James William Buffett
December 25, 1946
Pascagoula, Mississippi, U.S.
|Died||September 1, 2023 (aged 76)|
Sag Harbor, New York, U.S.
|Education||University of Southern Mississippi (BA)|
|Children||3, including Savannah|
|Origin||Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.|
James William Buffett (December 25, 1946 – September 1, 2023) was an American musician and singer-songwriter. He was best known for his tropical rock music, which often portrayed a lifestyle described as "island escapism" and promoted enjoying life and following passions. Buffett recorded hit songs known as "The Big 8": "Margaritaville" (1977), which is ranked 234th on the Recording Industry Association of America's list of "Songs of the Century"; "Come Monday" (1974); "Fins" (1979); "Volcano" (1979); "A Pirate Looks at Forty" (1974); "Cheeseburger in Paradise" (1978); "Why Don't We Get Drunk" (1973); and "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes" (1977). His other popular songs include "Son of a Son of a Sailor" (1978), "One Particular Harbour" (1983), and "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" with Alan Jackson (2003). He formed the Coral Reefer Band in 1975.
Buffett also parlayed the "island escapism" lifestyle of his music into several business ventures, including Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant chain, the now-defunct Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant chain, and ventures in hotels, casinos, liquor, and retirement communities. Buffett was one of the world's richest musicians, with a net worth of $1 billion. He was also a bestselling author. His devoted fan base, composed mostly of baby boomers, are known as "Parrotheads".
At age 76 in 2023, Buffett died at his home in Sag Harbor, New York, due to complications from Merkel-cell carcinoma, a rare and aggressive skin cancer, with which he had been diagnosed four years earlier. His 32nd and final studio album, Equal Strain on All Parts, is scheduled for release on November 3, 2023.
Buffett was born on December 25, 1946, in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and spent part of his childhood in Mobile and Fairhope, Alabama. He was the son of Mary Lorraine (née Peets) (died September 25, 2003) and James Delaney Buffett, Jr. (died May 1, 2003) who worked for the United States Army Corps of Engineers. He has two younger siblings, Laurie (born 1948) and Lucy (born 1953).
As a child, he was exposed to sailing; his grandfather, James Delaney Buffett, was a steamship captain from Newfoundland and his father was a marine engineer and sailor - these experiences later influenced his music. He was raised by Jesuits as a Catholic and was an altar boy.
In 1961, after seeing a folk music group perform in Biloxi, Mississippi, Buffett realized that he wanted to be a musician. His first performance was a month later at a hootenanny, where he played a Stella guitar.
Buffett enrolled at Auburn University and was taught how to play guitar by a Kappa Sigma fraternity brother to "garner attention from girls". Buffett failed out of Auburn after a year, in April 1966, "unable to balance his newfound interests in music and girls with his college classes". In 1966, he played acid rock in a band called the Upstairs Alliance that was trying to sound like Jefferson Airplane. He continued college at Pearl River Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he received a bachelor's degree in history in 1969. In college, he worked in a shipyard as an electrician and welder. He avoided serving in the Vietnam War due to a college deferment and a failed physical exam.
After graduating in 1969, Buffett moved to New Orleans and often held street performances for tourists on Decatur Street and played for drunken crowds in the former Bayou Room nightclub on Bourbon Street. In 1970, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to further his country music career. He did not have much luck with music jobs but got a job working as an editorial assistant for Billboard, where he was the first to report that the bluegrass duo Flatt and Scruggs had disbanded.
Buffett signed a two-album contract with Barnaby Records. He released his first album, the country-tinged folk rock record Down to Earth, in August 1970; it sold 324 copies. The masters of his second album, High Cumberland Jubilee, recorded in 1971 in Berry Hill, Tennessee, were allegedly lost by the label before the album was released, although they were found in 1976, once Buffett became popular.
In the fall of 1971, after an impromptu audition, Buffett was hired by the Exit/In, a Nashville club, as the opening act for recording artist Dianne Davidson. Unhappy with the business climate in Nashville and with his first marriage heading for divorce, Buffett took up an offer by fellow country singer Jerry Jeff Walker, whom he had met while working as a journalist in Nashville, for lodging in his house in Coconut Grove. In November 1971, they went to Key West on a busking expedition; Buffett liked it so much that he moved there in the spring of 1972. There, he got involved in the literary scene, meeting writers Thomas McGuane, who married Buffett's sister, Jim Harrison, Tom Corcoran, and Truman Capote; sex and drugs were plentiful. He was hired by David Wolkowsky, playing for drinks at the Chart Room Bar in the Pier House Motel. There he met his second wife. From a connection he made there, he was hired as the first mate on the yacht of industrialist Foster Talge, heir to The Rival Company, which became his day job.
