GULFPORT, Fla. (WFLA) — Hundreds of musicians have contributed to Jimmy Buffet’s Coral Reefer Band during its 50-year career.
Guitarist Roger Bartlett was the first.
They toured together as an acoustic duo in the 1970s before the release of Buffet’s most popular song.
“How many people get a chance to meet a cultural icon,” Bartlett told News Channel 8.
Bartlett met Buffet while opening for him at a club in Nashville. A year and a half later he became the original guitarist for the Coral Reefer Band.
“It was so great to be there in the early days and climbing up the ladder while holding onto his coattails and those are memories I’ll never lose,” Bartlett said.
By 1977, Bartlett had left the band, but he remembers flying to Miami to record the album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, featuring Buffet’s most famous song, Margaritaville.
Bartlett paid tribute to the legendary singer, songwriter, entrepreneur and friend at the North End Tap House on Saturday night.
Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Crisisman describes himself as a “parrot head”. He said he has attended more than 25 of Buffet’s concerts.
“And the last time he was in Tampa, we saw him and I just thought he was going to be like Willie Nelson and carry on playing into his 80’s.”
12 years ago, while sitting in the state legislature, Dreieckman issued the proclamation recognizing “Jimmy Buffet Day” in the state of Florida.
“Everything he has done for the environment has had this state close to his heart,” Crisisman said. “It was amazing to me that we didn’t recognize him for that.”
Buffet passed away on Friday evening surrounded by family, friends and, of course, music.
“Do you think Jimmy is enjoying a cheeseburger in paradise right now?” News Channel 8 asked Bartlett.
“Well, I’m sure if that’s available there then yes,” Bartlett said.
Jimmy Buffet’s legacy will live on not only through his music, but through the resorts and hotels that bear the Margaritaville name.