by Bob Sparrow
I originally had a rather banal blog on some history and suggestions around Labor Day, ready to be posted Monday, when, on Saturday morning, I got a text from my three kids and a call from several friends, wishing me condolences for the passing of Jimmy Buffett. What?!! I’m shocked!!! He died from lymphoma at the age of 76. My love and history of all things Margaritaville are well known.
I was introduced to Jimmy in the early 80s by my dearly departed best friend, Navy pilot, Don Klapperich. After he retired from the Navy, he went to work in Saudi Arabia, teaching the Saudi Air Force how to be fighter pilots. Prior to cell phones and even the internet, the way we communicated with each other over such a distance was through cassette tapes that we would mail to one another (Yes, cassette tape were quite the rage). I was, of course, familiar with some of Jimmy’s earlier popular songs, Come Monday, Cheeseburger in Paradise and Margaritaville as well as his hit in 1973 that couldn’t be played on the radio at the time, Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw, but Don had sent me a cassette with a song called, Somewhere Over China. It’s not a particularly great song and not a hit for Jimmy, but for some reason the lyrics resonated with me. Don, had sent me other Buffett songs, but I really didn’t pay much attention until after this song, so I went back and listened more carefully to the lyrics of Jimmy’s songs. They were funny and philosophical and while I was never a ‘beach bum’, they touched my ‘wanderlust’ soul. I then didn’t want to wait for Don to send me more Buffett songs from Saudi Arabia, so I started buying all of Buffett’s CDs that I could get my hands on – new and old.
I had become a ‘Parrothead’, and so got tickets for the next Jimmy Buffett concert when he came to Orange County, for his concert at a large, outdoor venue, Irvine Meadows. I forget who it was that told me that to get the full experience of a Jimmy Buffett concert, get to the concert parking lot early . .. real early. I did. Holy Parrothead!! Four hours before the concert, the parking lot was full of people dressed in all kinds of beach, parrot and pirate gear along with flat bed trucks with grass shacks and sand on the back, serving up bottomless margaritas. I’d never seen so many men with cocoanut bras in my life!!! It was truly the best and biggest concert party I had ever attended. The concert was fun-filled with lots of audience participation as everyone was feeling no pain after a four-hour warm-up in the parking lot. I saw Jimmy several other times, back in Irvine Meadows, when I took the kids when they were old enough to appreciate the parking lot party, in Las Vegas and even in Michigan where I encouraged my fellow workers there to become Parrotheads.
Aside from writing most of his hit songs, Jimmy performed a lot of duets with many great country stars like Zak Brown, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, George Strait, Clint Black, as well as his well-known hit with Alan Jackson, It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere. But Jimmy was far from a ‘one trick pony’, he diversified and open his first Margaritaville restaurant and bar in Key West, Florida, which I visited years ago. There are now 23 Margaritaville Hotels, restaurants and casinos with locations in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Australia and the Caribbean. He also developed a Margaritaville tequila as well as my favorite beer, Landshark; there is a Broadway play ‘Escape to Margaritaville’; he had his own recond company and he was a best-selling author. His networth was north of one billion dollars.
A Pirate Looks at Forty is another iconic Buffett song, as this pirate looks back on 40 years of pure joyful entertainment that Jimmy provided me. My flag with ‘It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere’ banner flies at half-staff this week. . Rest in Peace Jimmy, you created a better world. Fins up!