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What It’s Like Backstage with Buffett

May 24th, 2010

Ken Hoffman from the Houston Chronicle has a great article on what goes on backstage at a Jimmy Buffett concert. He also gets an answer to an age-old question about the song “Cheeseburger in Paradise”:

[Radio Margaritaville general manager Coleman] Sisson invited me backstage for Buffett’s show last week at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. If I didn’t know that Buffett was performing live in front of 16,000 fans on the other side of the curtain, I would have thought it was a TV production studio.

There were about 20 video monitors and a director calling “Camera 3 … close-up.” Technicians made sure every image of the band and the audience was crystal clear. You want to record the concert at home? Be his guest.

Before the show, the mood backstage was calm. Band members talked with friends, relatives and local big shots. Peter Mayer gave away guitar picks to children. Mac MacAnally, who stands next to Buffett onstage and sings Alan Jackson’s part on It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, said, “I don’t know, but for some reason, this is a really good time and place for the band. Things are real happy. The ball just keeps rolling.”

MacAnally wore long slacks and a regular dress shirt. He said, “I have to go change into my stage outfit.” He came out wearing different long pants and a different dress shirt. He looked exactly the same. The rest of the guys in the band were slightly more relaxed in shorts and Hawaiian shirts or T-shirts.

It’s a work strategy: “dress like the boss.”

Front-row tickets were given to Houston Texans cheerleaders. They were dancing and singing along the whole night. They were all over the video screen. That was a little something for home viewers.

I met Buffett a long time ago when he allowed me in the recording studio while he mixed a live album. Over lunch I did some investigative reporting, asking whether he was saying “medium rare with Muenster” or “medium rare with mustard” in Cheeseburger in Paradise.

It’s Muenster.

I knew I was right! It has to be Muenster because there’s no other mention of cheese in the song. If he were singing “mustard,” the song would be Hamburger in Paradise. And certainly not one in paradise. Buffett has it about right. He likes his with Heinz 57, Muenster cheese, lettuce and tomato, an onion slice, french fried potatoes, and a “big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer.”

“The show was sold out. Restaurants in the area had a big night, and hotels sold rooms at premium rates. We sold a lot of concessions, and Jimmy sold a lot of T-shirts. It was a pretty perfect night for everybody.”

None of those hotels rooms were for Buffett and the band. After his second encore, Cowboy in the Jungle, Buffett and the musicians loaded into white SUVs backstage and were off the property before the audience realized the show was over.

The crew stayed in a Woodlands hotel. Buffett and the band flew to Austin, home base during the Texas portion of his tour. Buffett played Dallas two nights after The Woodlands.

Be sure to read this full article here for more great insight into what goes on behind the scenes.

Tagged in Coral Reefers, Interviews, Touring