In 1973, Buffett signed a recording contract with ABC/Dunhill Records, then run by Don Gant. After the death of Jim Croce in a plane crash in September 1973, Dunhill promoted Buffett as a replacement.
Buffett's second release and his first release on ABC/Dunhill Records was A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean, recorded at Tompall Glaser's studio on Music Row and released in June 1973. The album featured the hit singles "Grapefruit—Juicy Fruit" and "Why Don't We Get Drunk" as well as "I Have Found Me a Home", written about his experiences in Key West. He used the money he made from the album to buy his first boat.
Living & Dying in 3/4 Time, recorded in October 1973 and released in February 1974, deviated from the island-theme of his other albums. It included "Come Monday", written for his then-girlfriend and future wife, his first single to place on the Billboard Hot 100. A1A, released in December 1974, included "A Pirate Looks at Forty", written about a drug smuggler.
In 1975, Buffett formed the Coral Reefer Band. Buffett credits his future wife for cleaning up their look, replacing their ripped Levi jeans and collarless shirts. The band was the opening act for the Eagles in August 1975.
Havana Daydreamin', produced by Don Gant, was released in January 1976. In January 1977, he released Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, which, in addition to the title track, featured his breakthrough hit song "Margaritaville". Buffett claims that he wrote most of the song in six minutes. Ironically, while it attempts to negatively portray tourists in Key West, it led to an increase in tourism to the city. That year, he sublet his apartment in Key West to Hunter S. Thompson.
In 1996, Buffett penned the song "Jamaica Mistaica" for his Banana Wind album based on a January 1996 incident in which Buffett's Grumman HU-16 airplane named Hemisphere Dancer was shot at by Jamaican police, who believed the craft to be smuggling marijuana. The aircraft sustained minimal damage. The plane was carrying Buffett, as well as Bono of U2, his wife, and two children, and Island Records producer Chris Blackwell, and co-pilot Bill Dindy. The Jamaican government acknowledged the mistake and apologized to Buffett.
Buffett's song "Math Suks", released in May 1999, was condemned by the U.S. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Education Association for its alleged negative effect on children's education. Comedian Jon Stewart also criticized the song on The Daily Show during a segment called "Math Is Quite Pleasant".
By 1999, Buffett had shifted to a more relaxed concert schedule of around 20–30 dates per year, with infrequent back-to-back nights, preferring to play only on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. This schedule provided the title of his 1999 live album.
In 2003, he partnered in a partial duet with Alan Jackson for the song "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere", which spent a then record eight weeks atop the Hot Country Songs charts. This song won the 2003 Country Music Association Award for Vocal Event of the Year, Buffett's first award in his 30-year recording career.
Buffett's album License to Chill, released on July 13, 2004, sold 238,500 copies in its first week of release according to Nielsen Soundscan. With the album, Buffett topped the U.S. pop albums chart for the first time in his career.
In May 2005, Buffett signed an agreement with Sirius Satellite Radio to broadcast Radio Margaritaville, which, from its founding in 1998, was broadcast only online. The channel broadcasts from the Margaritaville Resort Orlando in Kissimmee, Florida.
In August 2006, Buffett released the album Take the Weather with You, which hit number 1 on the country chart. The album included "Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On", written in honor of the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
In August 2007, Buffett was nominated at the Country Music Association Awards for the Event of the Year Award for his song "Hey Good Lookin'" which also features Alan Jackson and George Strait. Also in August 2007, Buffett received a star on the Mohegan Sun Walk of Fame.
In 2010, he was named the tenth biggest touring artist of the decade, with 4.5 million ticket sales over the previous 10 years.
Since Wyatt Durrette, co-writer of the song "Knee Deep", was a fan of Buffett's, Buffett partnered on the song with the Zac Brown Band, which was released on Brown's 2010 album You Get What You Give. The single was certified platinum in September 2017.
In 2020, Buffett released Songs You Don't Know by Heart, a fan-curated collection of his lesser-known songs rerecorded on his collection of notable guitars.
