From the San Diego Union Tribune: “For Jimmy Buffett, it’s back to Margaritaville — this time in La Jolla”
The La Jolla Playhouse world premiere of “Escape to Margaritaville” brings Buffett back to that love for musical theater. And his legions of fans (dubbed “Parrotheads”) will be glad to know the Broadway-aimed show is built around many of the tirelessly touring singer-songwriter’s best-loved songs.
“Oh, the 12 we play or get killed?” Buffett says with a laugh, when asked about the roster of tunes that are more or less guaranteed to be heard at one of his shows. Most will likewise find their way into “Escape to Margaritaville,” which will include a few new compositions as well.
“I didn’t want to come in here with a whole batch of songs nobody’s ever heard,” he says. “These are great songs that have stood the test of time.”
Buffett does allow that, in partnership with director Christopher Ashley (the Playhouse’s artistic chief) and writers Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley, “we’ve changed certain things. So for example, ‘Changes in Latitudes’ and ‘Son of a Son of a Sailor,’ these are real people’s stories that the writers (have created). ‘Son of a Son of a Sailor’ is very first-person for (the main character), not a third-person song.
“They’ve been just slightly changed enough to move the story. And I love it, I really do. And I think people who are hard-core fans of mine, the Parrotheads, are going to love that fact too, and somebody who’s never seen (me) — you never know what the public’s going to buy, but I think we’ve got a pretty good shot at giving people a very fun time in the theater.
“And believe me, all you gotta do is look around at the world today. We need a few laughs, I think more than ever.”
Tully’s adventures in “Escape to Margaritaville” draw on the vivid stories that have run through many of Buffett’s country-meets-Caribbean songs over the years.
But just to be clear: Tully isn’t Jimmy. Not exactly.
“People would ask, is this about you?,” Buffett says. “And I’d go, well, every song I write is a little bit about me. But it was never the intention of just being a character based on Jimmy Buffett.”
Instead, he says, Tully is a kind of ode to the scrappy musician strumming his six-string on the front porch swing (as the song has it), or in some beachfront bar.
“I’m glad if I had anything to do with the fact solo guitar players around the world can play my songs and get a job,” Buffett says. “I’m happy that happened.
“And that’s to me what the character really is — he’s kind of the everyman of solo guitar players. And believe me, that was the stage of my life when I lived in Key West and sang in a bar like that.
“It’s more about Jimmy in 1970 in Key West — that’s what Tully is based on more than anything. I was one of probably 20 guys playing on Duval Street. But I’m a competitive person, and I wanted to be the best one.”
Buffett’s scads of gold and platinum albums over the ensuing years can attest to to his success at that endeavor — not to mention he’s also a best-selling author and an ace entrepreneur with a massive portfolio of businesses.
But while he’s a true son of the South (born in Mississippi) and has made an industry out of the image of a beach bum sipping a cool one somewhere in the Keys, California has called to him often over the years.
The song “Margaritaville,” in fact, may have been born (or at least played for the very first time) right here in town, during a mid-1970s show at San Diego State University.
Memories are hazy now, but “I’m pretty sure that it was,” Buffett says. “I think it was San Diego State. We played a lot (there) in those days.”