A Good Life All the Way

Hayes Carll, Tom Corcoran, Peter Ames Carlin and Patterson Hood walk into a blurb

This? It’s one big thank you note. But it’s also about this: Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way, the story of how Jimmy Buffett made Margaritaville, and how Margaritaville made Jimmy Buffett. Due May 9 from Touchstone Books. You can preorder at Powell’s or Amazon.

The way Hayes Carll describes it, Crystal Beach, Texas was a little like Margaritaville. Not necessarily the Margaritaville of today, stylized as it is. But the Margaritaville we imagine when we think of Margaritaville once upon a time.

“In Margaritaville, you expect to see dope dealers, various riffraff,” Jimmy Buffett told writer David Standish for a 1998 Playboy profile.

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A very bad photo of a very good Hayes Carll show back in July.Credit (or Blame): Author

“Crystal Beach was the kind of place where everybody had an alias,” Hayes Carll likes to say. He cut his performer’s teeth there in a joint called Bob’s World Famous Sports Bar and Grill. “A homeless Cheers on meth,” as he’d write it in “I Got a Gig,” which mentions a lion tamer who was actually a drug dealer who spent his money on exotic animals and … I recommend you click that link and hear the whole story.

Hayes has been one of my favorite songwriters since I stumbled upon his 2005 record, Little Rock. Thanks to Hayes, I found Ray Wylie Hubbard‘s records, and Corb Lund‘s records. Thanks to my previous gig, I got to chat with Hayes a few times, and we grabbed a bite once at Mississippi Studios.

When he came through Portland in July, he played one of my favorite shows. His latest, Lovers and Leavers is sparse and beautiful and true.

Anyhow, once during an interview, he’d mentioned he’d dug Buffett’s old stuff and so when Matthew Benjamin, my editor at Touchstone, told me I needed to try and round up some blurbs for Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way, I dropped Hayes one hell of an apologetic note. I feel bad even asking … please feel free to say no … etc., etc.

He didn’t say no. He said, “send a book.” And so we did.

I asked Peter Ames Carlin if he’d read it. Peter and I go back, and he’s one reason this book wasn’t scrapped before it ever really began. In the proposal phase, he took a look at a far too self-indulgent draft and said, “You aren’t that interesting.” He of course was (and is) right. Had he hated the book, he would have told me. He’s good like that, and I’m glad he didn’t hate the book.

Now, Tom Corcoran. I’ve been pretty lucky in this so-called career. I’ve seen a lot of cool stuff and spent time with a lot of interesting people. One of the absolute joys has been getting to hang out with Tom, getting the occasional random email — be it related to the book or not. Tom’s got stories. Some he’s masked with fiction in his novels, and many more that might come out over dinner and beers.

In his office in his home in Lakeland, Fla., there’s a grizzled photo of his old friend Jim Harrison, staring at the computer. It says, “Write.” Tom — like Harrison was — is the kind of writer so many of us would like to be.

He’d shared so much already, he didn’t need to say a damn thing about the book. But he was kind enough to do so as well.

And then, Tuesday morning, I awoke to an email from Patterson Hood. You know Patterson Hood from the Drive-By Truckers. He does solo stuff, too, including the exquisitely titled (and excellent) Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance. Patterson grew up in Florence, Ala. I talked to his dad, David, for the book. Patterson caught one mind-numbingly dumb mistake I’d made in the chapter about Muscle Shoals. Thanks, man.

I’ve been a Truckers fan for just about ever, and their most recent, American Band, might be their best. It’s a stone-cold sober shot into the heart of what America is and pretends to be. It grooves.

I can’t thank these gentlemen enough for taking the time to read the book and type a few words. It’s an awkward thing to ask people to do, and  I’m new enough at this I’ve no idea what it means for book sales, but it means a ton to me. Thanks.

So we got some blurbs. Read them if you’d like, but you should go watch Hayes on Austin City Limits and pick up Lovers and Leavers. Check out Peter’s latest, Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon. Give thee to Tom’s latest, Crime Almost Pays. Listen to American Band. Enjoy yourself.

Finally—a full-length Jimmy Buffett bio that’s accurate and entertaining. Ryan White captures a life of creativity, of strumming songs, taking care of business, and of owning the stage while dancing to the bank.

Great writing makes for great reading, and this book outshines all earlier looks at Buffett’s career and lifestyle. White has interviewed dozens of the man’s colleagues, influences and guides, and asked all the right questions. Now we get to enjoy new insights and correct info right down to the sunburn.

Thank goodness for Ryan White. He delivers a fine tale and, like Buffett, super entertainment.

— Tom Corcoran, author of Crime Almost Pays and The Quick Adios (Times Six)

A gifted storyteller with a beat reporter’s nose for hidden details, Ryan White has crafted a definitive portrait of one of America’s most potent cultural icons. And yet this is so much more than an account of sandy-footed slacker king Jimmy Buffett. It’s also a peek into the yearning heart of overworked Americans searching for their own shaker of salt and helping drive the fantasy that turned Buffett’s tequila-stunned 1977 smash ‘Margaritaville’ into the keystone of a multi-billion dollar leisure industry.”

— Peter Ames Carlin, author of Bruce, Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon

White unravels the tale of America’s favorite pirate with journalistic vigor and an ear for the poetic detail. It turns out that Jimmy Buffet’s real story is as interesting and wild as the countless myths and legends that have grown around him.

— Hayes Carll, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter

Ryan White has written a highly entertaining and very informative book about Jimmy Buffett; one that manages to go well beyond the mythology and legends while still giving them their just place in the grand design. An excellent read.

— Patterson Hood, Drive-By Truckers

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