He was due to release his 32th studio album, Equal Strain on All Parts, in late 2023. Buffett got the idea for the album title from his grandfather's description of a nap. It was eventually given a release date of November 3, 2023.
Buffett performed his final full concert at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego on May 6, 2023. He made two further concert appearances, as an unannounced guest at concerts by Coral Reefer Band members, in Amagansett, New York, on June 11 and in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, on July 2, his final live performance before his death.
Buffett called his music "drunken Caribbean rock 'n' roll".
"It's pure escapism is all it is...I'm not the first one to do it, nor shall I probably be the last. But I think it's really a part of the human condition that you've got to have some fun. You've got to get away from whatever you do to make a living or other parts of life that stress you out. I try to make it at least 50/50 fun to work and so far it's worked out." -Jimmy Buffett
In 1989, a music critic in The Washington Post described Buffett's music as a combination of "tropical languor with country funkiness into what some [have] called the Key West sound, or Gulf-and-western." The name "Gulf-and-western" derives from elements in Buffett's early music including musical influence from country, along with lyrical themes from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It is a play on the form of "Country & Western" and Gulf+Western is the former parent company of Paramount Pictures.
In 2020, The Associated Press described Buffett's sound as a "special Gulf Coast blend of country, pop, folk and rock, topped by Buffett's swaying voice. Few can mix steelpans, trombones and pedal steel guitar so effortlessly."
Musicians that have cited Buffett as a musical influence include Greg "Fingers" Taylor, a former member of Buffett's Coral Reefer Band, as well as musicians that have "latched on to his seaside-and-booze themes" such as Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, and Zac Brown.
Parrot Head or parrothead is a commonly used nickname for Buffett fans with "parakeets" or "keets" used for younger fans, or children of Parrotheads. At a 1985 Jimmy Buffett concert at the Timberwolf Amphitheater at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio, Buffett commented about everyone wearing Hawaiian shirts and parrot hats and how they kept coming back to see his shows, just like Deadheads. Timothy B. Schmit, then a member of the Coral Reefer Band, coined the term "Parrot Head" to describe them. In 1989, the first Parrothead club was founded in Atlanta. The annual Meeting of the Minds in Key West, Florida is a five-day festival held after Fantasy Fest that attracts approximately 5,000 Parrotheads. The Pikes Peak Hash House Harriers and Harriettes have an annual Parrot Head Hash weekend hosted by Yeastee Boy and Bread Box. Buffett's fanbase is composed mostly of baby boomers. His concerts were known for tailgate parties and alcohol consumption.
Buffett wrote three books, all of which placed on The New York Times Best Seller list. Tales from Margaritaville and Where Is Joe Merchant? both spent over seven months on The New York Times Best Seller fiction list. His memoir A Pirate Looks at Fifty, published in 1998, went straight to number one on the New York Times Best Seller nonfiction list, making him one of the few authors to have reached number one on both the fiction and nonfiction lists.
Buffett also co-wrote two children's books, The Jolly Mon and Trouble Dolls, with his eldest daughter, Savannah Buffett. The original hardcover release of The Jolly Mon included a cassette tape recording of the two reading the story accompanied by an original score written by Michael Utley.
Buffett's novel A Salty Piece of Land was released on November 30, 2004, and the first edition of the book included a CD single of the song "A Salty Piece of Land." The book was a New York Times best seller soon after its release.
Buffett's last title, Swine Not?, was released on May 13, 2008.
Film and television
Buffett wrote the soundtrack for, co-produced, and played a role in, the 2006 film Hoot, directed by Wil Shriner and based on the book by Carl Hiaasen, which focused on issues important to Buffett, such as conservation. The film was not a critical or commercial success.
Among his other film music credits are the theme song to the short-lived 1993 CBS television series Johnny Bago; "Turning Around" for the 1985 film Summer Rental starring John Candy; "I Don't Know (Spicoli's Theme)" for the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High; "Hello, Texas" for the 1980 John Travolta film Urban Cowboy; and "If I'm Gonna Eat Somebody (It Might As Well Be You)" for the animated film FernGully: The Last Rainforest, which was sung in the film by rap artist Tone Loc.
Buffett made cameo appearances in Repo Man, Hook, Cobb, Hoot, Congo, and From the Earth to the Moon. He also made cameo appearances as himself in Rancho Deluxe (for which he also wrote the music) and in FM.
