Watching Jimmy Buffett in concert this past weekend, I couldn't help imagining again how deliriously happy the Key West tourism people must be about his long, successful career.
If the city fathers had put together a singer in a laboratory, they couldn't have come up with a better PR spokesman in song. In Orlando, Buffett again offered a heartfelt pitch for the charms of the Conch Republic, where he turned his authentic troubadour lifestyle into a worldwide brand.
No one has mined a Sunshine State connection better, but Florida has yielded its share of musical stars that manage to evoke a connection with their roots. With a little planning and a basic musical library, it's possible to concoct the perfect regional soundtrack for a Florida road trip.
Start down south:
Head north on State Road A1A out of the Keys, the best backdrop for listening to Buffett songs. Even the utterly overplayed "Margaritaville" can sound remarkably fresh with the windows down to bask in ocean breezes.
You'll be sick of Buffett by Miami, so put on the 1970s disco-pop of KC & the Sunshine Band. Bandleader Harry Casey launched the band's career out of Hialeah-based TK Records. The breezy "Get Down Tonight" and "That's the Way (I Like It)" were dismissed by disco-haters, but the songs endure. The band is a perennial favorite at the Mardi Gras concert series at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando. (The band is booked there again on April 14.)
In Orlando, the playlist must turn to teen pop. The Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync and Britney Spears rose to stardom in the 1990s on the strength of hits recorded at Orlando's Trans-Continental Studios. It also would be OK to play Michael Jackson in O-town. The King of Pop spent vacation time at Walt Disney World in the 1980s, often in his own suite at the Royal Plaza at Lake Buena Vista.
Go north to Jacksonville and turn up the Southern Rock ambassadors Lynyrd Skynyrd. An earthier version of Skynyrd's swampy style is echoed in the music of Mofro, now making Florida noise on Chicago's Alligator Records. (Don't forget that the Allman Brothers started in Daytona Beach.)
Finish on University Avenue in Gainesville, blaring Tom Petty's "American Girl" in the town where the music began.