There's an old joke about Deadheads that if anyone ever took their pot away, they'd wonder why the music was so crappy. The same could be said of Parrotheads, only with alcohol instead of weed. (Well, maybe just a little weed.) Both concert events have a "scene" -- the parking lot is often half the show. But where Grateful Dead shows were a staggering bazaar of drug sales, Jimmy Buffett shows are more like a strange cross between Mardi Gras and an impressive tailgate party. A few wild costumes, lots of loud clothes, some good grilling, and a wide variety of "boat drinks," as Buffett fans affectionately dub the potent cocktails that are often passed around. Everyone has his own recipe, but concoctions tend to be rum-filled and red.
And while Deadheads packed up the VW van and drove all over to catch Jerry and the boys, Parrotheads need only move to South Florida, where Buffett is good for about a show a year, as long as it doesn't take him far from home. And then there's the added advantage of being able to live the life featured in Buffett's songs -- beaches, palm trees, margaritas, and so on.
This must all come as quite a shock to Buffett himself, even 30 years after the whole beachcombing-poet image got its start. The Mississippi native originally plotted a career in country, traveling to Nashville and putting out one sad album, Down to Earth, before going through a divorce and fleeing to the sun of South Florida. When A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustaceanappeared in 1973, he gained a bit of fame for the song "Why Don't We Get Drunk?" which any Parrothead will tell you is among the finest odes to drunken sex the world has seen. And finally, Buffett became a beach-bum demigod in 1977, when Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudesand "Margaritaville" came to the national spotlight. Another 30 albums, several books, and a chain of clothes and nightclubs followed, along with fans who buy it all, like marlin aiming for Jimmy's well-baited hook as he fishes from a beat-up pier on some nameless island.