Fins to the Left

04 Jun


Ok. We’ve mentioned Jimmy Buffett and his “successfulness”, but what exactly do we mean?

First, let me preface by saying that I live in Mobile, Alabama (yes, by choice). I grew up in Southwest Louisiana (a/k/a God’s Country), but Mr. D and me have decided to live out our days a little bit up the Gulf Coast in Lower Alabama. I say this because although Jimmy Buffett was born in Pascagoula (20 miles up the road from Mobile), he was raised in Mobile. Matter of fact, Jimmy attended the same grade school and high school as Mini DD (GEAUX JACKETS!!). The 5 ft. 5 in. whirlwind was even a well-known male cheerleader at said Catholic high school.

Jimmy Buffett is a veritable legend all along the Gulf Coast, but particularly in South Alabama. It’s a cryin’ shame that he hasn’t played the Gulf Coast in about 10 years even though he is part owner with his sister, Lucy, of Lulu’s at the Homeport, down in Gulf Shores (a/k/a home of Taylor AI parties during AI Season 5). However, I think it’s mainly due to the fact that Biloxi or Pensacola or Mobile doesn’t have a venue large enough to make it worth his while or hold all the Parrotheads.

Anywho, let’s take a look at Mr. Buffett and the 30-year overnight success he’s had. Jimmy has been around a LONG time. He started out in the early ’70s and had one nice “hit” in Come Monday.

Gotta love those early video attempts. Now, Come Monday came out in 1974 and it’s evident by the video that Jimmy was very young, so Jimmy was making a vid back in 1974? Now, THAT, is vision. I mean, MTV came out in 1980…but, I digress.

Ok, so Jimmy has a slight hit with Come Monday and then a slight hit with Margaritaville. Interestingly, the highest Margaritaville reached on the Billboard charts was #8, yet it’s likely played dozens of times per day, each day. It’s an anthem for the way we’d like it to be…a getaway from the hassles of life where all we have to worry about is “where’s the salt”.

Now, Jimmy is one smart cookie. He discovered that Margaritaville struck a nerve with people. That it was a universal anthem that everyone could relate to. He saw the unfettered fun that people of all “stripes” had at concerts and how they could “go on vacation” at his concerts. So, Parrotheads were born. In an attempt to create a following like the Dead Heads of the Grateful Dead, where concerts are an event — a destination and party of their own, Buffett ended up with one of the largest and most active fan bases in music history. Buffett sells the lifestyle of Margaritaville….casual laissez faire, no worries, party it up, escape for a while…and PARTICIPATE:

Over the last 20 years, Jimmy Buffett has become a multi-millionaire not from selling his music, but rather, from his ancillary endeavors. To the tune of about $100 million a year. In addition to 9 Margaritaville Cafes in places like Orlando, Key West, New Orleans, Turks & Caicos and over 40 Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurants in non-competing markets up North, Jimmy recently unveiled plans to build a $700 million Margaritaville Resort in Biloxi, MS complete with casino. One hour away, baby!!!

Jimmy Buffett’s website,, nicely integrates all of Jimmy’s business endeavors and prominently features one of Jimmy’s biggest money-makers — merchandise.

There’s adirondack chairs


ultimate “frozen concoction makers”,


footware, clothes, hats




….even his own beer (Land Shark Lager), liquor and food.


There’s Radio Margaritaville, highlighting Jimmy’s music and all things island, relaxation and supportive of “the getaway” life. Of course, the sight prominently provides tour dates and contests to win a trip to a Buffett concert, up to date news on Jimmy, his ventures, the tour, etc. through the Coconut Telegraph, and most importantly, a prominent Parrothead link — resplendid with “Parakeets”for the kiddies, Parrothead of the Week, picture uploads, and discussion boards. If that’s not enough, Jimmy self-produces all of his records under the MailBoat Records label and has written several best-selling books. Jimmy Buffett is truly the master of his own destiny. Notice that the “look” of all the various endeavors is consistent and easily identifiable with the “experience”/attitude of Margaritaville.

He has capitalized on his music and the desired lifestyle/attitude of a cross-section of Americans who have the money to spend and are looking for an “experience”. When asked how he created all that is Margaritaville, Jimmy gives one word: “Imagination”. Seems to me that Jimmy didn’t limit himself by the constraints or expectations of the music industry and by blatantly by-passing their “rules” and taking advantage of their ignoring him, he is having the last laugh and the lasting impact.

So, is Jimmy Buffett any less of a musical artist than others? Is his taking advantage of tie-in businesses being a “sell-out” or overly commercial? Is there an artist out there today who could do something like Jimmy has done? (I think you know my answers.)


