Singer-songwriter recalls ‘my only boss’ – Jimmy Buffett – Coastal Observer


Singer-songwriter recalls ‘my only boss’ – Jimmy Buffett

Marshall Chapman performs on a live stream from her Pawleys Island home.

Marshall Chapman was playing at 12th and Porter, a club in Nashville. Jimmy Buffett and the songwriter Will Jennings were sitting in the front row.

“They got up and left in the middle of the song, and I was thinking, ‘Oh, my, was I sounding bad? What’s the deal,’” Chapman said.

The next day one of Buffett’s assistants knocked on the door of her one-bedroom cinder block apartment.

“Buffett’s in the studio right now. He wants a cassette of that song you were singing at 12th and Porter last night,” he said.

“So I gave them a cassette, and the rest is history,” Chapman said during a tribute to Buffett on Saturday, the day she learned that Buffett had died the day before at age 76.

Buffett recorded Chapman’s song “The Perfect Partner” on his album “Last Mango in Paris.” 

Royalties started arriving, and Chapman moved into a condo. The same year, Buffett asked Chapman to join his band.

Chapman, a singer and songwriter for 50 years, started live-streaming during the pandemic when performance venues were shut down. She called it Perfect Imperfection. That was 181 weeks ago, and she hasn’t missed a week even as she moved from Nashville to Pawleys Island and continued to travel.

She had a studio audience of four for last week’s performance that remembered Buffett.

“He’s the only boss I ever had,” Chapman said.

He was generous to his employees and treated his opening bands as equals, she said.

When Buffett took breaks, he let band members like Chapman, who were also songwriters, perform their own work.

“Buffet, it’s like he’s got this big pot of gumbo stew. He’s always stirring and if you get to be a main ingredient in that pot for a brief period, magical things happen,” Chapman said.

She first met Buffett in 1975, a decade before he recorded “The Perfect Partner.”

Chapman was dating Buffett’s manager and they were with a group that flew from Nashville to Austin, Texas, where Buffett was playing in a club. “Margaritaville” was still two years away.

“They all knew the words to his songs and were singing along at the top of their lungs. I’d never seen a solo performer work a crowd like that,” Chapman wrote in her 2003 book “Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller,” a memoir that tells the stories behind her songs.

When they were introduced afterward, Chap-man wrote, she asked him to dance.

“No way, man. You’re way too tall,” he told her.

After he recorded “The Perfect Partner,” she said he waltzed her around the console in the recording studio.

She had been told to bring a toothbrush and a change of clothes to the studio. Afterward, she and Buffett and two others were chauferred to the airport, where they boarded a Lear jet for a trip to New Orleans. It was her first trip in private jet.

“The only thing moving was the smile slowly spreading across my face,” Chapman wrote.

When asked about Buffett, her standard answer was: “One-third musician, one- third P.T. Barum amd one-third Huey Long.”

In her tribute, Chapman sang “A Pirate Looks at Forty.” It was the song she sang at the ceremony when Buffett was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

“I’ve always loved Buffett the poet of all the Buffetts, and this is his poetry at its greatest,” she said. “You know, people don’t realize this, a lot of people don’t take Jimmy seriously as an artist, but he should be taken seriously as evidenced by this song.”

Even Bob Dylan considered Buffett  an influence on his songwriting, Chapman said.

She sang another of her own songs, “The Island Song.”

“I always thought Jimmy Buffett should open his shows with this song, and now I’ll never have the opportunity. I pitch it to him every year, but Jimmy does what Jimmy does,” Chapman said.

Chapman’s Perfect Imperfection  livestreams are on Facebook every Saturday at 4 p.m.



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