Two legendary musicians that met on The University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus 40 years ago will be commemorated Nov. 21 at the very spot they first encountered each other. Jimmy Buffett and Greg “Fingers” Taylor, who together created the famous Coral Reefer Band, met at Shoemaker Square in the early 1970s.
The ceremony will honor the musicians with a bronze marker outside The Hub at 10 a.m. Saturday, prior to the USM and Old Dominion football game.
Some say it was destiny that the two musicians met and became one of America’s most prized musical collaborations. Buffett graduated from USM in 1969. Shortly after, he met Taylor, who was still enrolled at the time. This meeting occurred on the front steps of The Hub. Buffett was on campus to play his guitar for a group of students in between classes, and Taylor, known for his confidence, asked if he could join in.
Their chemistry sparked a friendship that led to their renowned collaboration, which created the band’s hit songs, including “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” Fervent fans of the Coral Reefer Band are named “parrotheads” who continue to support and be inspired by their music. The legacies of Buffett and Taylor will be recognized on Saturday by a platoon of groups associated with Southern Miss, including the Kappa Sigma fraternity. Buffett was a member of Kappa Sigma during his undergraduate career.
Buffett earned a degree in history in 1969 and performed in a band called The Upstairs Alliance. He began to perform solo and with the band at local gigs and student hangouts on campus.
Buffett has recorded over 30 albums, eight gold and nine platinum. Buffett received a Grammy nomination and wrote three books that made The New York Times bestseller list. Taylor was a member of the Coral Reefer Band from the mid-1970s to 2001 and recorded more than half a dozen albums of his own. Both Buffett and Taylor are inductees in the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame.
“Buffett is the party,” said Loyd “Hurricane” Munn, alumnus and Kappa Sigma member who attended USM with Taylor. “He is his own industry, and he has his own sound people want to mimic. I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t want to be Jimmy Buffett.”
Considered to be the greatest second-generation harmonica player in the country, Taylor received his nickname “Fingers” for being a piano player.
“They all had nicknames in high school and his name came from him being a very proficient piano player, not a harmonica player,” Munn said.
Taylor collaborated on nearly 60 CDs with a host of celebrities and produced six of his own CDs. He was a writer on some of the songs Buffett performed.
Not only was Taylor a skilled harmonica player, but he was also a proficient blues musician.
“It amazed me how much he knew about music,” Munn said. “He looked at me and said ‘silence is a musical note.’”
Both Buffett and Taylor provided significant influence in Mississippi. The ceremony will recognize the legacies they have created.
“It’s good to know where it all began like any artist and sometimes the story isn’t what you think it is,”
Munn said. “Jimmy has tons of friends from USM who he is still friends with today.”
Munn is a local musician and has shared the stage with Taylor.
“I tell people there’s nothing (more neat) than to be driving to a gig, listening to the radio and hearing a song on the radio and 30 minutes later take the stage with the same artist you heard on the radio and have the same guy playing three feet from you.”
“I’m seeing this story being picked up in California, overseas, Hawaii– the story has been picked up by the press across the world, so this is not just a local event,” Munn said.
Buffett was said to be thrilled about the ceremony and has sent a video for audiences to view during the football game. Speculation claimed that Buffett would attend the ceremony, but his schedule conflicts with the event.
“We don’t know whether he’s going to be here,” Munn said. “We don’t have a clue. I wouldn’t go and expect to see Jimmy (Buffett), but he is Jimmy Buffett and can do what he wants.”
Jim Warren, a 1986 USM graduate and former member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, said that he ran into Buffett in the Bahamas,. Buffett was wearing a Southern Miss cap.
“I walked over to ask about the cap only to find out it was Jimmy Buffett,” Warren said. “Buffett was flying his colors when he didn’t have to be and even asked how everything at USM was going. It’s about time that a ceremony on behalf of him and Greg Taylor has (been) done because they both deserve it and so does the university.”