Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way is available May 9 from Touchstone Books. Peter Ames Carlin, the New York Times bestselling author of Bruce, says it “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.”
I spent a good 10 days in September 2015 meandering the Gulf Coast. I started in Lakeland, swung by Gainesville, hung out in Mobile, caught a bridge dedication in Pascagoula and then chased the sunset to New Orleans. The Margaritaville Cafe had closed, and a couple of interviews that came together later fell through due to timing.
So I got to hang out in New Orleans, see the important Buffett-related sights and enjoy myself. Even found a skeleton playing piano in the lobby of the French Quarter apartment building where Buffett lived in the sixties.
The following snip of a scene didn’t make the book. Mardi Gras seemed like as good a day as any to share.
NEW ORLEANS (September 2015) — Whatever is or isn’t true about Laffite’s Blacksmith, it’s old, and it would have looked largely the same when Jimmy Buffett lived down the street. Jimmy’s place at 616 Ursaline was only a few blocks away. There was a skeleton playing piano in the lobby. A few blocks further was the former site of the Margaritaville Café and the Storyville Tavern, where a jazz trumpeter worked the corner.
I looped past a couple of bored tarot card readers in Jackson Square and picked up a grifter. Short guy, big smile, fast cadence: “Bet I know where you got your shoes?”
“On me feet,” I said.
“I’ve got some good coke,” he said.
I’d been on the road for ten days. What I wanted more than anything was sleep, not coke. Politely, I declined and cut up Pirate Alley, took a right on Royal Street and hit the brakes, stunned to a stop by about the prettiest voice I’d ever heard.
Riding down royal on a yellow bike, a man in a blue newsboy cap was singing “A Change is Gonna Come” like Sam Cooke himself being turned away from that motel in Louisiana in 1964 because he and his band were black. “I was borrrrrrrrrrn by the riv-ER!”
Nobody sings like that on a bike in Portland.