Seaside Musings: ‘Happiest music I’ve ever played’: Tribute band celebrates Jimmy Buffett

Tribute band Jimmy's Buffet is a seven-piece ensemble of mostly North County performers.
(Courtesy of Chris Maddox)

Jimmy’s Buffet getting ready for performance Sept. 8 at the Belly Up in Solana Beach


There’s no need to be a genuine Parrothead to enjoy the music of a Jimmy Buffett tribute band, a seven-piece ensemble of mostly North County performers.

“Parrothead” is the name long ago given to Buffett afficionados.

However, Chris Maddox of Carlsbad, who leads the 9-month-old band noted in an interview that although everyone might not be a Buffett fan, no one really dislikes him.

Buffett’s music is happy music, say several members of the new band.

“I think the Buffett music is the happiest music I’ve ever played,” said Vasili Panos of Carlsbad, a drummer in the band, which drops a “t” off of the iconic singer-songwriter’s last name and calls itself The Jimmy’s Buffet. “I love it,” Panos said.

Band members chatted during a recent rehearsal for an upcoming gig Sept. 8 at the Belly Up nightclub in Solana Beach.

They’ve recently played in locales as varied as Brea in Orange County and the Music Box in downtown San Diego.

Maddox likes to note that this isn’t a band of youngsters.

Ages range from 45 to 71 and professions, when not belting out the likes of “Cheeseburgers in Paradise” and “Margaritaville,” range from attorney to retired math teacher to investment manager (Panos).

The teacher, Jackie Powers, who taught at Diegueño Middle School in Encinitas, is the sole female member of the band. She plays the steel pan, a large drum which emits different tones depending on where it is struck and is an integral part of Caribbean music, strongly incorporated into Buffett’s repertoire.

He’s been known to refer to it as “Caribbean rock and roll.”

Maddox, head of sales for a global company when not performing, is the group’s vocalist and says often during practice, where he jumps up and down as if there were an audience, that “I’m an entertainer, not a musician.”

His previous entertainment role, which prompted some national press, was as Elvis.

Maddox had formed a “Graceland” band when in high school in Redondo Beach. It faded in 1997, but he revived it in 2013, and spent several years playing The King, including at concerts at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

During the pandemic, he and his wife, Heather, wrote lyrics for videos filmed in a bedroom closet at their home and posted on social media.

Now, he recites a little of the history of the Mississippi-born Buffett, now 76, a boatsman and pilot who’s had some harrowing accidents in his career. “We might not be here today,” Maddox said, drawing laughs from his band by saying they might have had to switch to imitating the music of rock band Bon Jovi.

The other members of the band are:

Craig Harris, bass guitar, from Carlsbad. He’s been playing almost 55 years — since he was 17 years old. He’s just retired as a wood restorer. “It’s so much fun,” Harris said of playing in the Buffett tribute band. “It reaches people. The energy is infectious. It’s a wonderful experience.”

Joe Tavano, a keyboardist and songwriter since the 1990s. He’s headed his own tribute and cover bands as well. His synthesizer adds sounds, like from a trumpet, to the mix. An attorney, he lives in Bonita.

Ivan Rios, the youngest, a tailor from Escondido, who said Buffett’s music “makes people dance. It makes them happy. They seem to respond. For me to play in this band is amazing, really fun.”

John Brengle — the name is familiar to North County folks because his grandfather deeded to the city of Vista the land for Brengle Terrace Park. He now lives in the San Carlos area of San Diego. He’s in outside sales for a petroleum company. “I love Jimmy Buffett,” Brengle said.

The shows, Maddox explained, are more than audio. They’re visual as well.

Re-creating the look of the islands reflected in much of Buffett’s music, the props include swaying palm trees, tiki towers, dancing sharks, beach balls and lots of bubbles.

Visit for more information on the Sept. 8 event.