Ed. note – Since we don’t play Southern Miss this season, I figure the news of Jimmy Buffett’s free Gulf-solidarity concert down in Gulf Shores is as good of an excuse as we’ll get to re-post from ye olde latitudes J.M.’s Sept. 2, 2008 piece — plus a few new photos — on the Head Parrot (Mobile, Pre-Flunk, Class of ’65). And it’s Summer. And I am searching for my lost salt-shaker, that’s no lie.
Original / better title: Jimmy Buffett Sang: Let’s Get Drunk and Screw (Up My 1st Year at Auburn)
Last month, I went to see the movie “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson” and was surprised to see Jimmy Buffett interviewed. “What? WHAT?!?” was my initial reaction.
I’m not a big fan of Jimmy Buffett’s generic beach rock. And I still have a hard time imagining Buffett hanging with one of my literary heroes: Hunter S. Thompson. But for full disclosure, I did go see Buffett perform in at the Starwood Amphitheater in Nashville in 1993, but I swear (please believe me!) it was because a girl that I liked in high school invited me to go with her and her friends. I hate to say it, but I had a great time.
Anyway, Jimmy Buffett often hung out with the Good Doctor Thompson in Key West and other tropical locations in the ’80s. They were friends. I still can’t figure out if it drags Thompson down or elevates Buffett.
But the movie got some wheels turning in my head, and I thought back to rumors at Auburn University where I heard that Jimmy Buffett attended and failed school.
I have been told by countless people that Jimmy Buffett attended Auburn University for a year. He was a busy man living here and there if you were to believe all the urban legends. I was told by a person that he lived in a hidden shack on Glenn Avenue. I was told by another that he lived in a shotgun house on Ford Court (an alleyway with five houses behind The Brick Oven Pizza Co. on Gay Street). Both were wrong.
But thanks to an exhaustive biography by Steve Eng entitled “Jimmy Buffett: The Main from Margaritaville Revealed,” I finally know the truth.
The Beach Bum’s Early Years
Jimmy Buffett’s first and only year at Auburn was in 1964. He decided to major in public relations/journalism. He was a Sigma Pi pledge.
Where did he live? Well, Steve Eng’s book finally cleared it up for me.
That fall Jimmy enrolled at AU and stayed in the Plainsman Apartments. Years later, the resident manager said that Jimmy “lived like a bum in his apartment. He was always smoking dope, always drinking beer, and never went to class. And always playing his guitar, late at night.”
When told that Jimmy Buffett was famous, the manager replied “Uh-uh. This guy was a bum.”
[Ed. note – a few years ago, I was given an impromptu, guerrilla tour of the grounds at a hidden antebellum home with a crazy name I can’t recall. It was kind of off Shug Jordan Pkwy. or something, buried but still bangin’. There was a shed in the back. “Jimmy Buffett used to squat there,” said my guide.]
It seems that Buffett wasn’t all that interested in class work either, devoting his time to other pursuits. A rumor that I heard and decided was also a myth actually is true according to Steve Eng’s book: Buffett got his start playing the guitar for real at Auburn.
Jimmy’s mother said that “Auburn is where [Jimmy] learned to play guitar,” which Jimmy confirmed: “Women are more attracted to guys with guitars than guys with typewriters.”
At a social event, all his fellow fraternity “pledge swaps” sat around and “scratched their asses” — but the girls all kept their distance, while haughtily straightening their brassieres. The only classmate to win their attention was Johnny Youngblood and he earned that with his guitar. He explained to Jimmy that all it took to entice a girl was just three chords. “Teach me,” pleaded Jimmy. “And that was the start of my professional career. For no other reason than to meet girls.” Three weeks later he was entertaining the girls with G, C and D.
Of course, he had already begun picking in high school, but he played enough at Auburn to change his college priorities. “He flunked out,” Jimmy’s father said beaming, but his mother amended: “He was on academic probation when he left.”
