A half-century has passed since Jimmy Buffett climbed into Jerry Jeff Walker’s Packard for a road trip from Miami to Key West, an excursion that inspired the singer’s tropical troubadour persona and launched a billion-dollar enterprise. Fifty years after Buffett found his new home, native Key Wester Scott Atwell has celebrated the golden anniversary with a new book that uncovers the stories behind a slice of the entertainer’s generous song catalog: “Buffett Backstories — 50 Years, 50 Songs.”
Former Coral Reefer Band tour manager Bob Liberman provides the foreword.
“Jimmy Buffett is a storyteller at heart, but the song lyrics are only the distilled version of the story,” said author Scott Atwell, who turned 10 years old when Buffett arrived in his hometown in November 1971. “I’m a fan, and like other Parrot Heads, I was curious to understand the stories behind the stories.”
On a Key West radio station earlier this year, Atwell began volunteering as host of a program dedicated to Buffett’s music. Each week he presented a new backstory, often interviewing key members of the Buffett universe, and the compilation of material began to take the shape of a printed text.
“It was so much fun connecting with people like Keith Sykes to understand how he was inspired to come up with the idea for the song ‘Volcano,’ or discovering the details behind ‘Chanson pour les Petites Enfants’ by speaking with Mishka Frith, the ‘young Mr. Moon’ described in the lyrics,” Atwell said.
Number one on the list of Buffett Backstories is “Railroad Lady,” the song that connected Buffett with Walker and ultimately led to his finding Key West, while song No. 50 in the book features “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” sharing new details about a phrase that is now part of the American vernacular.
Liberman, whose tour of duty with the Reefers earned him the nickname “Lip Balm,” was a guest on Atwell’s radio program and, after reading a draft of the book, decided to contribute his memories in the foreword. Even the price of the book is a nod to the year Buffett arrived in Key West: $19.71.
“Buffett Backstories” is available on Amazon, and locally at Books & Books and at Last Chance Gifts inside Key West International Airport.