Somewhere near the corner of Ventor and Atlantic Avenue, Sandwiched in between the Water Works and the Jail you'll find the humble home where Marvin Gardens was born.
This page is dedicated to the life and times of an unknown drunken calypso poet, who lived the good life, and died the great death. Gone but not forgotten, Marvin we love you!
You wanna know where to go!
I'll tell a where to go but you won't get no stinking $200.00!
Marvin with Friends at the Quiet Knight
Back in 1968 people from all over flocked to Chicago to make a fast buck during the 1968 convention. Chicago was not only famous for it political machine but also for its folk clubs. One such club located in the heart of Old Town was the "Tin Whistle Saloon". The bar itself was not as famous as the Earl of Old Town or the Quiet Knight but the owner, the legendary Jack "Blind Cat" McMurty was known by almost any folk singer who wanted to make it the city. McCurty was not only a saloon owner but his brother Mac, was the City Clerk. Mac could revoke any liquor license on a whim. He could also get a license approved "yesterday". Jack and Mac basically controlled who had a folk club.
Now I know what you're asking what does this have to do with Marvin Gardens?
At the time Steve Goodman wasn't even old enough to drink but that didn't stop Jack McCurty from booking him in his saloon. Steve recalled:
I started to improvise and he kept up with me. After a couple numbers I started to do some make a song blues and he still kept up. Finally I started playing stump the band. I'd start a song and then he'd make up the next verse and then I'd make up the next verse. We didn't stop playing until the next morning.
He asked me to come back te next night but I told him I had this gig at the Quiet Knight and would have to make it some other time. The next day I showed up at the Quiet Knight. I was the warm up act. Some guy from Mississippi or Louisiana was suppose to play after me. After I finished I decided to stick around for the next act. Eddie announced the next guy as Jimmy Boo-Fay. Buffett came out and corrected him and then started singing. I thought it was all a joke. Just the night before the guy called himself Marvin Gardens. After his show I came up and introduced my self and asked him how he managed to do so many accents and how he faked his peg leg from the night before and wy he kept changing his name.
Buffett must have thought I was crazy. After a couple minutes he had almost convinced me that he wasn't Marvin Gardens. Shortly after that Eddie came over and I asked him. "Doesn't Buffett look just like the bar tender at the Tin Whistle Saloon?" Well Eddie had never seen Marvin so he couldn't say. After a couple drinks my new friend and I decided to go over to the Tin Whistle and see his twin.
We've all seen the cover of "Somebody Else's Trouble". Well if you haven't, Its just to the left of this text. The front photo was taken in Steve's house. Most people assume that the picture is really Jimmy Buffett and NOT Marvin Gardens. Shortly after the album was released, Marvin was recognized immediately by authorities.
In an attempt to throw the police of his trail, his good friends, Steve Goodman and Jimmy Buffett (who BTW bears a faint resemblance to Marvin) concocted the following story which has since become part of the mythos of Marvin: This is the way Steve described how the photo came about:
Marvin Gardens, the wry and witty singer/songwriter noted for his risque lyrics and life on "the edge" died of a massive coronary infarction today at the Sarasota Rock 'n' Roll Rest Home, according to a statement released by the Sarasota County Coroner's Office and officials at the home. He was 42.
Mr. Gardens, best known for the song "Why Don't We Get Drunk," which was popularized by singer Jimmy Buffett in the early '70s, was an early influence in the "gonzo" style of music that included Jerry Jeff Walker, the late Steve Goodman and Mr. Buffett. "Gonzo," a term borrowed from author Hunter S. Thompson, describes the crazy, almost insane, lyrics and tunes of some late '60s and early '70s post-folk melodies.
Last known photo
of left handed guitar great,
Reached for comment in Los Angeles, Mr. Buffett stated that, "Some people don't even know how close Marvin and I used to be. I'll miss him. We were so very close." He added, "It sort of became an on-running joke. 'Fingers' [Taylor - Buffett's harmonica man] used to call him my alter-ego. It got so bad that some people even wondered if there was actually two people or just one of us. Kind of like Batman and Bruce Wayne. That sort of thing." Recalling their early adventures, Buffett recounts, "I'd often sign in to hotels under Marv's name. Marvin never could figure out why Holiday Inn's lawyers kept sending him all those certified letters." Mr. Gardens' remains will be cremated and spread over the Gulf of Mexico after a private service today. He has no known survivors.