This still sounds like fiction to me and “Johnny Youngblood” is totally a made up name. (What a kick-ass name!) What is that guy doing now?
Also, I like to imagine Jimmy’s first few frat house performances got a similar reception:
Changes in “AUttitudes”
So, it seems that Jimmy Buffett spent his year at Auburn just like the Plainsman Apartments manager described. Steve Eng dug up some review of a 1979 show from The Plainsman that adds a nice postscript to Jimmy’s college year.
Jimmy set the record straight in April 18, 1979, telling an Auburn concert crowd (dressed in Hawaiian shirts and straw hats) that “I left here with a 0.32 overall, and I haven’t been back since.” At, least he earned a nice, honorary, postgraduate headline from The Plainsman: “After Flunking Out in ’64, Buffett Gets High Marks From Audience.” Journalist Ford Risley said, “We can only hope, as Buffett said, that it will not be another 15 years until he returns to Auburn again.”
At least Jimmy Buffett’s legacy to Auburn is social, if not scholastic.
“I had flunked out of school earlier — Auburn — and I had been banished to Poplarville [Miss.] and gone to Pearl River [Junior College],” Jimmy said in 1989. “And I said, ‘Hell, I’m going to join the Navy or the Army, and get out of here. I’m useless.’ Just about that time, I started playing music … and it probably saved my life.”
This Weekend: The Buffett Bowl?
Since it is the week of our matchup with the University of Southern Mississippi, I should mention that Jimmy Buffett did eventually graduate from there in 1969. I’ve held off posting this until this week because of that fact.
In Eng’s book, Buffett said he followed some friends and musicians to Hattiesburg in 1966 and formed a folk trio that wore “navy blue shirts and matching belts and ascots.”
“We played little fraternity things and coffee houses in Mississippi at this time.”
And supposedly his “Peanut Butter Conspiracy” song (1973) is about his time shoplifting in Hattiesburg while at school.
Eng also wrote this about Buffett’s time at Southern Miss:
Southern Miss’ best classroom contribution to his music career was poetry. He studied poetry “just for rhyme schemes and things like that,” he told dopezine interviewer Bob Anderson of High Times in 1976. “I’ve always been interested in poetry. If I ever studied anything in college that I retained, it was that. Poetry.”
Buffett studied guitar and girls at Auburn. He studied guitar, girls and poetry at Southern Miss. A Renaissance man!
If Southern Miss and Auburn played each other every year, imagine the possibilities for a “Buffett Bowl” or a tradition of playing for the Ol’ Rum Barrel.
But, sadly, the mayor of Margaritaville doesn’t seem to have much loyalty to the football programs of the two schools — he was or is a Bama fan. In a Tom Arnold sort of way, i.e. wishy-washy.
Check out this interview from last year’s music-themed Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue:
SI: Did you grow up rooting for a particular sports team?
Buffett: I was an Alabama fan and then I became a Florida fan later on. The rest of my family were Auburn fans so just for spite I just rooted for Alabama. Later on I became an LSU fan when I dated a girl from LSU. My allegiances were not cemented.
SI: How often do you come across athletes who are fans of yours?
Buffett: It happens a lot. Ken Stabler and I were friends from our high school days and still remain friends.
Stabler? The Snake? Say it ain’t so Jimmy!
That really takes the wind out of the sails doesn’t it?
Related: Jimmy Buffet in an Auburn jersey.
Do you want TWER to keep on keepin’ on? Do you have $5 a month?
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* She was smokin’ in the classroom…
* “Cougar Town” star gets Glom’ed
* Auburn’s new Miss USA
* Former Nitro Girl recalls time at Auburn
* Drew Carey’s thoughts on Auburn
* Auburn grads start the Netflix of neckties
* Bjork wrote a song about Auburn’s “Hey Day”
* John Travolta in an Auburn shirt
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Foy Union says
“The rest of my family were Auburn fans so just for spite I just rooted for Alabama.”
