Born James William Buffett on December 25, 1946, in Pascogoula, MS; son of James Delaney (a shipwright) and Lorraine (Peets) Buffett; married and divorced; married second wife, Jane Slagsvol, 1977; children: daughters Savannah Jane, Sarah Delaney, son Cameron Marley. Education: Attended Auburn University, 1964; University of Southern Mississippi, B.S., 1969. Addresses: Office--c/o Margaritaville Records, 54 Music Sq. E., Ste. 303, Nashville, TN 37203, and 1880 Century Park E., Ste. 900, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Agent--Morton Janklow, 598 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022. Website--Jimmy Buffett Official Website: http://www.margaritaville.com.
Songster and storyteller Jimmy Buffett is adored by fans for his easy-going, infectious tunes that represent "escape from the humdrum world to a land of balmy breezes where frozen concoctions buzz in the blender, the beach is never crowded, and life is a perpetual party," as described by Alanna Nash in Entertainment Weekly. A mix of pop, rock, country, and sometimes salsa or calypso, Buffett's music motivates fans to show up at concerts in character, carrying lounge chairs and wearing Hawaiian shirts, flip-flops, and stuffed parrots perched on their shoulders, thus leading to their affectionate nickname "Parrot Heads." His 1977 hit, "Margaritaville," from the album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, established his trademark image of the humorous, laid-back, guitar-strumming wanderer, and his subsequent releases continued to play up this milieu, evoking scenes of coconut-heavy palms, tide-washed beaches, seaside watering holes, and the like. Buffett truly lives quite a bit of the life he sings of, enjoying toys like two seaplanes and a Citation II jet as well as a sailboat named after his daughter. His concerts attract a wide range of people drawn to his escapist music, from college frat boys to those bordering on retirement, and an array of ages and social classes in between.
Although he portrays himself as the perennial beach bum, Buffett perhaps has more capitalist in him than he lets on; it could be in his blood, since billionaire investor Warren Buffett is a distant cousin. In any case, he knew he had struck a chord with his pop-rock melodies of beachscapes, seafaring, and the good life in general. Consequently, he used this to lay the foundation for a business empire consisting of stores hawking his own Hawaiian shirts, margarita mix, and salt shakers to an expanding family of Margaritaville Cafes and Cheeseburger in Paradise joints in cities like New Orleans, Louisiana, Orlando, Florida, and Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, the former journalist has cracked the literature market as well, writing best-selling novels and memoirs as well as a couple of books for children. In 1998, Buffett released the autobiographical A Pirate Looks at Fifty, which hit number one on the New York Times' s best-seller list.
Buffett was born the son of James Delaney Buffett and Lorraine (Peets) Buffett on December 25, 1946, in Pascogoula, Mississippi, and raised in Mobile, Alabama. Early on, Buffett was enchanted with his nautical roots; his father worked as a naval architect in the Gulf of Mexico region and himself was the son of a sailor. His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and become a naval officer, but Buffett forged a different path, enrolling at Auburn University to study journalism. Because he was attending college and failed a physical, he never served in Vietnam.
After attending Catholic schools throughout his youth, Buffett was itching to roam and see the world, so he left his college studies to venture to the party town of New Orleans. There, he performed folk songs in clubs and began to write his own material. Eventually, he went back to school at the University of Southern Mississippi and obtained his bachelor of science degree in 1969.
Dreamt of Career in Music
After graduating, Buffett moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1969, with dreams of kickstarting his musical career. He landed a day job at Billboard magazine there in the late 1960s, suddenly finding himself thrust into a high-profile music industry career. As he recalled in his book, A Pirate Looks at Fifty, excerpted in Rolling Stone, "I had gone from just another nobody songwriter who couldn't get his foot into a music publisher's door into assistant Southern editor of Billboard. Hell, people took me to lunch, I had business cards. I flew to New York for editorial meetings."
While working the only so-called real job he would ever hold, Buffett continued to perform in clubs around Nashville and managed to release an album in 1970 on the Barnaby label. This country-folk release was a sales dud, and his second album never even hit the shelves when the label misplaced the master tape. In about 1971, after a failed first marriage, he headed to Los Angeles for a while before ending up in Key West, Florida, which Eric Pooley in Time described as "then a lazy outpost for shrimpers, smugglers, gays and cosmic cowboys like singer Jerry Jeff Walker and novelist Tom McGuane, who ended up married to Buffett's sister Laurie."
