A candid, compelling, and rollicking portrait of the pirate captain of Margaritaville—Jimmy Buffett.
In Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way, acclaimed music critic Ryan White has crafted the first definitive account of Buffett’s rise from singing songs for beer to his emergence as a tropical icon and CEO behind the Margaritaville industrial complex, a vast network of merchandise, chain restaurants, resorts, and lifestyle products all inspired by his sunny but disillusioned hit “Margaritaville.”
Filled with interviews from friends, musicians, Coral Reefer Band members past and present, and business partners who were there, this book is a top-down joyride with plenty of side trips and meanderings from Mobile and Pascagoula to New Orleans, Key West, down into the islands aboard the Euphoria and the Euphoria II, and into the studios and onto the stages where the foundation of Buffett’s reputation was laid.
Buffett wasn’t always the pied piper of beaches, bars, and laid-back living. Born on the Gulf Coast, the son of a son of a sailing ship captain, Buffett scuffed around New Orleans in the late sixties, flunked out of Nashville (and a marriage) in 1971, and found refuge among the artists, dopers, shrimpers, and genuine characters who’d collected at the end of the road in Key West. And it was there, in those waning outlaw days at the last American exit, where Buffett, like Hemingway before him, found his voice and eventually brought to life the song that would launch Parrot Head nation.
And just where is Margaritaville? It’s wherever it’s five o’clock; it’s wherever there’s a breeze and salt in the air; and it’s wherever Buffett sets his bare feet, smiles, and sings his songs.
In his memoir, A Pirate Looks at Fifty (1998), musician Jimmy Buffett reflected on his life; in this biography of Buffett, White has written an entertaining life of the entertainer but hasn't revealed many new anecdotes. White's starry-eyed fan's notes perpetuate the legend of the laid-back, shrimp-eating, beer-guzzling, flip-flop wearing daydreamer who was nevertheless a canny businessman. Drawing on interviews with Buffett's friends and fellow musicians, White faithfully chronicles Buffett's rise to fame and fortune from his childhood in Mobile, Ala., and his short-lived college days in Hattiesburg, Miss., to his unsuccessful forays into Nashville's music scene and his eventual landing in Key West, where he roamed the bars with writers Thomas McGuane and Jim Harrison. Working chronologically, White (Springsteen: Album by Album) carefully takes readers behind the scenes of every Buffett album, revealing an artist who was always in control, despite his slapdash public persona. White aptly captures an ingenious musician who's expertly figured out how to spin his music and himself into something that his fans will continually follow.