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Watch Zac Brown Band's World Premiere of "All Alright"
Jul 23, 2014 - 9:07 AM - by Ryan C.
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A Magical Meal at Louie’s Backyard in the Conch Republic
Jul 20, 2014 - 2:54 AM - by Ryan C.
By Jane & Michael Stern


Jimmy Buffett was an early fan of Louie’s Backyard, the enchanting restaurant on the Key West shore that embraces Conch cuisine, serving up surprising and delightful fare daily.

A table on the three-tiered deck of Louie's Backyard is an enchanting place to dine, especially in the evening. Perched on the waterline over the Atlantic Ocean in Key West, Florida, diners look out over a fathomless horizon where the clouds and waves weave together in cobalt blue striations. Hurricane lamps on the tables flicker in the calm island breeze. Bulbs strung among branches in the overhead wild hibiscus tree form a radiant canopy. Waves lap the shore like a soft rhythm guitar that sets the tune for laughter and chatter at the restaurant’s outdoor Afterdeck bar. There isn't a dreamier place to dine anywhere in America.

And, if such a thing is possible, the meal matches: beautiful, sexy, pleasure-giving food made from ripe fruits fresh off the tree and fish only just caught in ocean waters and prepared with an enchanted mix of seasonings that could only come together in the never-never land that is Key West.

Louie's Backyard is one of many good places to eat in town, but for us it is the Key West restaurant. For one thing, it has been around a long time, and its roots grow deep in the traditions of local life. When it opened in 1970, an unknown Jimmy Buffett lived in the house next door and palled around with waiter Phil Tenney, who is now Louie's owner. Buffett's cat Radar hung out with the bartender's dog, Ten Speed, and it is said that the two of them regularly bellied up to the bar in the afternoon for broad champagne glasses filled with Kahlua and cream.


Michael Stern

Aside from its Buffett connection and the parade of other Key West-related celebrities who have stopped in for a meal, Louie's demands the attention of any eater interested in discovering the unique style of cooking (and eating and serving) known as Conch cuisine.

Natives of Key West call themselves Conchs (pronounced konks), after the hard-shelled, spiral shellfish that is found in nearby waters. While the term used to be derisive (like redneck), it has taken on a distinct air of pride in the last several decades as the key that now calls itself The Conch Republic has defined its own cultural identity. Part of that identity is a sense of the island's unique fare. The Conch kitchen is in some measure the progeny of nearby Cuba, of the Caribbean (both culturally and piscatorially), of Dixieland, and the Cordon Bleu, but it has evolved a style all its own.



Michael Stern

The meat of the conch itself is an essential provision at Louie's Back Yard (visitors must try conch fritters and conch chowder, not to mention raw conch salad), and so are spearfished grouper, Florida pink shrimp, and dooryard fruit that include Key limes, calamondins (little, bright-flavored tangerines), and sour oranges. Several varieties of banana grow here, and mango season on the island is huge. Put these ingredients together with a freewheeling kitchen spirit and the hands-on culinary education of Louie's chef, Doug Shook, and you have an inevitably spectacular meal.

It is hard to recommend exactly what to order because Louie's food changes daily. There are a handful of things you can count on when you peruse the menu, such as Key West pink shrimp, Bahamian conch chowder with bird pepper hot sauce, and, of course, Key lime pie for dessert. Beyond such classics, the daily repertoire reflects not only the catch of the day and what is seasonal, but also Chef Shook's restless creativity. Even when a night's special is well liked by customers, it may not return to the menu for many months, and it may be reinvented with a different sauce or an altered presentation.

One afternoon at 5:30 p.m., we sit in the dining room as Doug briefs... [Read More]
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Jimmy Buffett Talks About Going To Space
Jul 07, 2014 - 8:46 AM - by Ryan C.
Sometimes, dreams really do come true.

Some 40 years ago, while singing about unpopular poets and stealing peanut butter, Jimmy Buffett, in his Key West phase, spent his free nights in a beat-up Chevy Pickup watching old movies at the waterfront Islander Drive-In.

Occasionally, Buffett would find a date, pick up some cheap gin, commit a little “mortal sin,” as one song goes, and dream he’d own a drive-in one day.

And finally, he does.

