released his latest album, Songs From St. Somewhere on August 20, 2013.
Jimmy 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 folk music and lyrical themes from the Gulf of Mexico 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 (whose former assets are now primarily owned by either one of two divisions of National Amusements - Viacom and CBS Corporation).
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 Jimmy 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 Jim Bowley,Kenny Chesney, and Jim Morris.
Buffett has written three No. 1 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 No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller non-fiction list, making him one of eight authors in that list's history to have reached number one on both the fiction and non-fiction 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 him and Savannah Jane 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 is one of several popular "philosophers" whose quotations appear on the road signs of Project HIMANK in the Ladakh region of Northern India.
Film and television:
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 out of his novel, "Where is Joe Merchant". Another character mentioned that he preferred "margaritas"; Buffett's character replied, "Can't argue with you there."
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 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. Between his restaurants, album sales, and tours, he earns an estimated US$100 million a year. He opened the Margaritaville store in Key West, Florida, in 1985.
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 up 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.
In 2006, Buffett launched a cooperative project with the Anheuser-Busch brewing company to produce beer under the Margaritaville Brewing label called Land Shark Lager.
Another Margaritaville Casino opened in Atlantic City, New Jersey in May 2013. Buffett has also licensed Margaritaville Tequila, Margaritaville Footwear and a Margaritaville Foods including Chips, Salsa, Guacamole, Shrimp, Chicken and more.
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 served 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 NFL as a result of the Saints' bounty scandal.
In May 2011, Buffett announced that he had entered into a partnership with game makers THQ to make a Margaritaville game for Facebook and iOS devices. The game opened in closed beta to what's being referred to as the Buffett Beta Club. The game, which requires users to download Unity Engine for use on the Facebook API, is expected to release on Facebook in December 2011 and to iOS devices by the end of January 2012. While on stage in August 2012 at a concert in Cincinnati Buffett announced that a new Margaritaville cafe would be one of the new tenants at the Cincinnati Horseshoe casino opening in Spring 2013.
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. Save the Manatee Club 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 Laboratories.
The "Singing for Change" foundation was initially funded by proceeds from Buffett's 1995 concert tour, and provides grants to local charities in three main areas: children and family causes, environmental causes, and causes for disenfranchised groups.
On November 23, 2004, Buffett raised substantial money at 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 wasn't 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."
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.
In January 1996 Buffett's Grumman HU-16 airplane nicknamed "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 Miami Heat/New York Knicks basketball game 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 didn't 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'd ever been a "Parrothead", the nickname for Buffett fans. Buffett didn't comment immediately after the incident, but discussed it with Matt Lauer on The Today Show three days later.
Jimmy Buffett was paid $250,000 to perform a private show for ex-Tyco International CEO Dennis Kozlowski. This show was part of a multiple day event held to celebrate Kozlowski's girlfriend and her birthday. It was later revealed that Kozlowski's employer paid for half of the cost of the party. Kozlowski was later convicted in New York state court and sentenced to prison for his role in various improprieties during his time as Tyco's CEO. Video footage of Buffett's performance is included in an episode of the CNBC television series "American Greed" that featured Kozlowski's activities.
Concerts and tours:
"The Big 8" and standard songs:
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:
"A Pirate Looks at Forty",
"Cheeseburger in Paradise",
"Why Don't We Get Drunk" -- only played occasionally, as of 2007,
"Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes",
Since "Why Don't We Get Drunk" has been knocked off the standards list, there are only nine songs 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, but have been dropped on occasion, are "Son of a Son of a Sailor", Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" and Crosby, Stills and Nash's "Southern Cross". However, it's not unusual for these three songs to be dropped from a show, therefore they aren't considered a standard.
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).
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.
List of tours:
1976: A Pink Crustacean Tour,
1977: Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes Tour,
1978: Cheeseburger in Paradise Tour,
1979: You Had to Be There Tour / Volcano Tour,
1980: A Hot Dog & A Road Map Tour,
1981: Coconut Telegraph Tour,
1982 Somewhere over China Tour (with broken leg),
1982: Homecoming Tour,
1983: The Six-Stop American Tour,
1984: Feeding Frenzy Tour,
1985: Last Mango in Paris Tour,
1986: Floridays Tour / World Tour of Florida,
1987: A Pirate Looks At Forty Tour,
1988: Cheap Vacation Tour / Hot Water Tour,
1989: Off to See the Lizard Tour / Buffett Does Ballads Tour,
1990: Jimmy's Jump Up Tour,
1991: Outpost Tour,
1992: Rece$$ion Rece$$ Tour,
1993: Chameleon Caravan Tour,
1994: Fruitcakes Tour,
1995: Domino College Tour,
1996: Banana Wind Tour,
1997: Havana Daydreamin' Tour,
1998: Don't Stop The Carnival Tour,
1999: Beach House On The Moon Tour,
2000: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays Tour,
2001: A Beach Odyssey Tour,
2002: Far Side of the World Tour,
2003: Tiki Time Tour,
2004: License To Chill Tour,
2005: A Salty Piece Of Land Tour,
2006: Party At The End Of The World Tour,
2007: Bama Breeze Tour,
2008: Year of Still Here Tour,
2009: Summerzcool Tour,
2010: Under The Big Top Tour,
2011: Welcome to Fin Land Tour,
2012-13: Lounging at the Lagoon Tour,
2013-14: Songs from St. Somewhere Tour,
2014: This One's For You Tour
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license