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Biography of Jimmy Buffett

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Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. A state of mind is now a state of being. But how did Margaritaville come into a “state of being?” Better yet, how did Margaritaville become a “state of mind?” How could some guy armed only with writers instruments; a pen and a legal pad, create all that is “Margaritaville?”

The answer is simple: Imagination.

Jimmy Buffett arrived in Nashville in 1969 prepared to embark on a recording career. Gerry Wood, an old JB associate and currently a writer for Billboard Magazine recalls that, “Barnaby Records signed the artist to a two-album contract–and Jimmy went into the studio to record Down to Earth.”

“Unfortunately, the album didn’t sell well. Undaunted, Jimmy went back into the studio to record his second album. Daunted, Barnaby Records “lost” the master tapes for this album titled High Cumberland Jubilee. A convenient excuse for a fledgling label that didn’t want another no play/ no pay LP.”

“In a miracle that makes Lourdes look like a carnival shell game, these “lost” Buffett tapes were “found” years later, after Jimmy had become a star, and released on Janus Records. These first two albums show all the potential and promise that was soon to be realized.”

In a story told many times, Jimmy headed for Miami for an alleged booking date. However, when he got there, no job. Settling in at old friend Jerry Jeff Walker’s house allowed him time to regroup. A weekend drive down the overseas highway (A1A) landed Jimmy in the town that would prove to be the biggest influence in his musical career, the town that would provide the catalyst for “Margaritaville,” the town that continues to play a large role in his life, Key West.

The Encyclopedia of Rock, compiled by Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden, states that, “Buffett’s talent was hardly the sort that could be straight-jacketed by Nashville’s orthodox music establishment. After signing with ABC-Dunhill, he recorded his second debut album, ironically again in Nashville, though this time with greater artistic freedom. Released in 1973, A White Sport Coat and Pink Crustacean helped to establish him, and it was a reputation he was able to enhance with his next album, Living and Dying in 3/4 Time, which received good reviews, and contained the single “Come Monday”.

Jimmy plunged from the frying pan of Nashville into the fire of Key West. Key West servicemen, and shrimpers populated the island that had a reputation for harboring those seeking a lifestyle somewhat to the left of norm. Boarded store fronts dotted Duval St., and any dilapidated building that housed a business invariably served alcohol; over or under the counter. The proverbial end of the rainbow carried pot, but no gold. This was the cultural “melting pot” that was to inspire Jimmy to write “The Wino and I Know”, “My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don’t Love Jesus”, “Tin Cup Chalice”, and “I Have Found Me A Home” among others. As Bob Anderson says about Jimmy in 1986 interview in High Times, “Every outlaw has a good story, and Buffett has an eye and ear for them.”

Former Coral Reefer, Greg `Fingers’ Taylor recalls the early days in an interview with Diddy Wah Diddy, a Mississippi Blues newsletter. “In about 1972 I met Buffett. He was playing at the Hub, the Union Building at the University of Southern Mississippi. I was the local harp player, and would play with everybody. So I was just wandering through the Hub one night, and there was this guy with long blonde hair and a mustache playing `Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw’ to about five little old ladies on break from their night class. I didn’t know anything about him. I enjoyed some of the songs I was hearing, and of course I wanted to sit in. So we got up there and it was just sort of a chemistry, just one of those things. I think he had been looking for somebody else to go on the road with him. It’s sort of lonely out there on the road. The next day I was driving him to his parents house in Mobile, the sun was coming up, and Jimmy was singing, there was a bonding that occurred there at that point; we knew that we were going to play music together somewhere down the line.”

“In 1974 Buffett called and was ready to start the Coral Reefer Band. I went down to Key West. We put together the band and went on the road. Between 1974 and 1982 there was nothing but serious roadwork, especially in the seventies. On the first three albums there were essentially studio musicians in Nashville, but by the Changes in Latitudes album the band was good enough and we were enough of a unit that we went to Miami and did it as a band album. That was the one the hit came off of, `Margaritaville”. Some of my favorite rocking crazy stuff came off that album. It was a change from that Nashville play-it safe sound. I like the first albums, but they don’t have the energy that `Changes’ had.”

Michael Utley’s association with Jimmy also began on the White Sport Coat album. Michael’s musical introduction was the Bill Black Combo, a well known instrumental group in Memphis. From there he was hired by Atlantic Records to be part of their studio band in Miami. Michael took this band and formed The Dixie Flyers; backup band for Rita Coolidge.

Jimmy heard The Dixie Flyers on Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Being Free” album, and asked Michael to play on his first ABC Dunhill album. Michael worked off and on with JB over the next several years, and became a full time Coral Reefer in 1982.