Posted by on June 4, 2007 in Artists, Marketing


19 responses to “Fins to the Left

  1. shrewspeaks

    June 5, 2007 at 12:46 am

    Ah…someone who has something to say, says it and stays true to it in the purist forms. Buffett is the Martin Luther of Beach at the church of Party. He rode the wave of a salty concoction right up to the cabana doors and posted the mandates of a new musical way of life. A reformation of party took place and out of it was born a socio-responsible crew with deep rooted connections and ecological tendancies who were known to let their collective gaurd down with dos Equisand parrots hanging from any available limb.

  2. music maven

    June 5, 2007 at 6:38 am

    True dat, Shrew. Jimmy’s “message” has always been clear and consistent….a one-trick pony that continues to work brilliantly.
    And, to Huck’s point, Jimmy initially set out just to make enough money to pay the bills and play music, so he didn’t have to get a “real job”. Only 10 years in, was he able to parlay some real cash from his career and it wasn’t through record sales.

  3. Little Deb

    June 5, 2007 at 7:57 am

    Good morning. Great way to start the day reading stuff about one of my favorite artists. My love of Buffet is kind of bittersweet because I relate his music to my love of living in South Florida and the Bahamas. The bittersweet part is that due to my husband’s job, we now reside in the northeast and I miss the tropics on a daily basis.

    Is he “any less of a musical artist than others?”
    No frikkin way. I happen to think that he is a genius with lyrics. My favorite “A Pirate Looks at Forty” speaks to me like no song ever has and no other song probably ever will. “Mother mother ocean I have heard you call. I’ve wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall.” Unfortunately, just in my opinion, the songs most people know him for (like Margaritaville) don’t showcase his best lyrics. I could go on and on and list out songs and lyrics, but I’ll spare everyone that. If you’re not a Parrothead, do some research on your own – I bet you won’t be disappointed.

    “Is he a sellout?”
    I actually thought so a little bit when I first saw the Margaritaville restaurant in Key West or the frozen food in my grocery store. I remember thinking “Oh please, how commercial.” I don’t think so anymore. He has stayed true to who he is and where he came from and is making a great living giving people what they want. The commercial stuff hopefully is a way to show the people who only know him for the Margaritaville song that there is so much more to this man and his talent. Maybe they’ll stop in for a cheeseburger and leave with a few cd’s or bestselling books. What could possibly be wrong with that.

    “Is there an artist out there today who could do this?”
    I really don’t know. I certainly hope so. My opinion of Deadheads and Parrotheads is that the appeal is “escaping reality in a fun way”. Yes, I know Deadheads do it chemically, but it’s still escaping reality and having fun. So many of the fans you see at Buffet and Dead concerts are normal upstanding citizens who are back at work and real life on Monday feeling a little less stressed because of the reality escaping experience which included some great music.

    What these two have is a “gimmick”. The Dead with the whole hippie, love everyone, turn on and tune out thing and Buffet with the tropical island, no worries, life is a beach thing. A while back when hoping that Taylor Hicks could have this type of success and career, I remember bringing up Deadheads and Parrotheads and the fact that the Dead and Buffet (until “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” on the country charts recently) didn’t have any number one hits and hopefully the Soulpatrol could give Taylor this type of success. I don’t know about that anymore. Not saying that I don’t think the man has considerable talent, I just don’t know what the “gimmick” would be. Or where the “escape reality” concept would be. I also think that to have this type of success you need to have fans of both sexes. Nothing wrong with being sexy and having underwear thrown at you, but you’ve got to get the men involved here too. I don’t know how Taylor would do that without the “gimmick” thing. The Dead and Buffet didn’t have to create a “gimmick”, it was there from the beginning and just caught on and appealed to the masses.

    I’ve read some of Jimmy’s books and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I’m sorry I never went to see his play “Don’t Stop the Carnival” while it was playing in Miami. Having lived in the Bahamas in the 80’s for three years, I can honestly say that life really is like that in the islands. If you haven’t read it, give it a try – it’s a great summer read.

    We used to go sailing through the Caribbean with friends on their 45 foot sailboat every year and the trip would not have been the same without Jimmy’s music playing in the background.

    Totally off topic for a minute, but if anyone here likes the tropical island type of mood, go find Leon Russell’s “Back to the Islands” and give it a listen. My Mom and Dad used to have a houseboat in the Florida Keys, and it was a tradition to listen to that song every evening while watching the sunset. Beautiful water, beautiful weather, breathetaking sunset and perfect background music. One of the happiest memories of my life so far.