In 1994, Buffett began developing a musical based on Herman Wouk's 1965 novel, Don't Stop the Carnival. Buffett wrote the music and lyrics and Wouk wrote the book for the show. Don't Stop the Carnival debuted in Miami, Florida, in 1997 to negative reviews from critics. The show ran only for six weeks in Miami.
Escape to Margaritaville, a musical, ran at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego from May 2017 to July 2017. The show then performed limited runs in New Orleans, Houston, and Chicago, and was well received by critics. The show features a book by Greg Garcia and Mike O'Malley and uses Buffett's classic songs, some of which he rewrote the lyrics to in order to better fit in the context of the story. The show began previews at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway on February 16, 2018, and officially opened on March 15 under the direction of Tony winner Christopher Ashley. The Broadway production received mixed reviews from New York critics and closed on July 1 after 29 previews and 124 regular performances. A national tour launched in Providence, Rhode Island, in the fall of 2019.
Through his Margaritaville brand, Buffett licensed hotels, casinos, cruise experiences, restaurants and bars, packaged foods, beverages, spirits, outdoor furniture, home goods, appliances, and apparel and accessories.
In 1984, he and a friend opened a T-shirt shop in Gulf Shores, Alabama. After it failed, in 1985, they tried again in Key West, expanding it to what became Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville in 1987. The chain opened restaurants under the Margaritaville and LandShark Bar & Grill names in locations including Atlantic City, New Orleans, Nashville, Turks and Caicos, Las Vegas, Jamaica, Orlando, Baltimore, and the Cayman Islands. The Margaritaville cafe on the Las Vegas strip was possibly the highest grossing restaurant in the U.S.
Buffett sought and received a concert sponsorship from Corona; the partnership was credited for increasing sales of the brand. After deciding that he wanted his own beer brand, in 2006, he partnered with Anheuser-Busch to brew Land Shark Lager, now one of the Anheuser-Busch brands.
In 2013, Buffett partnered with the Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to open the $35 million Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville-themed entertainment complex at the hotel, which included a Margaritaville Restaurant with a giant blender and tiki bar, a Landshark Bar and Grill, the 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar, a coffee shop, a retail store, and a gaming area with 12 Margaritaville-themed table games and 160 slot machines.
The Margaritaville Casino and Restaurant in Biloxi, Mississippi licensed the name from Buffett; it was in operation from May 2012 to September 2014. Plans to bring a Buffett-themed casino to Biloxi had been in process since 2000.
From May 8, 2009, through January 5, 2010, the home stadium of the Miami Dolphins, now called Hard Rock Stadium, was named LandShark Stadium pursuant to an eight-month naming rights deal. Buffett also wrote new lyrics for the team to his 1979 song "Fins", which is played during Dolphins home games.
In 2012, a "Margaritaville Online" game was released by THQ for Facebook. The game was discontinued two years later. In 2016, Buffett partnered with FunPlus to develop a new Margaritaville game.
In 2017, Latitude Margaritaville, a 3,900-home $1 billion retirement village near Interstate 95 in Daytona Beach, Florida, was announced by Buffett in partnership with Minto Group. The partnership announced similar retirement communities on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, also in 2017 and in Panama City Beach, Florida, in 2021.
In the 1980s, Buffett became friends with Warren Buffett and a shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway, increasing his stake over the years. They called each other "Cousin Jimmy" and "Uncle Warren" though they are not related.
In 1981, the Save the Manatee Club, a 501(c)(3) organization, was founded by Buffett and former Florida governor Bob Graham. In 1986, Buffett began work to introduce the "Save the Manatee" license plate, featuring an image of a West Indian manatee, with proceeds going to the Save the Manatee Club. Buffett was also a major donor to the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory.
Buffett performed at several hurricane relief concerts including the Surviving the Storm hurricane relief concert in November 2004, which raised funds to support relief efforts for the four major hurricanes that year: Hurricane Charley, Hurricane Frances, Hurricane Ivan, and Hurricane Jeanne and a hurricane relief concert in November 2017 with Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith.
On July 11, 2010, along with Jesse Winchester and Allen Toussaint, Buffett, a Gulf Coast native, performed a free concert for 35,000 people on the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama to draw tourism to the area in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Buffett changed some of the lyrics of his songs to reference the environmental disaster.
