Well before Jimmy Buffett became king of the Parrotheads, he was a highly regarded singer-songwriter with an obvious gift for storytelling — and among his admirers was Bob Dylan. Dylan first made his fandom known in 1982, when he rendered a surprise appearance with Joan Baez even more shocking by launching into Buffett’s “A Pirate Looks at 40.” Then, in a 2009 interview with Bill Flanagan, Dylan named Buffett as one of his favorite songwriters (along with Gordon Lightfoot, Warren Zevon, Randy Newman, John Prine, and Guy Clark). As Buffett discusses in the new episode of The Rolling Stone Interview: Special Edition, the two men also spent some time together — and as with most Dylan stories, there’s a twist. The meeting took place not long after Dylan’s duet with Baez, on a harbor off the island of St. Bart’s, where Dylan had a schooner named Water Pearl.
“I was walking by the marine-supply store,” Buffett recalls, “and I heard a voice say, ‘Hey, Jimmy, that’s a nice-looking pair of shoes. And it was Bob Dylan! He was seeing a girl that I knew on the island, and I knew a couple of guys that worked for him on the road. And he invited me out on the boat, and we sat there and talked. We got stoned all day long.” Buffett came away convinced he’d made a deep connection with Dylan: “I’m thinking, man, we have a bond here.”
Five years later, he went to see Dylan perform with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in Paris, and a mutual friend who worked security told Buffett that Dylan would be excited to see him backstage. “And I go backstage,” says Buffett, “and Dylan was sitting there. He had these gloves on. He’s got his hoodie on. I said, ‘Bob, how doin’?’”
Dylan responded with just a grunted “eh.” “He never said a word,” says Buffett. “I sat there, ate my meal and said, ‘Well, have a good show. See you later.’ That was it. I haven’t seen him since!”
Jimmy Buffett’s new album, Life on the Flip Side, is out now.