Living on a ketch and tooling around the area' islands, Buffett found his niche. He penned colorful tunes about life in the Keys that blended folk, rock, and country elements, and played in bars while hoping to snag another recording deal. Though he once remarked in a 1979 Rolling Stone cover story that he was also occupied with marijuana smuggling during this time, he later recanted the boast when the authorities questioned him. In 1973 Dunhill released his third album, A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean. Despite the groan-inducing word play of the title, it enjoyed decent success, as did his next release, Living and Dying in 3/4 Time. Pooley in Time noted he was the "Prince of Key West" by this point, and by 1975 Buffett was well-known enough to provide the soundtrack for a film, Rancho Deluxe, in which he also appeared. Also that year he formed his backup group, The Coral Reefer Band.
Shot to Stardom with Changes in Latitudes
In 1977 Buffett shot to stardom with the platinum album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, which climbed both the country and pop charts. Its hit single, Margaritaville, with its lazy but catchy melody, related a story about drinking to forget a failed relationship, but its descriptive beach scenes tempered its melancholy aspects. The song's refrain, "Wastin' away again in Margaritaville / Searchin' for my lost shaker of salt," alternated with amusing lines like "I blew out my flip-flop / Stepped on a pop top."
Surprisingly, despite Buffett's ongoing popularity, Margaritaville would represent the only top ten single of his career. Other songs on the album similarly related anecdotes that sounded like they were transcribed from the journal of a beachcomber, peppered with lyrics about palm trees, sailing, parties, and sun worship. This would form the basis of his laid-back image which drew legions of fans to his concerts in the coming decades, and songs like "Cheeseburger in Paradise" solidified this. Buffett also would become a favorite of young party enthusiasts with favorites such as "Why Don't We Get Drunk (and Screw)?" and "My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don't Love Jesus." However, he ventured into more serious ballads with songs like "Son of a Son of a Sailor."
By 1984, Buffett's career was sagging, and searching for a gust of wind for his sails, he approached Corona beer to sponsor his concerts. With its fiesta-like image and appeal to young consumers, the deal was mutually beneficial. Corona boosted its chunk of the market from two percent to 17 percent between 1984 and 1988, and Buffett saw his popularity rebound as well. In 1992, his four-CD Boats, Beaches, Bars and Ballads, recorded on his own Margaritaville Records label which he founded that same year, became the best-selling boxed set in the history of MCA Records, which distributed the release. His concert dates often sold out, and he became one of the most successful live artists on the circuit, taking in about $25 million each year from his annual tours.
Although he has produced a few gold and a couple of platinum albums, Buffett is generally not a chart-topper, but has a core group of admirers and pounced on this to create a Buffett-themed multimillion dollar empire. With the birth of his Margaritaville Cafe in Key West, he combined his musical wares, a restaurant/bar, and retail goods. In addition to the requisite T-shirts, tapes, and CDs, he also sold clothing, books, and souvenirs, like the "lost shaker of salt" referred to in "Margaritaville" and pillows in the shape of cheeseburgers. Sales from his Margaritaville Cafes were estimated at $6 million in 1998.
All in all, Buffett is one of the wealthiest entertainers in business, but in addition to spending freely on leisure items, he also gives generously to charity. He is involved in environmental groups such as the Greenpeace Foundation (he serves as their honorary director), the Cousteau Society, and the Save the Manatee Commission of Florida (for which he acts as chair). In addition, in 1995 he founded Singing for Change, which is funded with $1 from each concert ticket sold. The foundation returns one half of the money raised from each venue to small nonprofits in concert cities, puts one quarter aside for organizations in other regions, and sets aside one quarter for future use. The project generally tries to fund groups relating to children and families, disenfranchised people, and environmental causes.
In 1989, realizing that he had a treasure trove of ideas and experiences to draw upon, Buffett decided to compose a book. The result was Tales from Margaritaville: Fictional Facts and Factual Fictions, which combined short stories and autobiographical anecdotes. Most of the inclusions were fictional and centered on life on the ocean, but four of the pieces dealt with Buffett's life from his upbringing through his celebrity stage. This release clung to the New York Times best-seller list for seven months. Subsequently, Buffett tried his hand at a full-length novel in 1992 titled Where Is Joe Merchant?, about a rock star who disappears in the Caribbean and his sister, who tries to track him down with the help of her ex-boyfriend, a swashbuckling pilot. This, too, reached best-seller status.