Well, along with several dozen Margaritaville restaurants, bars and casinos; a record label; best-selling books; a clothing and footwear line; a radio station; a burgeoning on-line TV network and, for all intents and purposes, the entire island-escapist lifestyle.

It was the drive-in he dreamed about first, though, and it’s partly why he will play the Coyote Drive-In in Fort Worth on Thursday, two days ahead of his typical North Texas stadium-size show at Frisco. Buffett is an investor in the Fort Worth drive-in, which opened in 2013.

“I’ve always had a nostalgia for [drive-ins],” said Buffett, whose 1973 song “Grapefruit, Juicyfruit,” is a paean to those days. “We went a lot as a family when I was a kid. We went a lot during my teenage years when I played briefly in a really bad surf band. And I always wanted to own the Islander. I just thought it would be really cool.

“But you’ve got to have a hell of a lot more land than if you wanted to open a Dairy Queen.”

For years, the drive-in idea didn’t make business sense and it sat like an old 45, gathering dust. Technology, though, has a way of making everything old new again. Buffett toyed with the idea of playing a drive-in about 10 years ago and beaming it across the country to reach, as he said, “secondary markets,” but the technology wasn’t quite there yet.

Now, with his own high-tech production truck geared towards his new Margaritaville.TV project, he can better guarantee quality control. And when Coyote Drive-in operators Brandt and Brady Wood, whom Buffett has known since they were children, came along with the idea for a high-tech digital drive-in, Buffett’s old dream and new technology married up. The show will be broadcast live to about 90 digital drive-ins around the country.

“I have no idea how this will play out,” Buffett said of the drive-in concert idea. “But I wanted in. I wanted to be part of it. I have people in my own organization wondering what the hell I’m doing.”

His show in Fort Worth will feel a lot like the 1970s, with a glorified flat-bed truck kind of setup, but don’t expect a set list straight from that decade. To reach and hook those fans in secondary markets means giving them “the Big 10,” songs that people most associate him with, from “Margaritaville” to “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Fins.”

“If we don't, we'll get killed,” Buffett said.

He plans to end the Fort Worth show with a screening of Rancho Deluxe, the 1975 Western comedy for which he wrote the musical score and performed “Livingston Saturday Night.”

The longer Frisco show will give Buffett an opportunity for a more wide-ranging set.

At 67, he’s slowing his tour stops some and eschewing sugary margaritas for sips of tequila, but he has no desire to stop. (So don’t expect this beach bum to ride away, a la George Strait, anytime soon.) Besides the drive-in idea and internet TV, Buffett wants to explore the Latin market more, as he started to in a collaboration with Colombian singer Fanny Lu on last year's Songs From St. Somewhere album.

And there is another dream to realize.

“The wanderer in me still wants to go place I haven’t been,” Buffett said. “And I haven’t been to space. I want to leave this planet. I’m a pilot.

“John Glenn did it at 72, so I figure I’ve got five more years left.”

He can dream. In Buffett’s case, most of his dreams do end up coming true.
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Taste of Paradise now at your local Giant!
Jul 01, 2014 - 9:01 AM - by Ryan C.
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Jimmy Buffett's restaurant in Waikiki to close
Jul 01, 2014 - 8:57 AM - by Ryan C.
Jimmy Buffett’s Restaurant & Bar at the Beachcomber will be closing and terminating its lease at the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Resort on Aug. 31.

The restaurant opened in 2009. It is part of Margaritaville’s restaurant group, which has 21 locations in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean, according to its website.

Calls seeking comment from Jimmy Buffett’s restaurant were not immediately answered.

Nancy Daniels, director of publication relations for Outrigger Enterprises Group, which manages the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Resort, said Outrigger is “looking for another high-quality restaurant to go in there, and we have begun exploration of other leading restaurant options.
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Coral Reefers? Jimmy Buffett to sell e-cigarettes in Florida?
Jun 30, 2014 - 1:27 PM - by Ryan C.

Is Jimmy Buffett — the Jimmy Buffett — getting ready to start selling electronic cigarettes in Florida? Or, with a bigger question mark, marijuana products?

By Abraham Aboraya and Anjali Fluker Orlando Business Journal

Notice the question marks: Mr. Margaritaville didn’t return my call, and neither did the attorneys on this, so this is all unconfirmed right now.

