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JIMMY BUFFETT: 'COME MONDAY' BACKSTORY
A FLORIDA BROADCASTING VETERAN & PARROTHEAD WROTE A NEW BOOK ABOUT 50 OF BUFFETT'S MOST ICONIC SONGS. STARTING WITH THIS ISSUE, WE'RE SHARING EXCERPTS FROM THAT WORK
By Scott Atwell
JANE SLAGSVOL GREW UP
n an affluent South Carolina family. In the 1940s, her father founded the Greater South Agency, an insurance company with expertise in animal agriculture—especially the poultry industry—according to a 2015 press release that announced the company's sale.
Like her parents and siblings, Jane enrolled at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, where she found a roommate named Larry "Groovy" Gray, who would eventually leave school and make his way to Key West
In Slagsvol's junior year, she planned a spring break trip to visit her old friend, who had taken up work as a bartender at the Pier House Chart Room. The University of South Carolina bulletin indicates the 1972 spring recess was scheduled for the last week in March.
Understandably, the Chart Room was a home base of sorts for the visiting Slagsvol.
It also had become the professional and social hangout for Jimmy Buffett, who returned to the island after enjoying the extended hospitality of Jerry Jeff Walker in Coconut Grove.
AS SHE SAID "GOODBYE," BUFFETT WAS THERE TO SAY "HELLO." HE HAD JUST CONNECTED WITH "THE RIGHT GIRL."
The Chart Room was a construction afterthought at the Pier House, cobbled together from a poolside guest suite by owner David Wolkowsky. In the hallway, behind the bar, was a pair of restrooms and a pay phone.
One night, Jane stepped away from the bar to make a phone call, and as soon as she said "goodbye," Buffett was there to say "hello." He had just connected with "the right girl."
SAVING POWER of true love
Once Slagsvol relocated to Key West, she quickly became the inspiration for the songwriter's new music, if not his luck.
Buffett had fled to the end of the road in part to escape the personal and professional rejection that had haunted him in Nashville. By November 1972, his divorce from Margie was official, and his relationship with Jane was blossoming.
In March 1973, one year after meeting Jane, Buffett landed his first major recording contract with ABC Dunhill. Three months later, he released his
White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean
album, which included a song titled "My Lovely Lady."
In the early days of his recording career, Buffett was required to produce two albums per year—no easy task given the demands of the road.
The ample backing of ABC Dunhill landed the singer a six-night run at the famed Troubadour on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, but all the while, the burden of the fast-approaching second album weighed heavily on his writing.
Holed up in smog-filled southern California and pining for Jane, who was in Aspen on vacation, Buffett began to distill his feelings into song.
After the Troubador shows, Buffett headed north to the San Francisco area where he was pencilled in for a three-night gig at the Lion's Share in San Anselmo. (Janis Joplin so loved the venue that she left money in her will for a 1970 funeral party to be staged there, in her honor, headlined by the Grateful Dead.)
IN THE SHADOW OF MT. TAMALPAIS, HE POLISHED OFF THE LYRICS OF HIS HEARTFELT LONGING FOR JANE
t was Labor Day weekend, and Buffett opened for Country Joe McDonald, a psychedelic rocker who had gained notoriety at Woodstock.
Late Night With David Letterman
in 1983, Buffett recalled the cathartic power of "Come Monday" as a "song that kept me from killing myself in the Howard Johnson in Marin County
Buffett said he was "deathly depressed" at the time, a result of the "size of the rooms and the food next door as well," and in the shadow of Mt. Tamalpais, he polished off the lyrics of his heartfelt longing for Jane.
Buffett's last show at the Lion's Share was on Sunday. He made his way back to Jane in Aspen on Labor Day, September 3, 1973.
Monday had come.
song skyrockets career
One month later, Buffett was in the recording studio recording album number two, with Mike Utley and Doyle Grisham reprising their roles from the first session.
Utley remembers Grisham turning to him in the studio and predicting the song to be a hit.
"At the time that was written there wasn't chord progressions like Jimmy put in that song," Grisham said on an episode of
At Home With the Coral Reefer Band
a limited-edition video series on YouTube).
"People weren't saying things exactly the way he said 'em, and the melody is just great on it. It's one of my favorite all-time songs."
