Jimmy Buffett remembered by DC-area ‘Parrotheads’

D.C.-area “Parrotheads” are reflecting on soft rock singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett’s ties to the region, following the news that the “Margaritaville” hitmaker died Friday night at age 76.

“Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs,” a statement posted to Buffett’s official website and social media pages said late Friday. “He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.”

WTOP’s John Domen, a longtime Buffett fan, said the musician and restaurateur was a “huge fan of the Chesapeake Bay,” visiting the area to eat at crab houses in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis and to go sailing with the Naval Academy’s team along the Severn River.

In October of 2020, Buffett was spotted grabbing a bite at the Chesapeake Inn Restaurant and Marina in Chesapeake City, where he and his crew were served lunch on his boat, CBS news reported. Shortly after the visit, owner Gianmarco Martuscelli noted Buffett’s kindness to employees, plus how much he loved the crab bisque — he took extra home with him.

“The Chesapeake Bay seemed to have a connection with him,” Domen said.

Buffett spoke with WTOP’s Jason Fraley back in 2019, as his stage musical “Escape to Margaritaville” was preparing to hit the National Theatre in D.C. This was not Buffett’s first venture into the stage world — he had collaborated with author Herman Wouk on a musical adaptation of his 1998 album “Don’t Stop the Carnival,” named after Wouk’s 1965 novel.

“It started right here in Washington D.C.,” Buffett told WTOP. “A friend of mine, the great Jack Boyle, who ran the Cellar Door in Georgetown, believed in me long before anybody else years ago when I was a solo act. He brought me to the D.C. area. … He was a big fan of [‘The Caine Mutiny’ author] Herman Wouk and Jack Boyle said, ‘You ought to look at ‘Don’t Stop the Carnival’ as a musical.’”

“Escape to Margaritaville” returned to the D.C. area this summer, with a run at Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Columbia, Maryland from June to August.

Buffett expressed gratitude that Boyle had let him perform at the Cellar Door early in his career: “I’ve got a $300 check that I’d never cashed. I don’t know why I lost it at the time. I sure as hell would have cashed it in those days.”

At the time of the interview, the check was framed on the wall of his office.

While Buffett might have started out at the Cellar Door, he ended up headlining many of the region’s major concert venues over the course of his career.

“Whether it was 40,000 people or two nights out of a weekend at the Nissan Pavilion, or Jiffy Lube Live now in Virginia, he also played at Merriweather a lot, you know — he would just draw enormous crowds, people just looking for that escapism that few hours where they could just have some fun and relax,” Domen said of Buffett’s shows.

Just over a year ago, Buffett performed at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia. A few weeks earlier, his tour had stopped at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.

According to Domen, Buffett’s audiences seemed to be filled with “those buttoned-down, white-collar types” — not unlike the stereotypical D.C. workaholic — who would “shed that away” at his performances.

“Very few other entertainers had a way of connecting with fans like that and making them feel like they have the ability to do that,” Domen said.

In his 2019 interview with WTOP, Buffett displayed a similar level of personableness. When asked how he came up with the part of “Margaritaville” at which the narrator takes accountability for “wastin’ away again” — concluding it’s his “own damn fault” by the final chorus — Buffett’s answer was concise: “Catholic Jesuit guilt.”

Domen said that while Buffett’s lyrics weren’t always “the deepest” — for example, “Cheeseburger in Paradise” — his songwriting style was “unique and very fun and just kind of let you sort of kick back and just escape life and maybe not take things so seriously sometimes.”

Buffett told WTOP in 2019 that most of his songs are autobiographical.

“Having that much material that’s affected people in a positive way with a little release from the tediousness of daily life, I was so lucky to just get that job and wound up in Key West, Florida, which accelerated the process writing about places I loved,” he said. “Then I realized that was in everybody’s culture and everybody needs a couple days off, so I was lucky enough to kind of put my thumb on that pulse beat.”

The Associated Press and WTOP’s Kyle Cooper and Jason Fraley contributed to this report.

Kate Corliss

Kate Corliss is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. She is a senior studying journalism at American University and serves as the Campus Life Editor for the student newspaper, The Eagle.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up