    O.K. Sorry for rambling. This topic just kicked in the “nostalgia” for me big time.

    Off to put in some Buffet cd’s.

  4. Little Deb

    June 5, 2007 at 7:59 am

    One silly little tidbit that I was unaware of. I was looking at Jimmy Buffet stuff on the internet this morning and found out that he played a pirate in the movie “Hook”. I never knew that and don’t remember seeing him. Now I have to go rent the damn movie and look for him.

  5. leejolem

    June 5, 2007 at 8:28 am

    Little Deb, great point about the Dead and Buffet not having to create a gimmick but it just naturally evolving. I wonder if Taylor and his team thought that the Modern Whomp thing would catch on and become his “gimmick”. You are so right that the Dead’s and Buffet’s just came about naturally and caught on with the fans. I’m not sure you can force a theme. It will take time (as MM pointed out) for Taylor’s career “escape reality” theme to evolve.

    Shrew, you get the honorary Lutheran award for mentioning Martin Luther and the Reformation today! That made me laugh out loud. I wonder if Martin Luther and Jimmy Buffet have ever been compared before. LOL!

  6. music maven

    June 5, 2007 at 8:45 am

    Wasn’t Soul Patrol natural and organic? I think Taylor and his peeps missed this, big time.
    I seriously envisioned his tour bus to be coated with that plastic film stuff to make it look like a patrol car, a/k/a The Blues Brothers. The “gimmick” or getaway is a bit of “stick it to the man” of which Taylor has certainly been associated via his anti-idol persona. He’s said it himself, that Soul Patrol is a attitude of being true to yourself…and I would add a bit of rebellion and questioning of authority. Kind of a “I’m not going to take it anymore” ennui that is channeled into music. Soul Music.
    I was thinking badges and levels of Soul, like Patrolman, Lieutenant, Captain, etc…and how cool would it be to have one of those old police cars with the big loud speaker on top of the car riding through the cities on tour, announcing “Taylor Hicks…Soul Man…tonight only.” Talk about generating “buzz”.
    Many of us discussed this right after Taylor won AI a year ago and virtually all agreed that there were many things Taylor could do with “Soul Patrol”. While I think that the website was trying some kind of tie in with “Headquarters”, it’s lost on people. How about “Stationhouse”? And, couldn’t a Soul Station Club at Jimmy’s new Margaritaville Resort and Casino work…how about a Soul Kitchen for restaurants.
    The thing about the “gimmick” is that you’ve got to dive in with both feet as Buffett has done and stick to it. THAT, is something that Taylor hasn’t been able to do just yet. Now, maybe that IS his long-term plan, but at this point, it’s disjointed and I’m afraid that he’s lost valuable momentum coming out of the notoriety of American Idol that would allow him to capitalize on the theme of “Soul Patrol”.

  7. Little Deb

    June 5, 2007 at 9:13 am

    Cool stuff MM. I was not participating on any boards when the whole soul patrol thing started and never associated it with the things you just did. I like all your ideas a lot. Unfortunately, I have always associated soul patrol with the glitter stuff. Not that soul patrol sounds like that at all, it’s just the way Taylor’s fans were portrayed and it stuck. How much more sense would it make for fans to wear “soul patrol badges” instead of glitter. Not that there is anything wrong with the glitter stuff or that the fans are women, or that they are of a certain age. Hell, I fit the stereotype pretty well. It’s just that it was somehow turned into a negative instead of a positive.

    All the stuff you just said makes so much more sense and fits with the original image I had of the man. Thanks for reminding me. The Taylor Hicks we (at least me) came to know and love was a new “Rebel WITH a cause” and that cause was “bringing REAL music back”. Now we need some type of “soul patrol anthem” song to come out on the next cd. Not corny or contrived, just something to sing that people will relate to the whole thing.

    The other part of the “escape reality” thing is that by being a Parrothead, you have an excuse to act like a kid again (wearing silly hats, shirts, etc.) except it is cool to do so.

    O.K., again I’m talking too much. Thanks for the topic MM. (BTW, I checked out the “pioneer woman blog” you have linked above and now every time I type MM, I think of Marlboro Man).

  8. nolagirl

    June 5, 2007 at 10:49 am

    I first heard of Jimmy Buffett when I was a kid, hanging out with our good family friends (they are N.O. natives, but moved to Mobile early on with their young kiddos) at their beach house in Gulf Shores. I remember wishing I knew all the words like they did. Heh.