But according to a trademark filed in January of this year, Margaritaville Enterprises LLC wants to trademark the term Coral Reefer.

According to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office application, the trademark would be used to sell goods and services related to electronic cigarettes:

Electronic cigarettes; cigarettes; cigars; tobacco; herbs for smoking; cigarette holders; cigarette lighters; ashtrays, humidors, cigar cutters, hookahs, matches, cigar and cigarette boxes, cigarette papers, cigarette rolling machines, pocket apparatus for rolling cigarettes, smoking urns, tobacco substitute, tobacco tins; tobacco pouches; electronic cigarette refill cartridges sold empty; smoking pipes, smoking pipe cleaners, smoking pipe racks; smokeless cigar and cigarette vaporizers; tobacco grinders

And what does any of this have to do with Orlando? Here’s your smoking gun — bad pun intended: Margaritaville Enterprises LLC is owned by Margaritaville Holdings LLC, which has Jimmy Buffett listed as the principal. This is the company, with John Cohlan as CEO, that's responsible for the Margaritaville empire: restaurants, food, hotels, tequila, etc. While its principal address is in West Palm Beach, the company has its mailing address right here in Orlando — at the Loews Hotel at Universal Orlando.

According to real estate sources, Margaritaville Holdings has 60,000 square feet of space at CrownPointe Commerce Park in southwest Orlando, and has held the space since 2007.

Of course, you maybe noticed the big red flag in all that: the word Reefer, as in Coral Reefer, the term Margaritaville Enterprises LLC wants to trademark. And I’m not the one pointing out the term.

According to a letter the patent and trademark office sent to Margaritaville Holdings in April, Reefer can also mean marijuana or marijuana cigarette. And marijuana — despite what Colorado and Seattle will tell you — is still federally illegal.

So now the federal government wants an answer, in writing, on the following two questions:
“Do applicant’s identified goods include or contain marijuana, marijuana-based preparations, marijuana extracts or derivatives, or any other illegal controlled substance?”

“Do applicant’s identified goods include or consist of any equipment, product, or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, preparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance?”
The legal writing on the wall seems pretty clear: “Registration of the applied-for mark may be refused on the ground that the mark, as used in connection with the identified goods and/or services, is not in lawful use in commerce.” In short, if this is for marijuana products, you won't get a trademark.

The federal government sent the letter in April, and the attorneys have to respond in six months or lose the application. So I’ll be keeping an eye out, and I’ll update the website if we get a response back from any of the attorneys.
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Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Resort spawns protest from local songwriters
Jun 28, 2014 - 4:42 AM - by Ryan C.
Two South Florida musicians on Monday called out singer Jimmy Buffet, asking that Buffett listen to a song they wrote for him in exchange for having to endure the traffic headaches Buffett’s new Margaritaville Resort in Hollywood Beach will allegedly bring to the area when it opens in 2015. The musicians said at a hastily called press conference on Monday at a Miami jazz club that they won’t take “no” for an answer.

“Jimmy is building a 350-room, 17-story resort on a heretofore sleepy stretch of beach,” said musician Paul Gondola, a Hollywood resident . “That’s going to create a non-stop flood of traffic along State Road A1A, a small roadway that runs up and down the beach. For beach residents, this is a disaster. Jimmy Buffett owes us one.”

Gondola says he and fellow musician, Steve Domino, wrote what they believe will be Jimmy Buffett’s next huge hit. But he says the writing duo doesn’t want to pitch the song through normal music industry channels, typically middlemen known as song pluggers. Gondola and Domino want an audience with Buffett to personally play their song for the King of the Parrotheads.

“You don’t see Jimmy Buffett building his resort in his Palm Beach neighborhood,” said Domino. “He wouldn’t – couldn’t – dare do that. His hoity-toity neighbors would never allow for such a thing. So we’ve got to put up with it. Jimmy Buffett can make this thing right by listening to our song. He won’t regret it … like we may regret his resort.”

Gondola and Domino wouldn’t divulge what their song is about, other than to say it’s “anthemic” and “destined to become yet another Jimmy Buffett classic.”

“It rocks in a laid-back, Jimmy Buffet kind of way,” said Gondola. “Jimmy’s going to love it, and so will his fans.”

Domino said that if Jimmy Buffett refuses to grant him and his writing partner an audience, things could get “Margaritaville ugly.”