In 1995, Buffett began working with Pulitzer Prize winner Herman Wouk, known for epic novels like The Caine Mutiny and The Winds of War, to create a musical adaptation of Don't Stop the Carnival, the author's 1965 work about a philandering New York agent who moves to the Caribbean to run a hotel. In May of 1997 the collaboration opened at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, Florida, and its accompanying album was released in 1998. While the show was deemed not quite ready for Broadway, it enjoyed a decent run in Florida, and the book became the most commercially successful of Wouk's career.
Scoring yet another coup as a writer, Buffett in 1998 released a full-length memoir, A Pirate Looks at Fifty, which was a best-seller for five weeks with half a million hardcovers sold. During the book's second week on the charts, it hit the number one spot, making Buffett one of only six writers to reach the top peg on the New York Times' fiction and nonfiction charts (in the company of others like Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, not to mention Dr. Seuss). In addition to all of these projects, Buffett was also credited, along with his eldest daughter, Savannah Jane, with writing the children's books The Jolly Mon, 1988, and Trouble Dolls, 1991. Both contain the familiar tropical settings that are his trademark and tell tales of adventure sprinkled with folkloric and fantasy elements. He also continued releasing albums during the 1990s, which included the live album Feeding Frenzy, boxed set Boats, Beaches, Bars and Ballads, Fruitcakes, Barometer Soup, Banana Wind, holiday album Christmas Island, Don't Stop the Carnival, Beach House on the Moon, and Buffett Live: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays. In 2002, Buffett released Far Side of the World.
Buffett was married for the second time in 1977 to Jane Slagsvol, a woman he met in a bar in Key West when she was on spring break from the University of South Carolina. The Eagles played their wedding reception, and the two had their first daughter, Savannah Jane, and lived the high life for five years until Jane decided to take a break, sober up, and find her own way in life for a while. They got back together in 1991 and had two more children--another daughter, Sarah Delaney, and a son, Cameron Marley. They have homes in Palm Beach, Florida (they moved out of Key West in the late 1990s); Sag Harbor, New York; and Nashville, Tennessee; as well as a 500-acre plantation in southern Georgia bordering on 6,000 more acres of land where Buffett likes to hunt. Though he enjoys hobnobbing with other notables, Buffett's wife told Pooley in Time, "If I didn't force him to go out, he would be a total recluse. He is self-contained: up early, writing or fishing or boating or flying, making pancakes for the kids, driving them to school or camp, playing tennis or working out. That's the life he loves."
by Geri Koeppel
Jimmy Buffett's Career
Singer, songwriter, and author. Began performing as a folk singer in clubs in New Orleans and around the Gulf Coast, mid-1960s; country singer, Nashville, TN, c. 1969-71; released debut album, Down to Earth, Barnaby, 1970; formed Coral Reefer Band, 1975. Billboard publications, Nashville, TN, writer, c. 1969-73; author of novels, autobiography, and books for children, 1988-. Contributor to Inside Sports, Outside, Miami Herald, and Smart; appeared in films Rancho Deluxe, 1974, and FM, 1977; founder, Singing for Change charitable foundation, 1995; member, Greenpeace Foundation (honorary director), Cousteau Society, Save the Manatee Commission of Florida (chair).
- Selected discography
- Down to Earth , Barnaby, 1970.
- High Cumberland Jubilee , Barnaby, 1972.
- A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean , Dunhill, 1973.
- A-1-A , Dunhill, 1974.
- Living and Dying in 3/4 Time , Dunhill, 1974.
- Rancho Deluxe (soundtrack), United Artists, 1975.
- Havana Daydreamin' , ABC, 1976.
- Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes , ABC, 1977.
- You Had to Be There: Jimmy Buffet In Concert , MCA, 1978.
- Son of a Son of a Sailor , ABC, 1978.
- Volcano , MCA, 1979.
- Coconut Telegraph , MCA, 1981.
- Somewhere over China , MCA, 1981.
- One Particular Harbour , MCA, 1983.
- Riddles in the Sand , MCA, 1984.
- Last Mango in Paris , MCA, 1985.