With the addition of Harry Daily, the original Coral Reefer Band was now complete. However, even without a physical band, in Jimmy’s mind the Reefers were always there. Patricia Ward Biederman discussed the early days in a 1984 interview, “Although most of America had never heard of Buffett until `Margaritaville’, he has had a cult following in the South ever since he began strumming his six-string on the coffeehouse circuit 15 years ago. It is true that early Atlanta radio spots pronounced his name as if it were a serve-yourself meal and that not a single soul showed up for his New Year’s Eve concert at the Bistro in 1971. But Buffett was soon packing them in throughout the south, including Florida and Texas. `He worked this area as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen.’ He was selling 100,000 albums when nobody in the industry knew who Jimmy Buffett was,’ recalls Jack Tarver, Jr., a former concert promoter. Says Tarver, who used to book Buffett into Atlanta’s Great Southeast Music Hall in the early 1970’s; `He could sell out the Music Hall three or four days running well before he had a hit. It was not unusual to see people there all four nights.’ On one memorable occasion, Buffett stole the show from another unknown; a Yankee named Billy Joel. Tarver speculates that it is Buffett’s humor that has always endeared him to Dixie audiences. For instance, long before he had a single sideman, let alone his Coral Reefer Band, Buffett would pause in the midst of a number and say, `Take it, Coral Reefers,’ `He’d stop and tap his foot and there’d be no damn band there,’ Tarver remembers with a laugh.”

In 1974, `Come Monday’, a single from Living and Dying in 3/4 Time become his first Top 30 hit. Typically, Jimmy was totally unaware of the success of the single. “I was in Europe working on a film production when I heard `Come Monday’ being played in the London Airport. I figured something was happening, and called home to find out we were on the charts.”

All told the 70’s were great years for Jimmy and The Coral Reefers. Jimmy aligned himself with a new management company, Frontline Management, and created a personal and professional relationship with the then head of Frontline, Irving Azoff. In a 1978 interview with Bill King of The Atlanta Constitution regarding his business affairs, Jimmy said, “I run `em. I’ve always been in control of what I was doing and (Irving) came along and he’s just the greatest at it and he’s helping me tremendously. But he respects my knowledge and opinions because I’ve had to put up with a lot to get where I’ve got.” It was Irving Azoff who arranged for Jimmy and the Reefers to open for the Eagles, the biggest group at the time (1977), thus giving him his first big exposure that allowed him to become a headliner.

That same year Changes in Latitude is released and goes to #12 on the Billboard Magazine Chart. `Margaritaville” rises to #8 on Billboard Pop Chart, and becomes the definitive Jimmy Buffett song. Changes is also Jimmy’s first platinum album, selling over one million copies

Jimmy’s second million selling album, Son Of A Son Of A Sailor is released in 1978. The now classic You Had To Be There live double album is also released and earns JB a gold album. This album also awakens people to Jimmy’s natural on stage charisma. A Jimmy Buffett concert develops into much more than a live performance of studio songs. A Jimmy Buffett concert is an event. Vacations are planned, marriages are postponed, and schedules are totally revamped in order to make some time an annual Buffett appearance.

More albums are being released, more Top 40 hits appear, Volcano, Jimmy’s album recorded in 1979, also strikes gold. This album is recorded entirely at George Martin’s AIR studios in Montserrat. This was one of the first major recordings to come out of AIR studios, which, since that time, has played host to many big name bands, the Rolling Stones among them.

Jimmy discussed his career with Frederick Burger in a 1980 interview with The Miami Herald; “I’m as successful as I want to be. I’ve taken my career and a band and built them around my songwriting, to the point where I can be very successful financially and very gratified artistically and do what I do best, which is write songs and play on stage…I’d love to have a No. 1 album, but I don’t conceive of it. I’d have to be a Fleetwood Mac or an Eagles, but I don’t want to be them. I’d have to change my style, and I’m not going to do anything — other than what I do — to get it.” Frederick Burger continues, “Enhancing his creative stature is one thing; losing another chuck of a relatively unfettered lifestyle is quite another. He possesses an overpowering realization that, as former manager Don Lite puts it, some things cost too much.”

Throughout it all, Jimmy receives little or no radio exposure. Literally millions of albums are being passed across records counters nationwide based solely on word-of-month advertising from JB’s growing legions. Radio, being what it is, has no room for an artist whose style can not be pigeonholed. The 1985 Fall issue of Country Hits described it best, “All of the reviews written about Jimmy Buffett over the past several years have seemed to have a couple of things in common: first, the reviewers enjoy and admire Buffett and his music; and second, these same writers are at their wits end trying to come up with a nice pat label to pin on the man.”Their recent attempts would indicate that Buffett is a `unique, funky, easygoin’, charismatic, enigmatic, colloquial, progressive, intellectual, maverick country-folk-rock singer/songwriter/performer.’

Confused? Don’t be. What it means is that it is a whole lot easier to listen to Jimmy Buffett’s music than it is to describe it in words. After all, Margaritaville is a state of mind. Or let’s say Margaritaville was a state of mind. In January 1985 Jimmy opened the original Margaritaville Store in Key West, Florida and discovered a new outlet not only for his adventurous spirit, but for his pre-Parrot Head llifestyle seeking fans.