Just another reason to dislike this bad beer/tequila peddling, greedy, corporate megalomaniac. And I used to be a fan!
Back in the day I had some say in the concert schedule at AU. 73-74-75 to be exact. We were looking for an artist to fill a slot-Yes cancelled, Linda Ronstadt cancelled, so Buffet’s name came up-(he was just starting to “blow up.”) Calls were exchange -have your people call my people etc finally word came back something to the effect “I hate f-ing Auburn, I’ll never play there as long as I live.” Thanks.
My date & I walked out of BEMC during his concert in Winter Quarter, 1990.
What a waste of time and money!
Your megalomaniac is giving a FREE concert in GS. Has appeared with Gov. Bob on the oil spill, and is involved; as is his sister Lucy.
One must be in the right mood for JB. I am no parrothead, but I do enjoy a Margarita every now and again.
He may be friends with stabler, he may be a fairweather bama fan, he may even (just because I am not in the business of calling anyone a liar) have at one time said he f—ing hated Auburn, but I grew up listening to ALL of his CDs on the lake in the summer, his autobiography is one of my favorite reads, and I still have him on my list of top 5 people I would like to hang out with right below Bo and right above Willie. So, War Eagle Jimmy, for whatever it is worth to you.
Foy Union says
As a native of Mobile, I applaud Buffett for bringing attention to the oil spill and promoting tourism on the Gulf Coast with this free concert.
However, as a person who works in the concert industry, I can tell you that Jimmy Buffett does not do anything for free. I’m sure he’s getting a handsome royalty check from CMT, and he get’s the chance to promote his new hotel just down the road in Pensacola.
Call me cynical, but with Buffett, it’s always “what’s in it for me?”. I miss the days when Margaritaville was just a song and not a corporate trademark.
I have seen him many times and always have a good time. Yes, I always want to hear the favs by Jimmy and his band. Foy, he has walked into various places and performed a song or two unanounced and without asking for tips or a cover charge. I believe that is considered FREE unless you count the extra drink or two the bar had to make and the patrons had to pay for. You can say he is “promoting” his brand, but don’t ALL successful people do that?
As for Auburn, I will love it forever! But guess what, you can walk in to almost any COUNTER SERVICE food establishment now in Auburn (other cities as well) and there are jugs requesting tips, there are musicians that GET cover charges with containers requesting additional tips, as there are various other professions doing the same thing. EVERYONE is trying to make, and keep, a buck!
Thanks Jimmy for all the songs that have inspired me to chill out from a stressful day, that have gotten the crowds to join in at local karaoke bars, and that have had positive effects on the ladies in my life. The good times have been worth every penny! As for school spirit, War Damn Eagle!
I grew up in Auburn and there was a large family of Youngbloods in the area. went to high school with one – Tommy. not too far from Johnny – just sayin’
Actually, I talked to Johnny Youngblood today, and I can guarantee it’s not a made up name. It’s appropriate, but not made-up.
And Youngblood remembers Buffett living in the Sigma Pi house that year. And there wasn’t a lot of dope or booze involved – at least in the first semester – because Buffett came to Auburn as a good little Catholic school boy from Magill.
While I realize it’s just one more source out of many, but I’ve known a couple of Sigma Pi brothers from that year (my Dad hung around the Sigma Pi house in ’66 and ’67) and they remember it that way as well.
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Eric Sherman says
I was a pledge bro of Jimmy’s (Sigma Pi) To set the record straight. He was a Sigma Pi pledge, He lived at the fraternity house during the winter quarter. of 64-65. I never new him to be involved with drugs at Auburn, yes he was known to have a drink or two,….or three. Johnny Youngblood was a brother from Frisco City, Al.. When Jimmy left Auburn, I moved in with his old roommate, Rod Roach. At the Sigma Pi house there is a scrapbook with a picture of Jimmy. singing at one of our parties during a band intermission. also a composite picture from 1964 showing Johnny Youngblood