A ‘Lovely Cruise’ aboard the ‘Tom Sawyer’
Well, three weeks past my trip to Florida, and I wanna go back. Not that I ever wanted to leave. But work sucks, and I’m in major need of another vacation already. Plus, it’s June. No one should have to work during such a fine month. I often think back to one of my favorite Buffett lines, “Wishing every month of the year could be June.” Those words are so true. Oh yeah, you’re here to read a column. But I think that’s an old fashioned word. Maybe what I actually have here is a blog? I’m not really sure. Either way, this month I decided to take a look at a unique event in Jimmy’s career: His gig aboard the Tom Sawyer on July 9, 1976. So sit back with your favorite Boat Drink and enjoy a look back in the past.

Just thinking about 1976, it’s hard to believe how different the times are now. I wasn’t alive in 1976. In fact it was 11 years before I was born. But I’m told it did exist, so we will continue on. By 1976, Buffett was on album number four for ABC/Dunhill, “Havana Daydreamin’.” It had dropped in January of that year after being delayed for reasons still unknown. During a show in September of ‘75, Jimmy had mentioned that he wanted to release the album on Christmas day. That didn’t happen, and it was likely because of the last second switch from “Please Take Your Drunken 15 year old Girlfriend Home” to “Cliches,” no doubt because “Cliches” was not quite as risque. Regardless, the album continued to build momentum for Jimmy, and he and the evolving Coral Reefer Band began to play some bigger gigs and even headlining some shows. Jimmy had opened for Joe Cocker at a couple of Florida Festivals in March and Loggins and Messina in Florida in June. He played to 40,000 at the Superdome in New Orleans on the 4th of July as part of an all day bill that included the likes of the Charlie Daniels Band, Emmylou Harris, and John Sebastian. He played a few more festivals along the way including the Banjo, Fiddle, and Guitar festival in Long Beach, CA in April and the Night in the Country Festival in Baton Rouge, LA in October. But sandwiched in between all of that was a special one night cruise aboard the Tom Sawyer on July 11.

The six-hour concert-cruise was arranged by a fellow named Jimmy Hubbard. Hubbard had spent three to four months putting the event together. When it was all said and done, the bill was Jimmy headlining with Jonathon Round and the J. Randolph Edwards band opening. Impressive bill, huh? Anyway, the cruise was billed as “Wine and Dine under the Stars” and the price for the cruise was $75 apiece or $125 a couple. The estimated total passengers rounded out at around 300. Most of the passengers were what was known as the ‘beach people’ of Treasure Island and Madeira Beach and the like. Most just wanted an opportunity to get high and enjoy some fine music. Hey, it was the 70’s, what else would you expect? It seems most of them had also found out about the event via word of mouth. No doubt, that was not an uncommon practice for people to find out about Buffett in those days.

The reactions about the cruise appeared to be mixed. Most thought the price was too much. “I’m a working girl, and I couldn’t afford this” said one girl. It seems her date had financed her cruise. But some cruisers didn’t seem to care about the price. Skip Edwards, who owned ‘Skip’s Beach Bar’ on Madeira Beach, mentioned how he was looking forward to the intimacy of the trip. “Here you can shake the man’s hand and know a little about him. If you know somebody, you can enjoy the music better.” In the middle of everything, a violent storm hit, with wind gusts up to 50 mph. Even so, nothing would slow down the partying aboard the boat.

After the J. Randolph Edwards band kicked things off at 8:30, Jonathon Round then performed until around 10:30. Following that, Buffett and the band’s equipment was set up and the show was on. “This ain’t the Midnight Special and I ain’t the Carpenters” Jimmy told the raucous crowd. Jimmy’s two hour show included “Why Don’t We Get Drunk,” “Makin’ Music for Money” and interestingly enough, “Lovely Cruise.” This had to be the first performance of the song as it was not recorded until four months later during the “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” sessions. Has there ever been a more fitting performance of the song? The set was apparently loose as Jimmy commented after the boat had docked early that morning: “This was a good feeling for us tonight. I’ll probably never do it again, but we did tunes we hadn’t done in a long time. It’s a good feeling.” In a way, that had to sum up Jimmy’s feelings on his career at that point with the way 1976 was going for him. Of course, it would only get better for Jimmy and the band as in November they would spend the month recording the landmark album, “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.” While no other comments about the trip are available, the only other reference I could find about the trip from Jimmy was during a show on December 10, 1998 in Tampa. Before “Come Monday” that evening, Jimmy mentioned that one of his most memorable nights was this particular show. Jimmy asked Mr. Utley the name of the craft they ’sailed into the storm that night.’ Utley had no idea, but Jimmy saved him by naming it for him.

So that’s a look at the infamous cruise aboard the Tom Sawyer by Jimmy and the band. If anyone out there reading this happened to be one of those 300 aboard the ship or if you know someone that was aboard, please tell us what you know by leaving a comment. Big thanks to the Google news archive for help with this particular column!

That’s it for this month. Tune in next month for another round. – J.H.