Buffett married Margie Washichek in 1969; they divorced in 1972. Buffett met his second wife, Jane (née Slagsvol), then a student at the University of South Carolina, at the Chart Room bar while she was visiting Key West on spring break; she never returned to the university. They were married in 1977 in Aspen, Colorado. The Eagles, for whom Buffett was the opening act in 1975, played at their wedding. The couple had two daughters, radio personality Savannah Buffett (born 1979) and filmmaker Sarah Delaney (born 1992), and an adopted son, Cameron Marley (born 1994). They split in the early 1980s due to their partying lifestyle but reconciled in 1991 after she got sober.
Buffett resided in a waterfront estate in Sag Harbor, New York. In September 1998, he sold his properties in Key West for $900,000. In 2010, he sold his house in Palm Beach, Florida, to Jon Stryker for $18.5 million; he had bought the house in 1994 for $4.4 million. At that time, he also owned a 2-unit property in the area, which he purchased in 2002 for $802,000. In 2013, he purchased another house in Palm Beach, with 3,100 square feet, for $1.3 million. In April 2014, he bought a 4,322 square foot house in Beverly Hills, California for $8.25 million. In 2020, he sold a 4,783-square-foot house in Palm Beach for $6.9 million; he paid $4.95 million for it in 2011. Buffett also owned a home in Saint Barthélemy, where he lived on and off in the early 1980s. There, he was part owner of the Autour de Rocher hotel and restaurant. It burned down. He also owned an apartment in the Deutsche Bank Center in New York City.
In May 2015, Buffett became a member of First Baptist Church of Ballston Spa after buying a home in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Buffett was a devoted New Orleans Saints fan, having attended the team's first game at Tulane Stadium in 1967. On April 1, 2012, he had Saints head coach Sean Payton serve as an honorary member of the Coral Reefer Band at a concert in New Orleans in protest of Payton's suspension by the National Football League as a result of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.
Buffett was an avid pilot and owned a Dassault Falcon 900 jet that he often used while on concert tours and during his travels. At various points, he also owned a Boeing Stearman, Cessna Citation, Lake Amphibian, Pilatus PC-12, and Grumman Albatross.
On August 25, 1994, around 3:00 pm Eastern time, Buffett crashed his Grumman G-44 Widgeon, N1471N, while attempting to take off in the waters off Nantucket, Massachusetts. The airplane nosed over, and Buffett was able to swim to safety, sustaining only minor injuries.
On February 4, 2001, Buffett was ejected from the American Airlines Arena (now the Kaseya Center) in Miami during a basketball game between the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks for cursing. The referee who ejected Buffett apparently did not know who he was, and got upset at Heat coach Pat Riley because he thought Riley—who was trying to explain to him who Buffett was—was insulting him by asking if he had ever been a "Parrothead", the nickname for Buffett fans.
On October 6, 2006, Buffett was detained by French customs officials in Saint Tropez for allegedly carrying over 100 pills of ecstasy. Buffett's luggage was searched after his Dassault Falcon 900 private jet landed at Toulon-Hyères International Airport. He paid a fine of $300 and was released. A spokesperson for Buffett stated the pills in question were prescription drugs but declined to name the drug or the health problem for which he was being treated. Buffett released a statement that the "ecstasy" was in fact a B-vitamin supplement known as Foltx.
At a performance by Buffett on January 26, 2011 (Australia Day) at Sydney's Hordern Pavilion, he fell off the stage after an encore and lost consciousness. Coincidentally, Gordian Fulde, a trauma surgeon, was at the concert and close to the stage; Fulde treated Buffett at the scene. Buffett regained consciousness within a few minutes, and was then transported to St. Vincent's Hospital Emergency Centre for treatment and was discharged the next day. Buffett returned to Australia in 2012 for two shows in Brisbane and Melbourne, and made fun of the incident during those shows.
In 2015, Buffett spoke at the University of Miami's graduation ceremony and received an honorary doctorate in music. Wearing flip flops and aviator sunglasses, he told graduates, from a line in his song "The Pascagoula Run", that "it's time to see the world, time to kiss a girl, and time to cross the wild meridian."