- Songs You Know by Heart: Jimmy Buffett's Greatest Hits , MCA, 1985.
- Floridays , MCA, 1986.
- Hot Water , MCA, 1988.
- Off to See the Lizard , MCA, 1989.
- Feeding Frenzy (live album), MCA, 1990.
- Boats, Beaches, Bars and Ballads (four-CD boxed set), Margaritaville/Polygram, 1992.
- Before the Beach (reissue of Down to Earth and High Cumberland Jubilee ), Margaritaville, 1993.
- Fruitcakes , Margaritaville/Polygram, 1994.
- Barometer Soup , MCA, 1995.
- Banana Wind , MCA Nashville, 1996.
- Christmas Island (holiday music), MCA, 1997.
- Don't Stop the Carnival , Margaritaville/Polygram, 1998.
- Beach House on the Moon , Margaritaville/Polygram, 1999.
- Buffett Live: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays , Mailboat, 1999.
- Far Side of the World , Mailboat, 2002.
- Selected writings
- (With daughter, Savannah Jane Buffett) The Jolly Mon (for children), illustrated by Lambert Davis, Harcourt, 1988.
- Tales from Margaritaville: Fictional Facts and Factual Fictions (short story and autobiographical sketch collection), Harcourt, 1989.
- (With daughter, Savannah Jane Buffett) Trouble Dolls (for children), Harcourt, 1991.
- Where Is Joe Merchant? A Novel Tale (novel), Harcourt, 1992.
- Daybreak on the Equator , Random House Large Print, 1997.
- A Pirate Looks at Fifty , Random House, 1998.
- (With Jeffrey Cardenas) Sea Level: Adventures of a Saltwater Angler , Meadow Run, 2002.
October 7, 2003: Four Buffett albums were released, including: 20th Century Masters--Millennium Collection, Jimmy Buffett Live in Las Vegas, Jimmy Buffett Live in Seattle, and Jimmy Buffett Live in Vancouver. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_5/rock.jsp, October 9, 2003.
October 14, 2003: Buffett's albums, Live in Irvine, Live in Mountainview, and Live in San Diego, were released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_6/rock.jsp, October 16, 2003.
November 5, 2003: Buffett shared the Country Music Association's Vocal Event of the Year Award with Alan Jackson. Source: "37th Annual Country Music Awards," www.cmaawards.com/2003/search/view_by_year_2003.htm, November 6, 2003.
May 26, 2004: Buffett shared two Academy of Country Music Awards, including Single of the Year and Vocal Event of the Year, for "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" with Alan Jackson. Source: Academy of Country Music, www.acmcountry.com/2004_acm_nominees.htm, May 27, 2004.
July 21, 2004: Buffett's album, License to Chill, made its debut at the top of the Billboard U.S. pop album chart. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, July 22, 2004.
August 18, 2004: Buffett's album, License to Chill, was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/riaa/gold.jsp, September 15, 2004.
May 2005: Buffett signed to launch the Radio Margaritaville channel on Sirius Satellite Radio. Source: CNNMoney, http://money.cnn.com/2005/05/10/news/newsmakers/sirius_buffett/index.htm, May 10, 2005.
- Mote, Dave, editor, Contemporary Popular Writers, St. James Press, 1997.
- Newsmakers 1999, Issue 3, Gale Group, 1999.
- Billboard, July 22, 1995, p. 10; September 12, 1998, p. 9.
- Entertainment Weekly, July 13, 1990, p. 50.
- Forbes, January 16, 1995, p. 84.
- Indiana Business Manager,September 2002.
- Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, December 6, 2002.
- Newsday, August 28, 1995, p. B3.
- New Yorker, August 15, 1977, p. 23.
- New York Times, July 26, 1998; February 21, 1999, p. AR44.
- People, November 11, 1996, p. 39; October 19, 1998, p. 15.
- Playboy, February 1998, p. 80.
- Publishers Weekly, June 22, 1998, p. 24.
- Rolling Stone, October 4, 1979, p. 36; March 19, 1998, p. 53.
- Tampa Tribune, December 4, 1998.
- Time, August 17, 1998, p. 68.
- Variety, May 19, 1997, p. S37.
- "Jimmy Buffett," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (March 20, 2003).
- Jimmy Buffett Official Website, http://www.margaritaville.com (March 19, 2003).