Building Jimmy Buffett's Guitar
Reprinted by kind permission of Just Jazz Guitar
I always liked Jimmy Buffett's music & hoped one day to meet him, probably in South Florida. Instead, I met him at Rudy's Music Stop in N.Y.C. when I was consigning a guitar. He commented on the guitar I had (my Starling model w/bird soundholes) and arranged to give me backstage passes to his concert in West Palm Beach, as long as I brought a couple of guitars for him to play before the concert. I was floored by his generosity.

The concert was great, an event that has to be experienced. I brought an opaque black f hole model which he later used in the studio, & then was purchased by George Benson, and a Starling I just finished for Tony Mottola. A couple of months later we talked about me building him a guitar.

I wanted to design something specific for him; palm trees, parrots, or manatees. It had to look aesthetically right and meet all structural requirements. After drawing what seemed like a million designs, I put the plans down for a while. Later I came up with this parrot design. I checked out several ornithology books from the library to check for anatomical confirmation.

The parrot soundholes are placed where f holes usually are. I also cut a parrot "monitor" on the upper side bout. My wife chose the color. When she told me I said "G. R. E. E. N"! I thought the design was getting a little "out there," maybe the color should be subdued, but she was right. I mixed three shades of green and a little black to achieve the final color.

I had recently made Jimmy Vivino a guitar with built-in Seymour Duncan Seth Lover pickups which he chose. I never used them before. They're great pickups, so I used them on Jimmy Buffett's guitar with a 3 way switch, 2 volume, 2 tone, and a kill switch which cuts everything. The guitar is pretty much a standard archtop like I usually make. It's a 16" body, 2 3/16" thick, with a 25" fingerboard scale. The pickguard is inlayed w/pearl and abalone to reveal the shape of the concealed parrot head. I often do that with f hole models just outlining the edge with 1/16" pearl.

I've got my other designs stored away and hope they'll come to life one day. It was a great experience and Jimmy is a warm down to earth guy. He let me play his guitar that Martin custom built for him while he and his two guitar players (Peter Mayer & Mac McAnally) played the ones I brought. The three of them were great. By the way, Jimmy plays really well and his timing is impeccable; he knows where one always is. . . and four! If you get the opportunity, check him out in concert. He's phenomenal.

Gary Mortoro