Jimmy Buffett

Celebrating Christmas and a birthday today is Jimmy Buffett, the singer/songwriter of "Margaritaville" (RealAudio excerpt) and other tropical good-time tales, who has become a highly successful restaurateur and author.

Buffett was born Dec. 25, 1946, in Pascagoula, Miss. He majored in journalism at Auburn University and the University of Southern Mississippi, and once worked as a reporter for Billboard magazine.

Hoping to become a country & western singer/songwriter, Buffett moved to Nashville near the end of the '60s. But his first LP, Down to Earth (1970), was a flop. Two years later, after his first marriage broke up, Buffett left Nashville for Key West, Fla., where he earned a living smuggling marijuana from the Caribbean.

In 1973 Buffett signed with ABC/Dunhill Records, where he began singing songs about drunkenness and sailing on A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean. His music had evolved from country to folk-pop, and he formed a group called the Coral Reefer Band.

Four years later, Buffett hit it big with the breezy top-10 hit "Margaritaville" from the #12 LP Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. He had begun acting, appearing in "Rancho Deluxe," a 1975 film he also scored, and "FM," a 1977 film about radio.

Buffett scored another hit with "Cheeseburger in Paradise" from Son of a Son of a Sailor (1978).

Coconut Telegraph (1981) spawned a newsletter of the same name, subscribed to by thousands of Buffett fans known as "Parrot Heads." This intensely loyal following has allowed Buffett to sell out large venues during his frequent tours, despite having had only a few hit records in 30 years. Buffettmania seems to be fueled by the desire of his fans to escape their daily lives through Buffett's songs about loafing amid natural wonders.

Buffett parodied his lack of hits by titling his multiplatinum 1985 collection Songs You Know by Heart: Jimmy Buffett's Greatest Hit(s). His box set, Boats Beaches Bars & Ballads (1992), was another million-seller.

In the past decade, Buffett has opened restaurants in such hot spots as New Orleans; Key West, Fla.; and Orlando, Fla. The themed eateries play Buffett music and videos as part of the entertainment. He has also written several best-selling books, including "Tales from Margaritaville" and the children's story "The Jolly Man."

Buffett's business acumen also has helped him get listed in Forbes magazine as one of the world's richest entertainers. He is also a committed environmentalist, often crusading for Florida's endangered manatees.

Buffett's most recent LPs are this year's Beach House on the Moon and Live: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Other birthdays Saturday: Don Alias, 60; Phil Spector, 59; Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix Experience), 54; Barbara Mandrell, 51; Robin Campbell (UB40), 45; Annie Lennox, 45; Shane McGowan (Pogues), 42; Noel Hogan (Cranberries), 28; O'Kelly Isley (Isley Brothers), 1937–1986; and Trevor Lucas (Fairport Convention), 1943–1989.