Listen to Jimmy Buffett’s Top 5 Montana songs
While a lot has been written about Jimmy Buffett and his Caribbean ties since his passing on Friday at the age of 76, his music and life experiences also took him in a completely opposite direction at times. While the world remembers his unique music, it was Montana who provided the "western" to his loved "Gulf and Western" sound.
And deep cuts from his early albums, and some hits, brought his experiences in Montana to life. Some memorable. Some dubious. Like that "night in Missoula".
They also remind long-time Montana fans of running into Jimmy, who had a reputation of just hanging with people and absorbing their stories.
Credit his sister and friends
Jimmy Buffett had many life-long friends from his early years on the Gulf Coast, including great creatives like author Tom McGuane, who married his sister Laurie after his move to the Paradise Valley. That Key West friendship opened the door for Jimmy's "Montana Songs".
#5 "Ringling, Ringling"
One of the earliest tracks, off "Living and Dying in 3/4 Time" paid tribute to Ringling, north of Livingston. By the 1970s, Ringling was coping with the coming loss of the Milwaukee Railroad, and Jimmy used it as a showcase for the "dyin' little towns" becoming common in the West. Although 50 years later, the population is still about the same.
#4 "Cheeseburger in Paradise"
It's not an obvious Montana song but the story has always been about either the "Pop Stand" south of Livingston or perhaps the legendary Mark's In and Out. Either way, if you drive through the Paradise Valley without a burger in hand you're missing a quintessential 70s Montana experience.
#3 "Livingston Saturday Night"
McGuane wrote the screenplay for "Rancho Deluxe" and asked Jimmy to perform in the film. That summer it seemed like everyone in Livingston had a story about running into Jimmy or Jeff Bridges. Bonus Track: "Rancho Deluxe/Main Title" is a song that perfectly captures the Montanan spirit of "gotta gamble, gotta take a chance".
#2 "Miss You So Badly"
In May 1976 Jimmy was part of the line-up at one of the most legendary "Aber Day Keggers" ever at the old KO Rodeo grounds on the south side of Missoula. Imagine seeing Jimmy, Jerry Jeff Walker, Heart (who were just breaking big), and local favorites the Mission Mountain Wood Band! The setlist didn't survive, but one from a few weeks later shows "Margaritaville", which meant audiences that summer were getting a preview of his biggest hit a year early.
When the landmark "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes" came out in January '77, among the beach songs was the track "Miss You Badly". Montana was in the mix again with the cryptic line "I guess it all blew up in Missoula, there was just no other way." I've heard lots of stories about what went down at the "Holiday Inn full of surgeons", but most of the details are lost to time.
In the intro to his song from his '78 live album he said:
"There are occasions out here that try our souls. This happens to be one of them. But the great thing about it is you can laugh at 'em about it four hours after they've happened. And that's the secret to everything. Tragedies very often become comedies and they better become comedies real fast or else you're in a lot of trouble."- Jimmy Buffett
Still a great story song.
#1 "Come Monday"
A song that doesn't turn to Montana until the last verse. But who among us who has had to live or work out-of-state hasn't gotten misty-eyed over the invitation to "go hiking on Tuesday" because it "sure is pretty up there." He told David Letterman it was the "song that saved his life", and it certainly was a lifeline for a career that gave us so much.
Thanks, Jimmy. And thanks for making Montana a part of your wonderful songwriting.