GULFPORT, Fla. (WFLA) — Hundreds of musicians contributed to Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band during his 50-year career.
Guitarist Roger Bartlett was the first.
They toured together as an acoustic duo in the 1970s before the release of Buffett’s most beloved song.
“How many people get a chance to know a cultural icon,” Bartlett told News Channel 8.
Bartlett met Buffett while opening for him at a club in Nashville. A year and a half later, he became the Coral Reefer Band’s original guitarist.
“It was so great to be there in the early days and to kind climb the ladder holding on to his coattails and those are memories I’ll never lose,” Bartlett said.
By 1977, Bartlett had left the band, but he remembers flying down to Miami for the recording of the “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” album featuring Buffett’s most iconic song, “Margaritaville.”
On Saturday night at the North End Tap House, Bartlett paid tribute to the legendary singer, songwriter, entrepreneur, and friend.
Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman considers himself a “Parrothead.” He said he attended more than 25 of Buffett’s concerts.
“And the last time he was in Tampa, we saw him and I just thought he was gonna be like Willie Nelson and keep playing into his 80s.”
While serving in the state legislature 12 years ago, Kriseman issued the proclamation recognizing “Jimmy Buffett Day” in the state of Florida.
“Everything he’s done for the environment, he cared about this state,” Kriseman said. “It was stunning to me we hadn’t recognized him for it.”
Buffett passed away Friday night surrounded by family, friends, and of course, music.
“Do you think Jimmy is enjoying a cheeseburger in paradise right now?” News Channel 8 asked Bartlett.
“Well, I’m sure if that’s available there, he is, yes,” Bartlett said.
Jimmy Buffett’s legacy will live on not only with his music but also with the resorts and hotels bearing the “Margaritaville” name.