Jimmy Buffett launches Margaritaville TV

From the HoustonChronicle.com:

Jimmy Buffett performs at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands Thursday May 29, 2014.

Ken Hoffman
June 2, 2014

It’s up to you, Jimmy, you want to do the interview now?

Or, I have this little Jimmy Buffett Trivia Quiz in my pocket. It’s five questions – let’s see how much you know about yourself.

“Let’s do the trivia first,” Buffett laughed. We were in his dressing room, a few hours before his concert last week at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. He was in shorts, with bare feet, wire-rimmed glasses and a “Deus Ex Machina” T-shirt (from the surfboard and motorcycle store) with rolled-up sleeves.

Buffett had been curled up on a brown leather sofa. For the quiz, he sat up and leaned forward.

“I’m ready.”

1. Eight authors have had books reach No. 1 on both the New York Times fiction and nonfiction bestseller list. You’re one of them. Name three others.

Buffett’s answer: “Ernest Hemingway and Dr. Seuss and … I don’t remember the others.”

WRONG! Meatloaf’s song is wrong – two out of three is bad. The others are John Steinbeck, Mitch Albom, William Styron, Irving Wallace and Glenn Beck.

Buffett raised an eyebrow, “Glenn Beck?”

Yes, Glenn Beck.

2. In what city have you performed the most concerts?

Buffett’s answer: “Cincinnati.”

WRONG! Buffett has performed 55 concerts in Mansfield, a suburb of Boston. Cincinnati is second with 53. Houston is tied for 11th place with 27 concerts, according to the be-all, end-all website, www.buffettnews.com. Houston will always be No. 1 for a special reason, though: “The first time I ever headlined a show was at Liberty Hall here in Houston,” he said.

3. According to the closing credits, what role did you play in the baseball movie, “Cobb,” starring Tommy Lee Jones?

Buffett’s answer: “I do know what I played. I’ll say “The Armless Fan.”

WRONG! So close, but I have to mark it wrong. The 1994 film’s credits list Buffett’s role as “The Armless Guy Roger Clemens also appeared in “Cobb.” He was credited as the “Opposing Pitcher.”

4. One of your most acclaimed albums is titled “A1A.” If you get on Florida State Road A1A in Key West. and drive north, where does A1A end?

Buffett’s answer: “Fernandina Beach, Fla. Just south of the Georgia state line.”

CORRECT! A1A hugs the east coast of Florida, passing through Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach and Jacksonville.

5. You were the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” in 1978. Who was the host of that episode?

Buffett’s answer: “Richard Dreyfuss.”

CORRECT! Buffett performed “Son of a Son of a Sailor.”

Margaritaville TV

See me after class to discuss your grade, Mr. Buffett.

“That was fun. I got like a B, didn’t I? How many did I get right?” Buffett asked.

You got two right. You think 40 percent is a B? This isn’t driver’s ed. You don’t just show up and get a B.

“So I got a C or a D. That’s all right. That was my normal grade in college.”

Buffett did better than that. He received a bachelor’s degree in history (not math) in 1969 from the University of Southern Mississippi. Other notable USM grads: quarterback and jeans pitchman Brett Favre and celebrity chef Cat Cora.

Now let’s get down to business. Buffett has created his own Internet television station called Margaritaville TV – www.margaritaville.tv – the only TV station owned, operated, bankrolled and starring a rock ‘n’ roller.

Some people are happy with a license plate with their name on it.

The TV station is packed with videos and memories. As Buffett puts it, he’s been “living my life like a song,” making music for nearly a half century. But the main event will be live telecasts of Buffett concerts in high definition and full stereo. Thursday’s concert in The Woodlands was the station’s opening night.

The station was supposed to debut a week earlier with a concert from Virginia Beach, but the video stream suffered exasperating pauses for buffering. I suggested they call it buffetting – cute, but no less annoying. Three nights later, a concert in Atlanta never made it online because – I love this – raccoons chewed through backstage wires. It’s an older venue in Atlanta.

The Woodlands concert was a crystal clear success. Some 16,500 Parrotheads, Buffett’s wildly costumed fans, packed the pavilion. Thousands more watched in their homes … in China, Australia, France, South America and Africa. Starbucks. Anywhere.

Buffett’s IT guy, Coleman Sisson, showed me a map of exactly how many fans were watching in any city around the world. You think Edward Snowden knows his way around a computer?

I asked Buffett, why are you doing Margaritaville TV? You’ve been airing your concerts live on Radio Margaritaville on SiriusXM for the past 14 years. Now that you’re adding video, aren’t you giving away the milk and the cow for free now?

“It is a logical step,” he said. “I like technology. I think there’s a lot of people out there who would like to see our show but can’t. They might be in secondary markets, or they don’t want to put up with the hassle of coming to a show.”

Buffett has been doing fewer tours, with fewer shows in fewer cities in recent years. Which means fewer people get to see the concert in person.

“I didn’t know it was going to last this long, at this pace. If you do the math, we’re only doing about 20 shows this year. I still like doing it, but I’m also 67 years old. I’ve had a good run. I’ve got a lot of things that I want to do that don’t involve me being on the road. With Margaritaville TV, fans can watch the show now.”

Buffett isn’t worried that people may stay home and watch Margaritaville TV instead of buying tickets and coming to his concerts.

“Tonight’s show is on TV. But you still see people scalping tickets in the parking lot. It’s the law of supply and demand. There’s still a lot of demand for our shows.”

Cool customer

Buffett travels with 40 band and crew members. I joined them for a buffet lunch backstage at 3 p.m. I had fried pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes and string beans, with flan for dessert. The yellow tail snapper and roast chicken were moving fast. There wasn’t a “Cheeseburger in Paradise” in sight, though.

The sound check followed around 4 p.m. Buffett wore a baseball cap backwards. Heavy duty air conditioners made the stage feel like a meat locker on that 85-degree day.

I asked Pavilion president Jerry MacDonald, I didn’t know the stage was air conditioned – how come Bruce Springsteen was drenched with sweat a few weeks ago?

“Bruce specifically told us not to turn the air conditioners on. He wants to sweat. A lot of the classic rock acts want it hot so they work up a sweat,” he said.

Buffett is one cool customer. And not just onstage.

While we talked, I noticed a fully made bed in his dressing room.

Is that your bed or does it belong to the pavilion?

“It’s my bed. It goes with me to every city. I take a nap before each show,” Buffett said. “I’ll go to sleep for about 45 minutes.”

Do you have an alarm clock? Have you ever slept through a show?

“No alarm clock. Don’t worry, I usually know when to wake up,” he laughed.

Finally, I asked, how much of what you do now – the TV station, performing live at a drive-in movie theater, playing baseball stadiums like Wrigley Field and doing your encore in the right field bleachers – is just you seeing how far you can push things … push yourself?

Buffett smiled, “That’s a LOT of it.

“This stuff is exciting. I mean, the older you get, and this is absolute science, if you keep doing things that excite you, that’s the best prevention against Alzheimer’s. I’ve always been a big reader of Joseph Campbell. He said you should never mess with the myth.

“We’re here because we do good shows. People know they get good bang for their buck. They wouldn’t keep coming back if they weren’t having fun.”

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