King of Cool

In Remembrance of Jimmy Buffett

The unexpected death of iconic music ambassador Jimmy Buffett has taken an emotional toll on the people who adored him, especially those along the Gulf Coast.

  And even a month after the passing of the internationally known troubadour with sun-drenched songs celebrating life by the shore, friends and loved ones are still anchoring saltshaker tributes on Buffett Bridge in Pascagoula, near his childhood home.

  Born on Christmas Day 1946 in Pascagoula, his mother called him a gift and as the son of a son of a sailor, he never forgot which sands were home. When he could sneak away to the Coast, Buffett visited all his favorite places. He ate at beloved restaurants like Scranton’s in Pascagoula and Mary Mahoney’s in Biloxi, and several times he strode barefoot onto the stage at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, rocking out with sold-out crowds. 

  Despite moving to Mobile at age five, Buffett maintained family ties from Pascagoula to New Orleans through relatives including his grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. He often joked that U.S. 90 became his connection to his dysfunctional family.

  And when the bridge near his grandparents’ house on Baptiste Bayou in Pascagoula was donned Buffett Bridge in 2015, the lifelong nautical man was there adorning his traditional duck-billed oysterman cap and faded khakis, with his guitar in hand. He stood on the very spot where the melody of his island-escapism lifestyle launched. The shoreline where his grandfather took him crabbing and gave him a map from his ship captain days and pointed out Pascagoula. He told Buffett the bayou and that map led to the Gulf and ultimately the rest of the world.

  The 76-year-old island rocker was more than just South Mississippi’s very own bourgeoisie of yacht rock and barfly anthems with a nonchalant beach bum swagger, complete with flip-flops and sunnies. Sure, the legendary singer-songwriter drew legions of colorful fans who helped parlay his lagniappe catalog into lifestyle-branded business ventures and eventually a multi-million-dollar Parrothead empire. But he was also an author, gracious humanitarian, and a devoted environmentalist with his foundation, Sing for Change which primarily funds projects that serve children and families, the environment, and disaster relief.

  He and his sisters, Lucy Buffett and Laurie Buffett McGuane, even donated the Miss Peetsy B to the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs in 2011 and used Buffett’s LandShark beer instead of champagne to christen it. The 34-foot fiberglass-hull passenger vessel was named in honor of their mother who was passionate about education and has been converted to burn waste vegetable oil. Boat rides smell like French fries and salty air, only without the Heinz 57. 

  In 2012, Buffett helped open Margaritaville Casino Biloxi in the town where his career first soared by taking the outdoor stage in his well-known yacht bum raggedy straw hat and short-sleeved shirt with raucous patterns and squared-off tails. Interspersed among “Margaritaville,” ‘’5 O’clock Somewhere” and other favorite songs, he shared Gulf Coast memories with a crowd of 4,000. Buffett saluted Jake Mladinich, who hired him for his first professional gig at Trader John’s in Biloxi, and shouted out, “Thank you, Jake. It worked out.”

  And in true Margaritaville style, those who didn’t have VIP tickets formed an impromptu Parrothead yacht club near the marina and listened from their kayaks and party boats. Buffett had one of the largest fan bases in the United States, and the Parrothead community spirit will persist even after his death.

  He built his audience on the backbones of the songs he penned and his ease and charm at performing them. Buffett and fellow Mississippi native Mac McAnally recently wrote “Gulf Coast Girl” as a Coast theme song. The video shows people enjoying all of the Gulf Coast beaches as well as landmarks like the Biloxi Lighthouse and a Pascagoula Water Tower as Buffett harmonizes, “Have a world of fun on a Pascagoula run, and you might get lucky on a beach in Biloxi.” 

  And so, just like that, the Pascagoula Native Son had his last call on September 1 and his Margaritaville spirit left behind a phenomenal wake. But his island life essence will forever remain steadfastly anchored to the Gulf Coast.


Tributes and Love Continue to Pour in Following the Untimely Death of Jimmy Buffett

 “We went to camp together from five and up and I used to tease him all the time that his career started with singing those campfire songs. He’d stop by periodically, whenever he came to Biloxi, he always got a crabmeat Po’boy. When other musicians die, it doesn’t feel like this. When Buffett died, it felt like a cousin or part of the family. He was a one-of-a-kind and brilliant man.”
– Bobby Mahoney, owner of Mary Mahoney’s in Biloxi 

  “What you saw on stage was what he was like in person. He was a renaissance man and a great ambassador for Pascagoula, not only with his songs but also graphics behind the band on stage.”
– Richard Chenoweth, owner of the Grand Magnolia and Scranton’s in Pascagoula

  “We had only been open a year and in walks Jimmy Buffett. Tony ran into the kitchen and got one of the prettiest pieces of trout that we had and made him our specialty, Paneed Trout Eatery, and he loved it. They made plans to go fishing the next day but it rained. Jimmy came back year after year and he looked for us after Hurricane Katrina. He sent Margaritaville machines, 23 cases of tequila, and all kinds of things. He was just very encouraging. We lost Tony last year and I hope, maybe, they finally get to go fishing.”
– Jolynne Trapani of Trapani’s Eatery in Bay St. Louis

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