Buffett inspired Brent Burns “to write what I know”
By Fran Thompson
Like many, many others, local trop rock king Brent Burns is surprised how difficult processing the passing of the man responsible for the genre has been.
A multi Trop Rock Entertainer of the Year award winner, Burns ran in the same circle as Jimmy Buffett on Pleasure Island 50 years ago, but the two never met until Buffett’s sister Lucy arranged for a backstage rendezvous (pictured) before one of Buffett’s 2018 run of shows at La Cigale, a historic 1,000 seat venue in Paris and a Parrot Head mecca.
Burns said Buffett greeted him warmly and said he knew who he was as soon as he walked into his dressing room. The two talked about mutual friends in Nashville and Pleasure Island and before he left, Buffett held onto Brent’s hand and asked him if he wanted his assistant to take a picture of them together.
“When I introduced myself, he said, ‘I know who you are, Brent,’ and we had a great conversation. I was trying to be cool. I didn’t want to be that guy. So I didn’t ask him for a picture, but I’m glad I have it now. Looking back, it means a lot to me,’’ Burns said.
One of Burns’ best and most popular albums is titled “Livin’ The Life (Jimmy Buffett Only Wrote About).’’
“Jimmy spent a lot of time in Gulf Shores in the 1970’s and 1980’s. We ran around the same bases, but I was always missing him,’’ Burns said. “He and Kenny Stabler were big buddies. And I would go into The Endzone and Kenny would say that Jimmy just left or I would go into Coconut Willy’s and Meryl Murphy would tell me I just missed him.
“He has always been part of the fabric down here,’’ Burns added. “When I moved here, I was disillusioned with Nashville. I had writer’s block. I had just gotten divorced and I moved to the beach to try to figure things out and decide if I wanted to get back in the game.
“What I learned from watching Buffett was that I didn’t have to chase the juke box. I could just play what I know. If you write good songs, people will find you. It worked out pretty good for me and it was kind of his inspiration that led me to take that path. He inspired me more than I realized at the time.”
A Gulf Shores resident since 1972, Brent was named Pleasure Island’s official music ambassador by the Convention & Visitors Bureau in 2006. He won Entertainer of the Year, and CD of the Year at the inital Trop Rock Awards. And won seven additional awards in ensuing years for songs such as “I’ve Got A Beach in My Backyard and “Don’t Come Knockin’ If The Tiki Hut’s Rockin.’’
Burns also has a box full of plaques that thank him for the philanthropy that has continued to be his hallmark over the years.