Parrothead paradise

December 13, 2017
UF News
photographer: Lyon Duong

Parrotheads likely already know that 2017 marked 40 years since the release of “Margaritaville,” the mega-hit that catapulted their beloved Jimmy Buffett to national fame and cemented his image as an easy-going, fun-loving beach bum.

What they may not know is that the University of Florida is home to a portion of the singer-songwriter’s papers, giving UF a piece of modern Floridiana courtesy of one of the Sunshine State’s most famous adopted sons.

Placed on deposit at UF’s Special and Area Studies Collections in Library East in 1993, the materials fill boxes that cover 5 linear feet of shelf space. They include manuscripts of two books, correspondence, videotapes and computer discs. The bulk of the papers, dated 1975 to 1993, are drafts and galleys of “Tales from Margaritaville,” a collection of short stories published in 1989, and the 1992 novel “Where is Joe Merchant?”

“UF would love to acquire more material and build a true Jimmy Buffett archive, not only for his fans, but for researchers of popular culture and Florida history,” said Flo Turcotte, literary collections archivist.

The collection also includes five non-professional videotapes of performances, a contract for a concert at the Euphoria Tavern in Portland, Oregon, a list of fiction and non-fiction books with Buffett's favorites indicated, thank-you letters for philanthropic activities, and a list of Jimmy Buffett scholarship recipients at the Cincinnati Public Schools.

On one particularly interesting videotape, Buffett is performing a Christmas concert in December 1990 at, of all places, Tallahassee Correctional Institution. The amateur video is grainy and sometimes out of focus, but it captures Buffett on a stage set up in what appears to be the prison baseball field. He and the inmates, flanked by guards, exchange banter (including some salty language) and are very clearly having a great time.

At one point, after performing “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” the crowd is shouting call-outs for their favorite songs, and Buffett responds to one request: “I gotta tune this guitar to do that one,” then, with perfect comedic timing, “Are y’all goin’ anywhere? … I thought y’all had another show to go to.”

The audience roars with laughter.

“The Jimmy Buffett papers capture the essence of what every Parrothead knows: that Jimmy is more than just a singer of drinking songs and good times,” Turcotte said. “He is a cultural icon.”

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