“We might have to stand outside the construction site singing really bad Calypso music while dressed as Lady Gaga,” said Gondola.”

Now that’s ugly.
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Jimmy Buffett keeps a soggy Blossom Music Center crowd awash in happy sounds (review)
Jun 26, 2014 - 7:54 AM - by Ryan C.
Jimmy Buffett, who first sold out Blossom Music Center 23 years ago and came within a rainstorm of doing so Tuesday night, will never be a torch singer. But that doesn't mean he isn't passing one.


View the set list and Download the concert here.

Or more accurately, helping in the passing of one. Or a few thousand.

The 19,000-plus who packed the soggy venue in Cuyahoga Falls featured the expected number of shall-we-say-VETERAN Parrotheads, whose natural feathers tended toward gray.

But there were more than a few who were only recently out of the shell, so to speak. I don't mean the twentysomethings who are looking to party – although there was, is and always will be plenty of that connected with Buffett's music.

I mean the real kids, some wearing the Hawaiian shirts that matched their dad's and grandpa's, young girls wearing training seashells and that sort of thing.

Then there was guitarist and singer Brendan Mayer, son of Coral Reefer Band guitarist Peter Mayer and nephew of the band's bassist, Jim Mayer, who joined the group for several songs and showcased a sweet tenor in his self-penned "Getaway Car.''

Of course, Buffett will never totally pass the tiki torch. It'd be like asking someone else to don Rudy Vallee's raccoon-skin coat, or pick up Bing Crosby's pipe. I started to add Soupy Sales' squirting flower, but that might be interpreted – MISinterpreted – as seeing Buffett as a jokester.

Yeah, a lot of his songs are fun, and there were plenty in the two-hour set he delivered to the rain-soaked crowd at Blossom. "Cheeseburger in Paradise," "Volcano,'' "Margaritaville,'' "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere'' (which segued into and out of "Why Don't We Get Drunk'') and of course, the king of audience-participation songs, "Fins.''

Then there's "Too Drunk to Karaoke,'' originally a duet with Toby Keith and the irreverent hangover anthem, "My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink and I Don't Love Jesus.''

If you go to a Jimmy Buffett concert and don't laugh or smile at some point in time, someone needs to hold a mirror under your nose to see if you're breathing. Here, I'll hold your beer while you check.

But truthfully, there is soooooo much more to the man than that. "Come Monday'' may be one of the most beautiful songs ever written, and Buffett, who's got more ham in him than a Virginia hog farm, even at 67 still sings it with the heartfelt lament of a man a third that age.

He's written so many songs that go beyond the party thing, but on this night, it was the covers that let Buffett show much of his emotional side.

His version of the Zac Brown Band's "Free/Into the Mystic'' medley,'' aided by guitarist and six-time Country Music Association musician of the year Mac McAnally, could have been an echo of last week's Zac Brown Band Show.

The harmonies on that tune take an incredible amount of skill, and until Tuesday night, I thought Brown's band might be the only one that could pull it off.

But McAnally's voice is as good as his fingers – better maybe – and the harmonies from the Reeferettes Nadirah Shakoor and Tina Gullickson were Ivory soap pure.

Another Zac Brown Band cover, "Knee Deep,'' had a little too much pace on it – something that happened a lot Tuesday night, to be honest – but showcased both Buffett's still strong vocal skills and his ability to interpret a song.

Then there was "Son of a Son of a Sailor.'' Although the song suffered musically a bit from the absence of cleanliness – a byproduct of having to play loudly and for so many people – Buffett's emotive vocals were a pleasant surprise. Especially considering how many times the poor guy has had to sing the song.

I did have to laugh a bit – and then feel incredibly guilty, as I was sitting in the dry pavilion -- when Buffett launched into the title cut for his 25th album, "Take the Weather With You,'' when I looked around and saw the sodden sidewalks and lawn. But I figure Robert Greenidge's steel drum break had to take a bit of that edge off.

And the changing-of-the-guard thing sort of continued with "Something... [Read More]
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Check out Brendon Mayer performing "Getaway Car".
Jun 24, 2014 - 8:39 AM - by Ryan C.
Check out Brendon Mayer performing "Getaway Car" from Austin, TX on May 31st 2014.

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