This Goodly Land

Jimmy Buffett (December 25, 1946–present)

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Biographical Information

Jimmy Buffett was born in Pascagoula, Miss., and grew up in Mobile, Ala., where his parents worked for the Alabama Dry Dock & Shipyard Company. He grew up listening to the stories of his grandfather, who had been a boat captain. Buffett read extensively as a boy and enjoyed books like Treasure Island and stories about the real-life pirate Jean Lafitte. He also spent a lot of time sailing. In 1964, Buffett enrolled at Auburn University, but he didn’t enjoy studying and left after a year. He briefly attended Pearl River Junior College in Poplarville, Miss., before enrolling at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. Buffett majored in journalism at USM, and, at the same time, performed as a musician in New Orleans part-time. After graduating in 1969, he moved to Nashville so he could pursue his musical career. From 1969 to 1970, Buffett worked as a writer for Billboard Magazine, resigning after he signed a contract with Barnaby Records. He performed whenever and wherever he could, both locally and regionally. The albums he made with Barnaby sold poorly, however, and he left Nashville for Key West, Fla., in 1971.

In Key West, Buffett soaked in the local music culture and began writing songs about Key West events and the people he met. He continued performing locally and on the road. In 1972, Buffett was signed by ABC-Dunhill records. His albums featuring his new “Key West Sound” were successful critically and financially. In 1984, Buffett opened a store and café in Key West, the first of what became a chain of stores selling albums, clothing, and memorabilia. The Jolly Mon, a children’s book written by Buffett and his daughter Savannah Jane, was published in 1988. In 1989, he published Tales from Margaritaville, a collection of stories, some autobiographical and some fictional and based on ideas from his songs. Buffett and Savannah Jane published a second children’s book in 1991, the same year that Buffett started his own record label. His first novel, Where is Joe Merchant?, was published in 1992. Buffett continues to record and perform music and to write. He has homes in Florida and Long Island and pursues his interests in sailing, surfing, flying, and fly-fishing. Since 1981, he has been involved in the campaign to save the Florida manatee, an endangered species.

Interests and Themes

Jimmy Buffett writes stories, both fiction and nonfiction, most with Caribbean settings.

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Photo by Ray Stanyard; courtesy of Little, Brown & Company.

Last updated on Jun 24, 2009.

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