    They went to said Catholic high school as well, so I guess they had no choice but to love Jimmy from the start. (this is the same family I had mentioned in which the father was Jimmy’s mom’s neurologist for a time).

    I have never been to Margaritaville though, even though I pass it every time I’m in teh French Quarter. Have you been, MM? This post is making me want to go there … now. And drink. And eat. And listen to music.

  9. huckleberryfriend

    June 5, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Just a couple of thoughts (since I’ve got a lot of them and some of them conflict with others). Jimmy established his empire pre-Internet. He and his fans are using it very successfully now, but it came after he was already a huge success.

    I always thought (and still do) that the Soul Patrol and Taylor should have really focused on charitable work. A great deal of charity happened spontaneously and the fans did a good job at organizing charity for a while. But Soul Patrol and good works just seem to go together. Think of the great publicity of 50 people wearing soul patrol shirts showing up to work on a Habitat for Humanity house the day of a Taylor concert. Collections at concert for local food bank, etc.

    As an example of musicians and good works – let’s look at Jimmy Buffet and the Parrot Heads in Paradise, Inc. (

    # 2: Over $1.4 Million and 360,000 Volunteer Hours
    # In 2003: Over $1.6 Million and 365,068 Volunteer Hours
    # In 2004: Over $2.2 Million and 404,690 Volunteer Hours
    # In 2005: Over $2.7 Million and 663,543 Volunteer Hours
    # In 2006: Over $2.6 Million and 173,000 Volunteer Hours
    # Five Year Total: Over $10.5 Million and almost 1.8 Million Volunteer Hours

  10. shrewspeaks

    June 5, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    That’s the realization of a mission through a message supporting a way of life Huck…talk about prostheltizing the receptive masses in a comuunal good. Pass me a drink and lets work together!

  11. music maven

    June 5, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Right on. Soul Patrol. Doesn’t it take on a new meaning in the right context?

    “Mission from God.”

  12. huckleberryfriend

    June 5, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    shrewspeak – I like the way you think, but I think we need to work together and then pass the drinks.

  13. Dingo

    June 6, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Buffett makes you feel good. He makes you smile, he makes you want to sway to the music with a Margarita in your hand or one of those frilly drinks with a little umbrella in it. Taylor CAN make me do that as well but he needs a decent CD to showcase that side of him.

    Come Monday was always a beautiful song for me. It had a sweet melody and it was so easy to like. I think when Taylor sings songs like “Cant You See” with the feeling I have heard him do that song he makes me come alive. When he sings just about anything off his CD it makes me yawn.

    Taylor seems a little more brooding to me than Buffett. Thats just how i see it and I feel as if Taylor, in his understandable haste to get as far away from AI as was possible, also sort of cast aside the whole SP thing. I think thats a mistake.

    Yes, I hear him say SP on occasion but i think he hit on a bit of magic with that whole schtick.

  14. Dingo

    June 6, 2007 at 10:48 am

    Hey Deb, just wanted to tell ya that Jimmy’s “A Pirate Looks At Forty” is some kind of magic for me as well.

    Also, I know what its like to miss your home. I live in the Northeast as you know and though I bitch about the weather and other assorted issues, there is no place I would rather be. Its my home and I have never been the kind to say…”wherever I hang my hat is home”. Cause it aint. So I empathize with your longing for the place you were born and raised and hope you can get back there sometime soon.

  15. Little Deb

    June 6, 2007 at 11:45 am

    Hey Dingo. Great to “see” you. I hope you’re getting out and enjoying the sunshine. I don’t spend as much time on the computer either anymore.

    The funny thing for me is that I was born and raised in NJ, but my favorite memories are of being “down the shore” in the summer or trips to FL. I graduated HS in 77 and couldn’t wait to “get the hell out”. From then on FL was my home (except for a 3 year stint in the Bahamas – which was heaven). When I met the hubby and knew that his job could take us to different places, I ironically told him that “I would go anywhere with him except NJ or NY”. Do ya think I jinxed something there? I don’t dislike the northeast, I just really can’t tolerate cold weather and I do miss my friends and family.

    We do plan on getting back to FL some day. The water and weather are just in our blood.

    Sorry MM, for being off topic. To go back on topic, has anyone ever listened to Buffet’s “You’ll Never Work in Dis Bidness Again”? I couldn’t find a version on line, but it’s kind of a funny take on his trying to break into the business, etc. Here are the lyrics, but it’s better if you listen to it.