Buffett was a supporter of the Democratic Party. He sang in Florida for the Bill Clinton 1992 presidential campaign and again for Bill Clinton in the White House in August 2000. He hosted fundraisers for Democratic politicians, including several for Hillary Clinton in 2016. In 2018, Buffett hosted a concert to support Gwen Graham, daughter of Bob Graham, in the Democratic primary of the 2018 Florida gubernatorial election. In November 2018, he hosted a rally for Florida Democratic candidates Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson in West Palm Beach, Florida, changing the lyrics of some of his songs to disparage the policies of Rick Scott and Donald Trump. The rally faced some backlash from conservative fans.
Buffett was raised Catholic, although he did not practice the religion later in life.
Illness and death
In May 2023, Buffett was hospitalized to "address some issues that needed immediate attention" and rescheduled tour dates. In late August, he entered hospice care and had a final meeting with family and friends, in which his last words to his sister were "have fun". Buffett died on September 1, 2023, at age 76, at his home in Sag Harbor, New York, due to complications from Merkel-cell carcinoma, a rare and aggressive skin cancer, with which he had been diagnosed four years earlier. He was surrounded by his family, friends, music, and dogs at the time of his death.
- Down to Earth (1970)
- High Cumberland Jubilee (1971)
- A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean (1973)
- Living and Dying in 3/4 Time (1974)
- A1A (1974)
- Havana Daydreamin' (1976)
- Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes (1977)
- Son of a Son of a Sailor (1978)
- Volcano (1979)
- Coconut Telegraph (1981)
- Somewhere over China (1982)
- One Particular Harbour (1983)
- Riddles in the Sand (1984)
- Last Mango in Paris (1985)
- Floridays (1986)
- Hot Water (1988)
- Off to See the Lizard (1989)
- Fruitcakes (1994)
- Barometer Soup (1995)
- Banana Wind (1996)
- Christmas Island (1996)
- Don't Stop the Carnival (1998)
- Beach House on the Moon (1999)
- Far Side of the World (2002)
- License to Chill (2004)
- Take the Weather with You (2006)
- Buffet Hotel (2009)
- Songs from St. Somewhere (2013)
- 'Tis the SeaSon (2016)
- Life on the Flip Side (2020)
- Songs You Don't Know by Heart (2020)
- Equal Strain on all Parts (2023)
This section needs additional citations for verification. (September 2023)
|1973||Introducing Jimmy Buffett||Himself||documentary short|
|1975||Rancho Deluxe||Himself||also composer|
|1984||Repo Man||Additional Blonde Agent|
|1986||Live by the Bay||Himself||concert film; also executive producer|
|1986||Doctor Duck's Secret All-Purpose Sauce||Himself||direct-to-video|
|1994||Cobb||The Armless Guy|
|1998||Hemingway: Take Nothing||Himself||direct-to-video; documentary|
|1999||Music Bridges Over Troubled Water||Himself||documentary|
|2000||Tales from MargaritaVision||Himself||direct-to-video; also executive producer|
|2004||Bridge to Havana||Himself||documentary|
|2006||Hoot||Mr. Ryan||also producer and composer|
|2006||Sun Dogs||documentary; producer|
|2007||Live in Anguilla||Himself||direct-to-video; concert film, also producer|
|2008||Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson||Himself||documentary|
|2009||Scenes You Know by Heart||Himself||direct-to-video; concert film, also producer|
|2012||Basically Frightened: The Musical Madness of Colonel Bruce Hampton||Himself||documentary|
|2012||OnePeople: The Celebration||Himself||documentary|
|2015||Jurassic World||Running Park Visitor with Margarita Drinks (Himself)||uncredited|
|2018||Up the Stairs||Principal Anderson||short film|
|2018||Billionaire Boys Club||Police Captain|
|2018||The Wall's Embrace||Himself||documentary short|
|2019||The Beach Bum||Himself|
|2020||Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President||Himself||documentary|
|TBA||Under the Volcano||Unknown role|
|1974||Your Hit Parade||Himself||one episode|
|1978||Saturday Night Live||Himself||one episode|
|1981–92||The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson||Himself||eight episodes|
|1982||I Love Liberty||Himself||TV special|
