Behind The Song: Jimmy Buffett, “The Pascagoula Run”

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“The Pascagoula Run”

Written by Jimmy Buffett & Jay Oliver

At first attempt, the word “Pascagoula” may encounter slight difficulty navigating the tongue and cheek of anyone residing north of the Mason-Dixon line. The word itself comes from an old Indian word meaning “bread eater,” which was given to a local tribe of Indians who lived in the coastal area of Mississippi, long before it was a city, and long before a squirrel went berserk in Ray Stevens’ 1984 song “Mississippi Squirrel Revival.” Pascagoula isn’t just a town known for Indians and squirrels however. Back in 1942 the town made national news when police arrested the “Phantom Barber,” a notorious criminal accused of sneaking into sleeping children’s bedrooms and cutting off locks of hair. Thirty years later in 1973, two local fishermen made headlines after being abducted by a U.F.O.; both would later write books about the encounter. Meanwhile, somewhere in the middle of crazy barbers and U.F.O.’s,  a young Jimmy Buffett was rip-roaring up and down Highway 90 with is crazy Uncle Billy in a song entitled “The Pascagoula Run.” 

The song was released in 1989 on Buffett’s seventeenth album, Off to See the Lizard.  Buffett’s bar-hopping story-song about Pascagoula is an homage of sorts, to the town where he was born on Christmas day in 1946, and later born again as the beach-bum-balladeer we have all come to love. In the song, Buffett tells of a crazy road trip adventure with his Uncle Billy who picks him up in a red Jaguar convertible and takes him to various honky-tonk bars along the coast.  According to Buffett, Uncle Billy was a great, “bad” influence on his life. As a former sailor, Uncle Billy’s tales from the sea intrigued him as a child, setting his imagination at sail for a future course bound straight for Margaritaville. Co-written with fellow Coral Reefer Band member Jay Oliver, “Pascagoula Run” grew bigger than the notorious town of its own namesake, and can often be heard performed at Buffett shows every year. 

Visitors to Pascagoula can find a commemorative plaque on Hwy 90 marking the home of his birthplace, as well as a stretch of beach and small bridge named after him. True to the song, Buffett made another Pascagoula run in 2015. This time, he flew his own seaplane to Pascagoula, which he landed in the water to a roaring crowd, prior to performing a special dedication concert for the newly named “Buffett Beach.”

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