James William “Jimmy” Buffett was born in the southern state of Alabama, where he spent most of his childhood. His grade school years were in St Ignatius School. Buffett actually considered Fairhope, Alabama his “Home Town”. Buffett attended high school at McGill Institute for Boys (now McGill-Toolen Catholic High School). He graduated from there in 1964. He attended Pearl River Community College, Auburn University, and the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. At USM he received a bachelor’s degree in history in 1969. After graduation, Buffett took a job as a correspondent for Billboard magazine in Nashville.
In the late 1960s, Buffett entered into his musical career in Nashville, Tennessee. His first album in his folk-rock style was “Down to Earth”, recorded in 1970. Buffet frequently was found basking in New Orleans. It was during this time that country music singer Jerry Jeff Walker took Buffett to Key West, Florida. Buffett was so taken with Key West, he moved there shortly after. It was easy for him to gain the persona for which he was known, which was an easy going beach bum who enjoyed a relaxed life. Buffett’s music was not country music, nor was it rock music. He combined the folk, country, and pop for a wonderful mixture sometimes referred to as “gulf and western”. The tropical blend he added to his music, gave the music fans a taste of music they would come to cherish for many years to come.
“A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean” was released in 1973. “AlA” was released in 1974. Following was “Havana Daydreamin'”, released in 1976. “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” was shortly behind those albums, in 1977, with his big breakthrough hit called “Margaaritaville”.
Buffett made more money on his tours than he made in album sales, and soon became known as a popular concert draw. He released several albums during the next twenty years, and also branched into merchandising. He opened his first restaurant called “Margaritaville in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The second was in Key West Florida in 1985. Buffet played his music at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 1980. Very briefly, he changed the name of his band from “Coral Reefers” to the “Coral Reef Band” to suit the HLS&R’s request. They thought “Reefers” sounded drug related. This charity event provided student grants to children and young adults who competed in agriculture contests (FFA).
“Christmas Island” and “Parakeets” were two albums he released which were out of character albums. “Christmas Island was a collection of Christmas songs and “Parakeets” was a collection of Buffett songs sung by children. The lyrics were cleaned up for the children. (Like “cold root beer” instead of “cold draft beer”)
Buffet collaborated with Herman Wouk, the novelist, in 1997 to create a musical based on Wouk’s “Don’t Stop the Carnival”. Broadway didn’t show much interest in the play and it only ran for six weeks in Miami. Buffet did release a soundtrack for the musical in 1998.
In 1999, Buffett released a live album called “Buffett Live-Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.” He gave it that title, because he had already toned down his schedule of performances to those three days only. This gave him a more relaxed schedule. Most of his concerts sell out in minutes, so it is hard to get tickets to see him.
The Coral Reefer Band and Jimmy Buffett played on the White House lawn for then President Bill Clinton in August 2000.
Buffett’s big hit with country music star Alan Jackson in 2003 was “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere”. This was a number one hit on the country music charts. It won the 2003 Country Music Association Award for Vocal Event of the Year. After thirty years in the business, this was Buffett’s first award of any kind.
In July of 2004, Buffett had another album released; it was called “License to Chill”. During the first week, it sold 238,600 copies. For the first time in his thirty year career, he topped the U.S. pop albums chart.
Buffett teamed up with Sirius radio in 2005, and introduced channel 31 “Radio Margaritaville”. This channel broadcasts from the Margaritaville restaurant at Universal City Walk in Orlando, Florida. The channel is available online at RadioMargaritaville.com
In an album released in 2006, called “Take The Weather With You”, Buffett refers to Hurricane Katrina with a song entitled “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On”. He also pays tribute to country music legend Merle Haggard on the same album with his rendition of “Silver Wings”.
Buffett’s 28th studio album was entitled Buffett Hotel”, and was released in 2009. He has 8 Gold Certified albums, and 9 certified Platinum, or Multi Platinum.
A double CD of various performances during the 2008 and 2009 tours was released exclusively for Wal-Mart, Walmart.com, and Margaritaville.com. This double CD is entitled “encores”.
Jimmy Buffett did a free concert on the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama July 11, 2010 as a response to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf. The free concert was aired on CMT television. There were 35,000 tickets, and were given away within minutes. In the concert, he did a version of “Margaritaville”, in which he changed the lyrics for the concert. In the new lyrics, he sang “I know, it’s all BP’s fault”.
Even with his busy schedule, Buffett has also written three #1 best sellers: Tales from Margaritaville and Whereis Joe Merchant? spent over seven months on The New York Times Best Seller fiction list. His third book, A Pirate Looks At Fifty went straight to No 1 on New York Times Best Seller non-fiction list.
Buffett also co-wrote two children’s books with his eldest daughter, Savannah. One was The Jolly Mon, and Trouble Dolls. The Jolly Mon included a cassette tape of him and Savannah reading the story.
A novel, A Salty Piece of Land, was also on the New York Times Best Seller list soon after its release. It was accompanied by a CD single of the song “A Salty Piece Of Land”. In May 2008, his latest book was released entitled Swine Not? He is currently writing a follow up to his autobiography called A Pirate Looks at Fifty, which he says may take ten years to complete.
Buffett’s many talents were surfacing constantly. He wrote the soundtrack for and co-produced a film called “Hoot”. He also acted in the film. It was not a critically acclaimed film, and was not a commercial success. He also wrote and performed the theme song to the CBS television series Johnny Bago. The lyrics and performance of the song “Turning Around” for the John Candy film “Summer Rental,” was also Jimmy Buffett.
Buffett has made several cameo appearances in: Repo Man, Hook, Cobb, Hoot, Congo, and From the Earth to the Moon. He portrayed himself in Rancho Deluxe. (He also wrote the music for that film) Buffett declined appearances in Pirates of the Caribbean, The Curse of the Black Pearl.
In addition to his Margaritaville Restaurant, Buffett also has a chain of restaurants called Cheeseburger in Paradise. He is a baseball fan, and was part owner of two minor league teams, Fort Myers Miracle, and the Madison Black Wolf. Between his restaurants, album sales, and tours, it is believed he earns an estimated $100 million a year.
Buffett launched a joint project with the Anheuser-Busch brewing company to produce his own beer under the Margaritaville Brewing label called Land Shark Lager. He also was influential in having the home stadium of the Miami Dolphins to be LandShark Stadium for the 2009 season. He has licensed Margaritaville Tequila, Margaritaville Shrimp, and Margaritaville Footwear.
Buffett raised substantial funds for his “Surviving the Storm” Hurricane Relief Concert in Orlando, Florida in 2004 for the victims in Florida, Alabama and the Caribbean affected by the four major hurricanes that year.
James William “Jimmy” Buffett is a singer, songwriter, author, actor, producer, entrepreneur, and humanitarian. His magnitude of fans are known as Parrotheads”. He will always be known as the brilliant mind that combined country music with pop music, added some island escapism lifestyle, and came out with the famous gulf and western music synonymous with his name. Jimmy Buffett is still enjoying his fame and fortune, but he still recognizes his devoted fans.