|1982||SCTV Network||Himself||one episode|
|1977–1984||Austin City Limits||Himself||two episodes|
|1983–85||Late Night with David Letterman||Himself||two episodes|
|1984||Nashville Now||Himself||one episode|
|1987||Cinemax Sessions||Himself||one episode|
|1988||Breaking All the Rules||TV film; composer|
|1991||Voices That Care||Himself||TV special|
|1992||New Orleans Live!||Himself||TV concert special|
|1992||Hurricane Relief||Himself||TV concert special|
|1993||Johnny Bago||eight episodes; theme music composer|
|1994–2008||Late Show with David Letterman||Himself||five episodes|
|1995–2003||The Tonight Show with Jay Leno||Himself||six episodes|
|1997||Music for Montserrat||Himself||TV concert special|
|1998–2005||Late Night with Conan O'Brien||Himself||two episodes|
|1998||Brian Wilson's Imagination||Himself||TV documentary|
|1998||From the Earth to the Moon||First Journalist||one episode|
|1998||Time & Again||Himself||one episode|
|2004–06||60 Minutes||Himself||two episodes|
|2004–08||Live! with Regis and Kelly||Himself||three episodes|
|2005–13||The Ellen DeGeneres Show||Himself||two episodes|
|2008||Cubs Forever: Celebrating 60 Years of WGN-TV and the Chicago Cubs||Himself||TV special|
|2009||Late Night with Jimmy Fallon||Himself||one episode|
|2010||CMT Crossroads||Himself||one episode|
|2010||Bridge School News||Himself||one episode|
|2010||Jimmy Buffett & Friends: Live from the Gulf Coast||Himself||TV concert special|
|2010||CMT Insider||Himself||two episodes|
|2010||The Gulf Is Back||Himself||TV concert special|
|2011–20||Hawaii Five-0||Frank Bama||recurring guest star; seven episodes|
|2013||Boston Strong: An Evening of Support and Celebration||Himself||TV concert special|
|2013||Kokua for the Philippines||Himself||TV concert special|
|2014–22||The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon||Himself||three episodes|
|2017||NCIS: New Orleans||Himself||one episode|
|2017||Magnificent Mile Lights Festival||Himself||TV special|
|2018||CBS News Sunday Morning||Himself||one episode|
|2018||The View||Himself||one episode|
|2018||Megyn Kelly Today||Himself||one episode|
|2018||Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen||Himself||one episode|
|2018||Buried Treasure||Himself||TV film|
|2019||The Late Late Show with James Corden||Himself||one episode|
|2019||Wheel of Fortune||Himself||two episodes|
|2020||Celebrity Page||Himself||one episode|
|2020||Willie Nelson: American Outlaw||Himself||TV special|
|2022||Blue Bloods||Dickie Delaney
- A Pink Crustacean Tour (1976)
- Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes Tour (1977)
- Cheeseburger in Paradise Tour (1978)
- You Had to Be There Tour / Volcano Tour (1979)
- A Hot Dog & A Road Map Tour (1980)
- Coconut Telegraph Tour (1981)
- Somewhere over China Tour (with broken leg) (1982)
- Homecoming Tour (1982)
- The Six-Stop American Tour (1983)
- Feeding Frenzy Tour (1984)
- Last Mango in Paris Tour (1985)
- Floridays Tour / World Tour of Florida (1986)
- A Parrot Looks at Forty Tour (1987)
- Cheap Vacation Tour / Hot Water Tour (1988)
- Off to See the Lizard Tour / Buffett Does Ballads Tour (1989)
- Jimmy's Jump Up Tour (1990)
- Outpost Tour (1991)
- Recession Recess Tour (1992)
- Chameleon Caravan Tour (1993)
- Fruitcakes Tour (1994)
- Domino College Tour (1995)
- Banana Wind Tour (1996)
- Havana Daydreamin' Tour (1997)
- Don't Stop the Carnival Tour (1998)
- Beach House on the Moon Tour (1999)
- Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays Tour (2000)
- A Beach Odyssey Tour (2001)
- Far Side of the World Tour (2002)
- Tiki Time Tour (2003)
- License to Chill Tour (2004)
- A Salty Piece of Land Tour (2005)
- Party at the End of the World Tour (2006)
- Bama Breeze Tour (2007)
- Year of Still Here Tour (2008)
- Summerzcool Tour (2009)
- Under the Big Top Tour (2010)
- Welcome to Fin Land Tour (2011)
- Lounging at the Lagoon Tour (2012–13)
- Songs from St. Somewhere Tour (2013–14)
- This One's for You Tour (2014–15)
- Workin' n' Playin' Tour (2015–16)
- I Don't Know Tour (2016–18)
- Son of a Son of a Sailor Tour (2018–19)
- Life on the Flip Side Tour (2021–22)
- Second Wind Tour (2023)
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