    They told me before I started
    That it never ever would work out
    Stay in school, don’t be a fool
    But I had to see what life was about

    So I went to Biloxi seekin’ fortune and fame
    I got hired, I got fired, I got called dirty names
    You’ll never (never), never (never), work in dis bidness again
    You’ll never (never), no never (never)
    Never work in dis bidness again

    I knew I needed representation
    And I found it one night in a bar
    He was a bondsman and a part-time agent
    And he said that he would make me a star

    He said’, “Aaaah, you don’t have to be that good
    To make it out in Hollywood
    You just have to change and complain”
    Or you’ll never (never), never (never), work in dis bidness again
    You’ll never (never), no never (never)
    Never work in dis bidness again

    (synth and horn instrumental)

    I parked cars at the Rainbow
    I sold maps of the stars
    I got my nose broke in Spago’s
    When I puked on the bar

    And all I played’s a double barmitzvah

    It’s a jungle out there
    Hell, I don’t care
    I’m going back to my predator friends
    I will never (never), never (never), work in this bidness again
    No I’ll never (never), no never (never)
    Never work in this bidness again
    You’ll never (never), never (never), work in this bidness again

    — Spoken:
    “Ah, relax, vhere do you tink you’re going vit dat suitcase?”
    “I’m outta here!”
    “You’re leaving?! Vat about my fifteen percent?”
    “Fifteen percent of nothin’ is nothin’!”
    “Young man, you leave now and you’ll never…”
    “I’ll never…”
    “You’ll never…”
    “Work in dis…”

  16. sideways721

    June 6, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    Margaritaville, a “license to chill.”
    Loved the restaurant/bar in Las Vegas.

    Jimmy Buffett is smart and he HAS stayed true to himself. I equate the Key West lifestyle with Jimmy Buffett. (yes I think of Hemingway as well).

    I’ve had the pleasure to meet and hang out with a cool Soul Patroller and her DH this past year at a couple Taylor concerts. They are Parrotheads from way back. This past year, the Parrotheads had a charity event at a local zoo where they live in Florida. They worked, and cleaned up all day. built some stuff, etc. After they finished, there was a MAJOR partay for the Parrotheads after the zoo closed. Isn’t that cool?

  17. manders!

    June 13, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    My brother, 9 years my elder, used to sing Jimmy Buffett songs to me. “Come Monday” was one of them. His musical tastes at the time were much more centered around Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings; yet looking back, it makes sense to me that he found a connection with Jimmy’s music. We are 3rd generation native Floridians with Tory ancestors who called the Abacos their home, after all. I don’t know if I could survive living anywhere but on the Gulf coast.

    In recent years, some country artists have tried to cash in on this ‘gimmick’ a few times. Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Clay Walker… are a couple that come to mind. Touche, a little calypso beat and some steel sounds works well underneath some of the new country. The presentation of Kenny Chesney’s tour was much more ‘island get-a-way’ feel than ‘saddle up your horses’.

    One of the things I most respect about the Dead and Buffett is that ‘they is, who they is’ and we can believe it’s real because how could anyone pull off the exactness for decades without waning? I respect the collective songwriting and musicianship abilities and believe wholeheartedly that they by merit deserve their fame and place in music history.

    Get ready for manders’ crazy Taylor Hicks dreams… He doesn’t need a gimmick, he needs to broaden his audience. I don’t believe this will be done on pop radio with the younguns. I believe that there is enough underground, grassroots love for new music in the college-adult radio markets to catapult him to icon. Look at what getting your tune played on show like Grey’s Anatomy or Laguna Beach or American Idol will do for your sales. What about getting a spot on a Starbuck’s mix CD? Return to what you know, then hire a savvy publicist and an agent with some marketing skills. Record a live CD, or at least a CD with a live recording feel, laying the tracks down with a live band… not all pieced together. I want to hear the raw music… the slide across the strings of the guitar, the drum stick hitting the side of the snare, the quiver in your voice when you say ‘baby’… it’s just REAL. That is what the music industry lacks today and that is what Taylor can bring. Just a side note, if anyone has Sirius, check out the Coffee House station. In between the obvious folk artists old and new, there are some clever indie’s that have acoustic covers of age old classics. There are also many new artists that are so good I actually find myself going out of my way to hear them again. Be objective, try and picture Taylor’s “The Fall” or his rendition of “Georgia” on this station. Anyone feeling me, here?

  18. Turks Caicos Adventurer

    July 17, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    I love it! I took some JB songs into my guitar teacher hoping he could help me learn them. He kind of laughed them off saying they were very simple and that he wasn’t very musically talented, however here I am 30 years later sipping my boat drinks at my Turks Caicos Vacation Property having the last laugh. BTW, I know how to play all his songs. :- )


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