And before you ask, it IS a song.
Sure, now you can mosey into your big-resort Margaritaville restaurant and order your “Who’s to Blame” cocktail with your Cheeseburger In Paradise, and wash it down with Landshark Lager before heading into the casino for your Mississippi Stud or Texas Hold’em. Faux air-conditioned beaches, fake palm trees, old-time photos on the wall and Hawaiian shirts on backs of the silver-surfers around the bar. Its really hard to get your head around the hangover beginnings of this ubiquitous Parrotheaded brand.
Jimmy Buffett is the man who is brought us all this – is there any other billion dollar franchise that grew from just one song? He’s built it all on the back of a good honest live reputation where he brings the easy living beach vibe to chilly arenas in Michigan and Oregon, Ohio and Maine. His shows are ‘Parrothead’ conventions where loyal fans show in flip-flops and guayabera shirts, and throw beach balls around; all buying into a fantasy of a easy life in a beach paradise – a kind of post-golf club heaven.
Buffett’s himself is a likeable guy – all big grin and deep tan, dressed in dayglo shirts and cargo shorts. When you see film of him in action you can see how his aw-shucks winning appeal has attracted such a loyal following. He’s John D.MacDonald’s Travis McGee with a guitar, a doobie and a blonde-filled pickup truck.
He started out as an outlaw country troubadour, and hit Nashville just as the likes of Crosby Stills Nash and Young were stealing country plaudits and bringing in a socially conscious post-hippie crowd. After working the Nashville scene for a year or two he decamped down to Key West in far off South Florida taking his country-style stories for a good long vacation and never went home.
His work took on a distinctive beach vibe. Steel guitars were replaced by steel drums and the song titles began to tell their own stories. Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw, It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere. The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful. The songs portrayed a slacker’s paradise of getting drunk and waking up on the beach. People just loved the whole beach bum style, and Buffett had the chops and the chutspah to pull it off.
Now Key West is rapidly disnifying and the twin Gods are Ernest Hemingway and Jimmy Buffett. Take your pick from the souvenirs along Duval Street and neck a few themed cocktails down the way. It’s a winning combination, even though it portrays a skewed version of the realities of life down here in the tropics. The appeal, though seems endless.
For those whose experience of a tropical holiday is a two-week cruise or a weekender in Panama City it’s a way to feel connected with a lifestyle that’s a fantasy for most. Jimmy regularly brings a tropical holiday on tour and warms hearts in the coldest of venues. He really does have a licence to chill.
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