He was a singer-songwriter, film producer and author born James William Buffett in Pascagoula, Mississippi who grew up beside Mobile Bay, Alabama.
He studied at Auburn University and The University of Southern Mississippi where he graduated with a history degree. During his time at University he learned to play the guitar and when he left education he took on a job in Nashville for Billboard Magazine where be was a correspondent. This was where he got his first job as a country singer and in 1970 he released his first album Down to Earth. At the same time he had taken up busking in New Orleans and continued it in Florida when the country singer Jerry Jeff Walker took him to Key West. This is where he remained and took on the laid back beach loving personality, which he is often identified with today.
With his band, the Coral Reefer Band , he continued to sing and write his own songs taking his influences from the area round about him and although releasing albums such as Havana Daydreamin’ and A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean in the early and mid-1970s, it wasn’t until 1977 that he got his first major hit with “Margaritaville” from his Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes album.
Throughout the 1980s he released more albums with his tours being the far more lucrative of the two and in 1985 he decided to branch out into business by opening up the restaurant “Margaritaville” which is now a successful nationwide chain. He further went on to co-develop the “Cheeseburger in Paradise ” chain under a licensing agreement.
Never stopping recording he released the albums Christmas Island and the children’s Parakeets and in 1997 he became involved in writing for theatre in collaboration with Herman Wouk with the result being a musical based on Don’t Stop the Carnival.
Still very much to the fore in the 2000s he and his Coral Reefer Band performed at the White House for Bill Clinton in 2000 and in 2003 he had the No. 1 country hit “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” which won him his first Country Music Award and his first No. 1 pop album chart hit License to Chill. He continued to record and appear in concert on alternative nights of the week in regularly sold-out tours and in 2005 brought in Channel 31 Radio Margaritaville in Orlando, Florida, with Sirius Radio.
He released more than 30 albums with many singles hitting the country and/or pop charts including “Cheeseburger in Paradise “, “The Great Filling Station Hold Up”, “Livingston Saturday Night”, “Fins”, “Margaritaville ” and “Come Monday”. Moving into the world of film he acted and co-produced Hoot in 2006 as well as writing the soundtrack and he also appeared in cameos in movies that include Cobb, Hook, Repo Man, From the Earth to the Moon and Congo. It was suggested that he turned down a cameo in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
As an author his books included Tales from Margaritaville, Where is Joe Merchant? and A Pirate Looks At Fifty, all of which were No. 1 bestsellers, and the co-written childrens books Trouble Dolls and The Jolly Mon where his co-author was his daughter Savannah Jane .
Other business ventures saw him being a co-owner of the Fort Myers Miracle and Madison Black Wolf minor league baseball teams and under a co-operative agreement with Anheuser-Busch he produced Land Shark Lager under the Margaritaville Brewing label. He also owned several stores. Much involved in charity work he founded the Save the Manate Club, raised $3.4 million at his Hurricane Relief Concert “Surviving the Storm”, helped fund the “Singing for Change” charity and his devoted fanclub known as “Parrotheads” also carried out their own work for charitable causes.
He was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2019 and after getting a further diagnosis of lymphoma as a secondary cancer in the spring of 2023 he went into a hospice in late August. He died at his home in Sag Harbor, New York at the beginning of September 2023.
Jimmy Buffett recordings
Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes (Jimmy Buffett)
(ABC Records AB-12305M 14-17207-M/ AB-12305S 14-17207-S) (US promo 45)
Cheeseburger in Paradise (Jimmy Buffett)
(ABC Records – AB-12358, 45-00110-M/AB-12538, 45-00110-S) (US promo 45)
Havana Daydreamin’ (Jimmy Buffett)
(ABC Records AB-12143M 45-16861-M/ AB-12143S 45-16861-S) (US promo 45)
Hello Texas (Bryan Collins/Robby Campbell)
(Asylum E-47073-A mono/stereo) (US Promo 45)
Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffett)
(ABC Records 45-17097-M, AB-12254/45-17097-S, AB-12254) (US promo 45)
Here he is with “Cheeseburger in Paradise”…