(Sept. 2) MOBILE, AL. — Balladeer Jimmy Buffett, who died Sept. 1 at age 76, grew up in this coastal Alabama town and then made his first living as a musician in my home city of New Orleans, where he became friends with early New Orleans Saints football players and where he decided he “will play for gumbo.”

Although he lived largely (in both senses of the word) in Florida, Buffett remained a central Gulf Coast native at heart, a legend who frequently returned to haunts throughout the region from Louisiana bayou country through the Mississippi and Alabama coasts to Pensacola, Florida.

His gigs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival always attracted tens of thousands of fans swaying in the springtime sunshine, almost all of them singing along with deliriously lubricated enthusiasm. Buffett partied in the Saints locker room when the team won the Super Bowl and sang the National Anthem before another Saints playoff game.

On one memorable occasion, July 26, 1988, Buffett even played at the Audubon Zoo before several thousand people at a bring-your-own-refreshments concert. Five-gallon Igloo sports coolers full of margaritas were ubiquitous, and the baboons or monkeys could be heard hooting in the distance as he sang about “Fins to the left [and] and fins to the right,” almost as if they were worried about what might emerge from the lagoon surrounding their enclosure.

In coastal Alabama, he was running buddies with hell-raising NFL Hall-of-Famer Kenny Stabler and was a great friend from Mobile childhood days with famed naturalist Jimbo Meador, better known as partial inspiration for the character Forrest Gump created by Mobilian author Winston Groom.

Wherever Buffett went, his sense of fun went with him. Fun, and perhaps the most consistently witty lyrics pop music has ever known…. [The full lyrics, I mean column, is here.]…


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