Kenny Chesney - chart topper and bar hopper.
It starts out like the beginning of a really bad joke: So I'm on my way to a Country Music Concert wearing an old straw hat...
I have this beat up straw hat that has accompanied me on many tropical vacations and forays to the beaches and bars of the East End. It's beat up and bent, like someone sat on it or slept on it one too many times. I turn to my wife as she parks the truck in the train station and say, "Maybe I should just throw it out."
She looked at the pathetic hat and then looked up at me. "No," she said, knowing that I really don't want to toss the old hat, I'm just looking for someone to affirm the poor girl has a little life left inside her. "Keep it."
We leave the car and head for New York City
and Kenny Chesney, the Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year, towing along my hat and an emptied orange juice container that I refilled with Margarita. I'd never seen the guy in concert before. My wife and some friends of ours who share her affection for popular Country Music introduced me to his music over the summer. Sitting by the ocean, drinking beer and tropical drinks, I have to admit that the easy-going sounds of Kenny Chesney got into my blood. Chesney cites "The Old Man And The Sea" as one of his favorite books, and, of course, he loves the ocean.
He begs a comparison to that other Country Music pirate, Jimmy Buffett
. Both have charming lyrical songs that speak of tropical islands, drinking and narrate a simple life. I have no problem with any of that stuff so I am easily sucked into the sounds.
Chesney is enjoying a top-of-the-charts, top-of-the-world year. His concerts are sold out, his new album quickly shot up the charts and he already married and divorced a Hollywood star (Renee Zellweger
). Some type of booze sponsors his current tour, the Flip-Flop Tour. The new album, titled "Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates" is his eleventh studio album. Released here in the U.S. on September 11, 2007, on the first day, it sold more than 100,000 copies! It went on to sell over 380,000 copies by the end of the first week.
On the streets of Manhattan our little group of concert-goers (we are joined by two other couples) searched out a bite to eat and perhaps a beer to chase down the "train" Margaritas. By chance a producer stopped us. They're filming an A&E special about Kenny Chesney outside of the concert and they're looking for fans to talk on camera. They really would like a man because, well, most of Chesney's fans are women and they'd like a different perspective. We plopped my beat up hat on my friend John and shoved him in front of the camera. He kicked butt, even getting a thumbs up from the cameraman and the director as he answered their questions. My contribution - besides the hat - was to hand the producer my card and tell her I'm a pretty decent writer if she ever needed one. I think I saw her putting the card to good use later on, scrapping gum off the bottom of her heels.
Although Chesney doesn't have the kind of signature, sing-along, come-on-everybody-you-all-know-the-words, type of ditty like "Margaritaville
", he's coming darn close. Jimmy Buffett wrote "Margaritaville" in 1977 in Key West, Florida. Transcending simple chart topping hit, this song is an iconic pop culture tune. The song described the laid-back lifestyle of the tropics, drinking and getting tattooed.
Buffett also played Madison Square Garden last month. Of course he doesn't need to promote any album to tour as his followers, the Parrotheads, need no particular reason to come out, listen to music and party-hardy. Come to think of it, neither do I. Therefore, ergo, I must be a Parrothead!
One key element in the music of both Chesney and Buffett is the lifestyle they exude from the music and the stage. Buffett played the entire concert in t-shirt, yellow shorts and no shoes. Chesney wore flip-flops, forgoing the traditional Country Music staple footwear, boots. These are the guys you want around in the Keys (or on a beach in the Hamptons), with money to spend and time to spare. The second factor, only from a male perspective, is the quality of female fans that both of these guys attract. I have yet to see that many bikini tops, halter tops, and topless tops in the middle of New York City before.
Describing Buffett only as a singer/songwriter would be doing him a disservice. He is also an author with three best sellers, movie producer, and businessman. His chain of restaurants based on two of his most popular songs have only added to his success. He rarely deviates from his set list but when he does, he never leaves out a core of about 8 to 10 songs. The great new additional to his set list is his Alan Jackson duet "It's Five O'clock Somewhere," a line that I picked up on around age 21 from certain anonymous branches of my family tree. I am etching the lyrics of that song onto the doors of my liquor cabinet.
Speaking of duets, Kenny Chesney and Uncle Kracker came up with a great one with the single, "When the Sun Goes Down." This tune may be the contender for Chesney to match Buffett. Chesney's "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" from the album of the same name is a close second. Both are apropos of the philosophy of the artist. But you have to give kudos to the guy for his song, "Being Drunk's a Lot Like Loving You." I couldn't have put it better myself, Kenny.
As expected, Kenny Chesney's concert is packed, we're in upper deck seats and the crowd is wild. Picture thousands of drunken, country fans in New York City, most of them female. Despite the cost, we need a constant flow of Garden beer and I make my way up to the concession stand between songs.
"Hey man," a guy said to me. He was not on line so I couldn't have cut him off from the supply of beer. "I'll give you fifty bucks for your hat. I need a hat."
I thought that one of us had been drinking too much. I knew about my state of mind. Not perfect, little drowsy, but the reasonability sector of the gray matter was still operational.
"Fifty bucks for your hat," he said again reaching into his pocket. The reasonability portion of his brain was obviously drowning.
I look at his buddy who is as straight faced and serious as the Secret Service. Being this was New York, I glance behind me to make sure no one is picking my pocket. All I see is a grinning girl, looking like she's glad she got up for a beer just then because she's suspecting that she will have one hell of a story to tell tomorrow around the water cooler tomorrow.
"I can't do that man," I said way too diplomatically. "You're drunk."
This doesn't even register on him and the girl behind me is grinning even more. My "client" pulls out something that resembles money and curses. I think that it was too good to be true.
"I don't have any change," he said staring at his crumpled pile of bills. "I'll have to give you sixty."
He drunkenly unraveled three twenty-dollar bills from one another and handed them to me very purposely, one at a time. At that point I remembered my P.T. Barnum, "A fool and his beat up hat are soon parted." Like an inebriated Frosty the Snowman, he suddenly became invigorated by the some magic in the third life of the old hat. He and his friend make some noise and run off. We cross paths on my way back
to my seat with the beers and he thanked me again, very enthusiastically.
I do not question the serendipity of the night. My hat, plucked from death by my wife's comment earlier, then made famous by the A&E channel, has departed from me but not without leaving a little gratitude in the form of three double-sawbucks. I now have my own Country lyric: I sold my old hat at a concert for three twenty dollar bills/Man, I miss that old hat sometimes when I think back at all of the thrills/All of the times we spent together/I always thought that it would last forever.
I can't leave without bestowing a bit of wisdom from the official Jimmy Buffett website's FAQ:
How do I make the perfect margarita?
The Perfect Margarita
1) Fill shaker with broken cubed ice
2) Squeeze 2 fresh lime wedges into shaker
3) Add 2 oz. of Margaritaville Tequila Oro
4) Add 1/2 oz. Margaritaville Tequila Blanco (for bite if you wish)
5) Add 1 1/4 oz. of Roses Lime Juice
6) Add 1/2 oz. of Bols Triple Sec
7) Add a splash of Bols Orange Curacao
8) Cover shaker & shake vigorously
9) Rim glass with lime peel and salt, add fresh ice
10) Strain mixture over ice
11) Squeeze in 1 lime wedge
Jimmy Buffett will be releasing "Live In Anguilla," a double CD and 90 minute DVD, which is scheduled for a November 6th street date.
Kenny Chesney's "Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates" is currently topping the Country charts.