"Come Monday" was slated as one of 11 songs on the album
Living and Dying in 3/4 Time
, and ABC Dunhill ramped up promotion of Buffett following the tragic and untimely death of Jim Croce, a fellow artist on the label.
In advance of the release, executives sent a film crew to Key West to promote their up-and-coming aritst, and Buffett assembled an audience of friends for a film session at the Lantern Inn on Stock Island.
"Come Monday" was the featured tune in the promotion, shown prior to feature films at ABC-owned movie theatres around the country, and later found on YouTube where it has been viewed more than six million times.
HE SONG'S PROFITS "PAID THE RENT" AND GOT BUFFETT'S DOG OUT OF THE POUND
Buffett was in London when he recognized the impact of "Come Monday" on his career arc.
Halfway across the globe he heard the song played on the radio and knew instantly, as he often has said, that he would be able to keep his "phony-baloney job for a while."
"Come Monday" peaked at number three on the Adult Contemporary charts. For Jane Slagsvol, its success resulted in something her father could appreciate: an insurance policy, and validation of the decision to hitch her wagon to a man whose profession was less than stable or predictable.
As Buffett said to Letterman, "Come Monday" paid the rent "and got my dog out of the pound."
The Howard Johnson's where Buffett finished the song was located at 160 Shoreline Highway in Mill Valley, near Sausalito, and remains there today as a Holiday Inn Express. The Lantern Inn burned down in April of 1980, and the site was rebuilt for a popular Mexican restaurant called Chico's Cantina.
As for the Lion's Share, the venue that brought Buffett to the San Francisco area of that Labor Day weekend show, it held on as a popular music stage through much of the 1970s, but today fronts a rather pedestrian optical office.
It was never meant for glitter rock and roll.
Commentary by Buffett before presenting his "Come Monday" music video. Published on YouTube by Margaritaville.tv
Buffett's "Come Monday" was first released on his 1977 album
Living and Dying in 3/4 Time. The song was his first Top 40 hit single. It took spot No. 30 on the Billboard "Hot 100," No. 3 on the "Adult Contemporary" (Billboard) chart, and No. 58 on the "Hot Country Songs" (Billboard) chart.
Buffett did not make happy memories during his stay at the Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge in Sausalito, CA, his temporary home while performing at a local club. It was this very place that the depressed songwriter polished off the lyrics to his love ballad "Come Monday," written about how much he missed his sweetheart, Jane (who later became his wife in 1977).
When not resting at the Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge, Buffett played a three-night gig at The Lion's Share. The tiny club (capacity: 200), located at 60 Red Hill in San Anselmo, CA, was known as a local hangout for musicians.
About the Author:
Scott "Flash" Atwell
In Key West, FL, grown men can live their entire lives answering to names like Mockingbird, Jungle Rat and Bow Wow. Stroll the city’s venerable cemetery, perched on the island’s highest peak—Solaris Hill—at 17 feet above sea level, and you will note that many have carried nicknames to their graves, a small slice of the town’s culture etched in granite. The southernmost city is a city of nicknames—or least it was.
earned his moniker as a teenager in the mid-1970’s after volunteering to work for a sports news program on hometown radio station WKWF (call letters stood for Wonderful Key West Florida). The young lad’s penchant for efficiently gathering final scores along the little league baseball circuit impressed one of the official score keepers, who likened him to a “news flash.” Presto, the “Flash” was fixed into the Key West vernacular.
Atwell continued to pursue sportscasting and eventually became an anchor for Tallahassee, Florida’s CBS affiliate, where he covered many of the legendary Florida State athletes and served as a fill-in co-host of the
TV show. Later, Atwell went to work for Florida State University in public relations and then served a decade as chief alumni officer.
He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Miami (where he was pulled from the sports information office in 1980 to suit up for three games as the junior varsity’s back-up quarterback) and a Master’s from FSU (where he was
asked to suit up).
After a 35-year hiatus the “Key West Flash” returned to his island home and the local radio airwaves, hosting a program of exclusive Jimmy Buffett music where each week he illuminates the origins of one song. Atwell gathered those stories in book form, and on the 50th anniversary of the singer’s arrival in Key West, self-published
Buffett Backstories—Fifty Years, Fifty Songs
One day Atwell will be buried in his family’s cemetery plot where you will find him listed under the nickname “Flash."