This was an interesting Jimmy Buffett tour; and as it’s the theme for this year’s MOTM (Meeting of the Minds) Parrot Head Convention in Key West, FL. I thought I’d share a few stories from 1997 when it was Jimmy’s tour title. The show and set followed the theme of course, the backdrop was a great scenic view of Havana Harbor, but one of the true highlights of the shows for me was the opening of the second half. Buffett had come up with the idea to play ‘El Stumpo the Bando’. Basically the idea was inspired in the spring when Jimmy was invited to stop by and visit Jerry Jeff Walker to celebrate Jerry’s 60th birthday in Austin. Jerry had set up a bar along the back of the stage and a number of his friends and musicians that he had performed with throughout the years sat onstage at the bar to enjoy the show, then one by one Jerry would invite them up to the mic with him where they would share stories and sing a few songs. I think Jimmy got a kick out of it and thought it would be fun to invite a few guests from the audience on stage with him during the concert. So we built a Tiki Bar that was placed on stage during intermission, and would bring a couple of guests from the audience to sit on stage and have Jimmy sing them their requested songs to open the second half of the show.
Our job was to scour the audience preshow, get their requests and have them onstage. What made this fun was that we weren’t going to accept any of Jimmy’s most popular or current songs, and we wouldn’t tell Jimmy their request beforehand, so the opening of the second half of the show was truly spontaneous each night. We made it our mission to find the most obscure requests possible; if someone in the parking lot requested ‘Cheeseburger’, ‘Volcano’ ect… forget it! They were out of there. We went more for ‘Death of an Unpopular Poet’, ‘Souvenirs’, ‘My Head Hurts My Feet Stink and I don’t Love Jesus’; songs that Buffett wrote but hadn’t sung in years.
So it made each show fun! After intermission, we’d seat the guests at the Tiki Bar where the Reeferettes served them a Margarita, then Jimmy and the band would come on stage. He would stroll over to them, introduce himself and ask their request, having no idea what was coming up! It was always a surprise. There were some nights when Jimmy heard the request and there was a long pause, (and after giving me a dirty look as if to say “where did you find that one?’), he’d lean over and say “Mr Utley, perhaps you could give us a few notes to start this off”. Either way, he always pulled it off!
That season he traveled with a huge binder that contained the lyrics to every song he had ever written, and I’m sure he studied it because we never really stumped the band!