Why are folks leaving shakers of salt at 6109 Shadow Valley Drive?
Austin is more than a footnote in the Jimmy Buffett story
Jimmy Buffett (1946- 2023) passed away last night surrounded by loved ones. He was 76. A nation of Parrotheads mourn.
Although he’s mainly affiliated with his Mobile, AL upbringing and his Key West ocean kingdom, Buffett had close ties to Austin, where his compadre Jerry Jeff Walker moved in 1971. Walker’s the one who introduced Buffett to the Florida Keys, where Jerry Jeff lived before Austin. Both songwriters got rich- Buffett richer- by creating an escapist lifestyle around their music.
Even more significantly, Austin was where Buffett had his first margarita- at Lung’s Cocina del Sur restaurant in the Village Center strip mall on Anderson Lane. Some people say there’s a woman to blame, and that’s interior designer Victoria Reed, who took Buffett to Lung’s. The year was 1976 and that whole boozy buccaneers in tropical shirts phenomenon hadn’t taken off yet, so Jimmy and his Coral Reefer Band would crash at Reed’s home at 6109 Shadow Valley Dr. when they had shows in town.
After Cocina del Sur, Reed recalls Buffett sitting on the deck of her house that night strumming a guitar and singing some now-familiar words about flip-flops, pop-tops and a lost shaker of salt. “Jimmy sometimes jokes that, ‘I guess I owe you some royalties,’ ” said Reed, who met Buffett in 1975 when she emceed a party the band performed at in San Antonio. You have to wonder what path his career might’ve taken if he’d ordered a beer that fateful night in ’76. “Wasted away again in Coronaville” just doesn’t have the same right ring.
In a 1982 interview with John T. Davis, Buffett said another one of his songs was, at least partly inspired by Austin: “I Heard I Was In Town.” He was a frequent visitor even when he didn’t have a gig.
Buffett’s first appearance in Austin was at Castle Creek (1411 Lavaca St.) in late ‘72. “One night Jerry Jeff asked me if a friend of his from Florida could play for five or 10 minutes and it turned out to be Jimmy Buffett,” co-owner Tim O’Connor recalled in 2010. “He came back and played many times and just loved the place.” In one of the earliest gigs there, only about 10 people showed up, and Buffett invited them all to dinner at the Capitol Oyster Bar next door between sets.
After he got too big to play clubs, Buffett mentioned Castle Creek from the stage whenever he played Austin. He also rented out the Travis County Expo Center for weeks at a time to rehearse for upcoming multimillion dollar tours.
The bane of every singer-songwriter at a bar, “Margaritaville” was a Top Ten hit in 1977. But it made much more money for Buffett as a restaurant chain, a clothing line and, in 2021, a $370 million Manhattan hotel, with attractions like the It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere Lounge and the Cheeseburgers In Paradise Grill.
But the “Margaritaville” legacy began in Austin at a six-bedroom Northwest Hills duplex you could’ve bought for $290,000 in 2000.