Into the wild with Jimmy B.

0
532

“I am inspired by people who keep rolling, no matter their age.”
–Jimmy Buffett
The other day my  buddy Dana “tagged” me in a post on Facebook.  It was an announcement that Jimmy Buffett was on the road.  Sixty-eight years old, scores of franchises and endorsements, millions in the bank, and here he goes again.
The “Workin’ N’ Playin’” tour.
From Los Angles to Paris and places between, selling out every night.
I took Dana’s tag as a compliment.
I trace my connection to Buffett back to the mid-1970s, when I lived near Atlanta.
I was in a canoe, floating down the Flint River at Sprewell Bluff with a retired federal investigator, whose job had been to check out migrant camps and enforce Child Labor Laws.
Out of the blue my paddling partner, who was at least 20 years my senior, asked if I had ever heard of Jimmy Buffett.
I hadn’t.
“Check him out,” he advised me.  Then he added, “he sings like he is trying to  get something out of his system before he gets too old to.”
Though I was barely in my thirties, I was already getting that feeling – why else would I be in a canoe that day – so when I got back home I went record shopping and bought “A White Sport Coat and A Pink Crustacean.”
My friend was right.
Not long after that, Jimmy came to town.
Now I was not one of the hundreds who claim to have been at his first Atlanta concert – the one where fewer than a dozen folks showed up.  Despite that less than enthusiastic reception, he was back. The venue and the crowd was small – a little theater with a stage set up to resemble a Key West bar, ceiling fan and all.  He did one set with his band and one alone.
I was maybe 10 rows back.
I would never get that close again.
The next time he came, the concert was at Chastain Park, a larger setting where Northside Atlanta elites put out tables, with white linen, candles, wine and cheese, and politely listened.
Not the sort of folks you would expect to sing along with “Why don’t we get drunk” – but they did.
Looking around I saw what Buffett had seen and was marketing. Though far from the beach, the audience came dressed in tropical attire, brought portable blenders, mixed “boat drinks,” and got discretely rowdy.
So what if Jimmy had only one “hit” to make the charts.  He had album buyers and concert goers.  He was a success.
Over the next decade or so, his music seemed to chart my life. We shared coastal connections. Not only had I  been to  the FloraBama, I had been to Creola. I once had a black sheep uncle who took me places, though not to  Pascagoula.  His pirate looked at forty about the same time I did.  As what he once called “Gulf and Western” music became more Gulf and less Western, I found myself on a similar track.
I was not alone in my identification with Buffett and his music.  I was one of a circle of friends who went to his concerts together.  When one of them died, we played “Lovely Cruise” at his funeral.
But I couldn’t keep up.
As I got older, slowed down, Jimmy just plowed ahead.
He shaved his moustache, went bald, and became a black sheep uncle to a whole new generation.
Where once his concerts were packed with people like me – men and women of a certain age – at the last one I attended, I felt out of place.  First-job college graduates and those just behind them were his new fan base.  Some were even younger.
They sang the songs, bounced the beach balls, and did all the things you would expect a Buffett audience to do. But many (maybe most) seemed more interested in what went on in the parking lot, where Parrotheads tailgated.  Some, I am certain, never made it into the concert.
But we did – me, my wife, and our children, ages 10 and 15.  They had been brought up on his music, and I wanted them to see what it was all about.
I think they would have been happier with Back Street Boys or Metallica.
I would  have been happier at home.     For first fans like me, the lure of the concert had lost its luster.
I still buy his CDs and listen to Radio Margaritaville when I am driving.  I wear tropical shirts, shorts and sandals – weather permitting – not to make a statement, just for comfort. .
In four years, when he gets to be my age, maybe he’ll slow down and catch  up with  me.  If he does, I’ll be waiting.Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. He can be reached at hjackson@jsu.edu

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here