Sometimes, dreams really do come true.
Some 40 years ago, while singing about unpopular poets and stealing peanut butter, Jimmy Buffett, in his Key West phase, spent his free nights in a beat-up Chevy Pickup watching old movies at the waterfront Islander Drive-In.
Occasionally, Buffett would find a date, pick up some cheap gin, commit a little “mortal sin,” as one song goes, and dream he’d own a drive-in one day.
And finally, he does.
Well, along with several dozen Margaritaville restaurants, bars and casinos; a record label; best-selling books; a clothing and footwear line; a radio station; a burgeoning on-line TV network and, for all intents and purposes, the entire island-escapist lifestyle.
It was the drive-in he dreamed about first, though, and it’s partly why he will play the Coyote Drive-In in Fort Worth on Thursday, two days ahead of his typical North Texas stadium-size show at Frisco. Buffett is an investor in the Fort Worth drive-in, which opened in 2013.
“I’ve always had a nostalgia for [drive-ins],” said Buffett, whose 1973 song “Grapefruit, Juicyfruit,” is a paean to those days. “We went a lot as a family when I was a kid. We went a lot during my teenage years when I played briefly in a really bad surf band. And I always wanted to own the Islander. I just thought it would be really cool.
“But you’ve got to have a hell of a lot more land than if you wanted to open a Dairy Queen.”
For years, the drive-in idea didn’t make business sense and it sat like an old 45, gathering dust. Technology, though, has a way of making everything old new again. Buffett toyed with the idea of playing a drive-in about 10 years ago and beaming it across the country to reach, as he said, “secondary markets,” but the technology wasn’t quite there yet.
Now, with his own high-tech production truck geared towards his new Margaritaville.TV project, he can better guarantee quality control. And when Coyote Drive-in operators Brandt and Brady Wood, whom Buffett has known since they were children, came along with the idea for a high-tech digital drive-in, Buffett’s old dream and new technology married up. The show will be broadcast live to about 90 digital drive-ins around the country.
“I have no idea how this will play out,” Buffett said of the drive-in concert idea. “But I wanted in. I wanted to be part of it. I have people in my own organization wondering what the hell I’m doing.”
His show in Fort Worth will feel a lot like the 1970s, with a glorified flat-bed truck kind of setup, but don’t expect a set list straight from that decade. To reach and hook those fans in secondary markets means giving them “the Big 10,” songs that people most associate him with, from “Margaritaville” to “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Fins.”
“If we don’t, we’ll get killed,” Buffett said.
He plans to end the Fort Worth show with a screening of Rancho Deluxe, the 1975 Western comedy for which he wrote the musical score and performed “Livingston Saturday Night.”
The longer Frisco show will give Buffett an opportunity for a more wide-ranging set.
At 67, he’s slowing his tour stops some and eschewing sugary margaritas for sips of tequila, but he has no desire to stop. (So don’t expect this beach bum to ride away, a la George Strait, anytime soon.) Besides the drive-in idea and internet TV, Buffett wants to explore the Latin market more, as he started to in a collaboration with Colombian singer Fanny Lu on last year’s Songs From St. Somewhere album.
And there is another dream to realize.
“The wanderer in me still wants to go place I haven’t been,” Buffett said. “And I haven’t been to space. I want to leave this planet. I’m a pilot.
“John Glenn did it at 72, so I figure I’ve got five more years left.”
He can dream. In Buffett’s case, most of his dreams do end up coming true.
On Twitter: @Evan_P_Grant
Top PicksTags: concert, movie, music, singer, tour, tv