The Rest of the Biography can be found at
All information is copied verbatim from

Radio Margaritaville Remembers the Legendary Ralph MacDonald

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Radio Margaritaville Remembers the Legendary Ralph MacDonald

The legendary percussionist of the Coral Reefer Band, Grammy-award producer, songwriter, and friend to us all, passed away on Sunday, December 18 at his home in Connecticut. Remember with us some of Ralph’s great music, and a full life of fun and camaraderie, on this tribute program with band-mate Jim Mayer and Radio Margaritaville’s Steve Huntington.

Broadcast Schedule:
Wednesday Dec 21st : 12pm ET
Thursday Dec 22nd: 12am (Wed. nite)
Thursday Dec 22nd: 6pm
Saturday Dec 24: 6am
Sunday Dec 25: 11pm

Freddy & the Fishsticks on this week’s Radio Margaritaville concert replay!

Happy holidays from Freddy and the Fishsticks, a.k.a. Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band! Radio Margaritaville brings you their December 2005 benefit concert from Aspen, Colorado on this week’s Jimmy Buffett Concert Replay.

Broadcast schedule:
Thursday, December 22nd at 10:00 am ET
Friday, December 23rd at 12:01 am ET
Saturday, December 24th at 6:00 pm ET

Listen to the shows on and Sirius/XM.

Sail On Ralph MacDonald (March 15, 1944 – December 18, 2011)

Posted in Featured Artist of the Week, Trop Rock Artists, Trop Rock Happenings | 1 Comment »

Grammy-award winning percussionist, songwriter, producer, and long time Coral Reefer member Ralph MacDonald passed away after a battle with lung cancer at age 67.

A message from Nefra-Ann MacDonald, daughter of legendary percussionist Ralph MacDonald: “At 12:50 AM my dad lost his battle with lung cancer. Details for his service to come. Thank you all for your support of my dad and our family. Ralph MacDonald, my papa. I’ll miss you.” Grace MacDonald; Atlba MacDonald.

From Paul Leslie: Mr. Ralph MacDonald has passed away. He was a friend and also one of the most talented songwriters the world has known. He wrote “Just the Two of Us,” “Where is the Love?” He was the son of the Calypsonian MacBeth the Great and joined Harry Belafonte’s band at 17 years old. As a conga player he performed with everyone from Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon…you name it. He was a lovely man. His music will live on, and through his music, so will Ralph.  (posted from )


Grammy-award winning percussionist, songwriter and producer Ralph MacDonald was born in Harlem, NY in 1944. As the son of Trinidad-immigrant and Calypso performer “Macbeth The Great,” Ralph grew up amidst the rise of Calypsonian revolution in New York City. The young boy was often placed playfully on his father’s drums for a moment or two and, when he got older, MacDonald dreamed of someday achieving the regional success of his father.

At 17, Ralph helped a friend carry his steel drums into an audition for legendary performer Harry Belafonte. The friend got the gig, and MacDonald became a regular at rehearsals. When one of the players in Belafonte’s Steel Band was late for a rehearsal, Ralph brashly declared his ability to play, and wound up getting the job.

Thus began a 10 year stint with Belafonte that schooled MacDonald in the music business. It also introduced him to songwriter Bill Salter, and the two began writing together to fill time on the road.

At one point, young MacDonald had the nerve to tell Harry Belafonte that despite all the gold records on the wall, Belafonte didn’t really know what Calypso was. Belafonte said “Fine kid – if you know so much because your father was a Calypso singer, then you write me a song.”

MacDonald delivered an album of songs: 1966’s critically-acclaimed ‘Calypso Carnival.’

At 27, MacDonald, Bill Salter and William Eaton started their own publishing company, Antisia Music. Everyone told him he was crazy, but Ralph was determined to do it on his own. The partners opened a modest office in New York City and kept the door locked. When asked why, MacDonald explained that it was a publishing company, and that songs were meant to go out the door, not in. He gave himself two years to get the company going.

One year and eleven months later and wondering if Antisia Music would survive, Ralph happened to begin working with Roberta Flack. He and Salter had written a song called “Where Is The Love,” and in a studio session, he pitched it to Roberta. She recorded it, and it went on to sell 10 million copies, earning Roberta and Donnie Hathaway Grammys and firmly establishing Antisia Music.

From there the success kept on coming. Ralph began recording with legends like James Taylor, Billy Joel, Bette Midler, Diana Ross and Paul Simon. He and his partners wrote the Grover Washington Jr. hit “Mr. Magic” and Antisia Music placed a song called “Calypso Breakdown” on the BeeGees ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack. That album went on to sell 47 million copies and earned MacDonald two Grammys of his own, as a performer and a producer. Riding high on the disco craze, Ralph released two albums of his own, gaining commercial success and international recognition.

In 1980, Ralph wrote and produced Grover Washington Jr.’s classic album “Winelight.” Among the MacDonald compositions were hits like “Winelight,” “In The Name Of Love,” and a song destined to become an American standard: “Just The Two Of Us.” That song alone has been recorded by hundreds of artists worldwide, including Will Smith’s 1999 adaptation of the song.