Last month we lost an American icon. Jimmy Buffett, the leader of the Parrotheads and the mayor of the mythical paradise of Margaritaville. Jimmy passed away at the age of 76.
Jimmy Buffett was born in 1946 in Mississippi and was raised in Alabama. He began his career in an acid rock band but evolved over time towards country music. In the early 70s he moved to Nashville but unfortunately his style of singing didn't fit any of the pre-established genres. He paid his bills by waiting tables and working as a music critic.
After failing in Nashville and going through a divorce, he moved to Key West. He spent his days working on fishing boats and his evenings singing in the local bars. He began to truly study the Key West bar clientele. Over time, his singing and song writing began to reflect both his life and the escapism that the clientele wanted. His breakout hit was Margaritaville in 1977. It was 37 years until his next big hit.
During those 37 years, touring small venues across the country, Jimmy Buffett catered to what his followers wanted. Jimmy was protective of his brand and diligent in watching the bottom line. He was careful to curate, but not over, expose his brand.
In the 2003 hit, It's 5 O’Clock Somewhere, Alan Jackson laments about his job and asks ‘What would Jimmy Buffett do?’ Jimmy Buffett suggested Alan pour a hurricane and spend some time in Margaritaville. That was Jimmy Buffett’s break out moment. Eight weeks at #1 on the Billboard chart and the Country Music Award for Vocal Event of the Year. This was the very first award that Jimmy Buffett had ever received for any song.
From that point forward Jimmy Buffett we know today was born. Selling out stadiums and becoming a folk icon. Restaurants, movies, books, retail stores and websites evolved and grew. However, what's important to remember is the 37 years that he spent earning the opportunity to become a folk icon.
The Secret to Success
When interviewing Jimmy Buffett, 60 Minutes asked him what his secret to success was. Jimmy Buffett began by saying that his is mostly a businessman. Creating the mythical paradise of Margaritaville took decades. He also admitted that he is not a great musician. He dreams of playing the guitar like Eric Clapton and he still takes singing lessons. According to Jimmy Buffett, the secret to success in life comes down to three simple things.
Discussing his raving fans, the Parrotheads, Jimmy said something very interesting. ‘(paraphrased) At my concerts I see the craziest things and sometimes I wonder who are these people? They're having a great time at the concert, but my guess is that every one of them shows up for work on Monday morning. They love the escapism of Margaritaville, but they also understand what it means to get up and work hard each day. In many ways they're just like me’
Take a moment this weekend to drink a margarita and listen to a Jimmy Buffet song. And, when you are done, get back to work because … that is what Jimmy Buffet would do.