Marvin Gardens *is* entirely a creation of Jimmy Buffett's mind. (I'd sure like to see M.G. get a role in one of these books or movies). Before JB could even afford to have a back-up band, there was the original (read imaginary) Coral Reefer Band. The line-up was: Jimmy Buffett, Vocals, Guitar Marvin Gardens, Guitar Kay Pasa, Bass Kitty Litter, Background Vocals Al Vacado, Drums The part about Marvin becoming Jimmy's alter-ego *is* true. I get the impression that Marvin was Jimmy's ornery side. The part about signing into hotels I also believe to be true (I think he's used Frank Bama and Freddy Fishstick for that purpose, too). Marvin did "write" 'Why Don't We Get Drunk.' If you don't believe me, grab your copy of Sport Coat (failing that - Songs You Play to Death or the Box Set will do) and look by the song. Whoever wrote that he couldn't find any reference to Marvin didn't look very hard. Obviously, in 1973, one might not want his *own* name on a tune like 'Why Don't We Get Drunk.' Apparently, Marvin had a hand in writing 'Please Take Your Drunken Fifteen Year Old Girlfriend Home.' I have a bootleg show where JB plays the song (which at the time was to be released on the upcoming 'Second Wind' LP - as you know, the song never made it and the album was retitled 'Havana Daydreamin''). Anyway, after the song, some guy in the crowd yells, "Marvin Gardens lives!" Jimmy responds, "Marvin Gardens is... barely alive...he's in the rock 'n' roll retirement home down in Sarasota. He's got an IV bottle with Gatorade in it." So, that's where that came from - Jimmy himself kind of wrote the story -- I just put a few loose ends together =)
Well - there is a bit more irony to the whole thing. If you have the vinyl of Havana Daydreamin', the inscription starts, "Well, here I am at album four...There are now real Coral Reefers that have replaced the fictitious characters I used to employ (Farewell Marvin Gardens and Company)." The retirement of Marvin Gardens - both as written on the label - but symbolically as well (the decision not to use '15 Y/O Girlfriend') probably say a lot about JB's music. The next album, of course, was Changes and was probably the first one that starts to show the sounds that we think of as Jimmy Buffet music now - it's also his first major success. Take care...Stu firstname.lastname@example.org The University of Georgia Church of Buffett - Orthodox (or so goes the official cover up)
My search for the elusive Marvin Gardens brought me back to Chicago. I knew that Jimmy had hung around the folk bars in Chicago early in his career, traveling in the same circles as Mr. Gardens. Its hard to pick up old trails, especially trails that are almost 30 years old. I stopped in at Fitzgeralds, a local dive. The bartender was reminiscencing about the old days and all the old bars. They were talking about all the big names who used to hit places like The Earl of Old Town and the Amazing Grace and Stevie's old place, Somebody Else's Trouble. All the old names kept popping up, Steve Goodman, the Holstiens, Earl Pionke, Bonnie Koloc, Eddie Balchowsky... Its funny the things you find out when looking for the answer to life's other questions. I came looking for Marvin Gardens but I found two old timers talking about one of the "old Winos". You know Eddie? On "You had to be There", Jimmy dedicates "He Went to Paris" to a couple of old Winos who live in Chicago who are "still boogying their asses off". Eddie Balchowsky was one of them. But Jimmy didn't tell you the whole story about Eddie. Eddie went to Paris, we all know that. From there, Eddie made his way to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War. That's about all Jimmy tells you. Well Eddie was a bit of a hero in that little war but it didn't "leave him with only one eye". No, He didn't lose an eye. Eddie lost an arm, instead. Jimmy was right However. Losing an arm didn't slow Eddie down. Eddie went on with his life and "played the piano". He played it with only one arm. That's not an easy thing to do. Eddie wasn't really an old wino, either. Eddie was one of the people who worked at the Quiet Knight. One of the more successful folk bars of the '60s and '70s. Eddie was an inspiration to most of the performers who came to the Quiet Knight and on occasion Eddie would accompany singers on the piano, Mostly though, Eddie would play the piano after closing, and all the lights were off. The singers would usually still be there, half drunk and tired. And They'd listen to this man with one arm, playing quietly. They wouldn't say a word for fear that he may stop. The songs would fill the air with a sad, yet cheerful melancholy. Jimmy was right. You could learn a lot from old winos. It took a lot of guts and determination to be a one handed piano player/some time barkeep. and he was an inspiration to many of the performers at the Quiet Knight Alliotta-Haynes & Jeramiah were so impressed with Eddie that they also wrote a song about him. They titled it "For Eddie" No one knows where Eddie is, today. I assume he went fishing with Marvin. All I know is when I go home tonight, I think I'll drink a beer and give a toast for Eddie Balchowsky. He must've been a great man.
This song was written after Jimmy and Marvin went on a tree day bender. Marvin swore he could pick up more women with this line than Jimmy could with any other pick-up line known to man-kind. Marvin won the bet. By: Marvin Gardens 1973 I really do appreciate the fact you're sittin' here Your voice sounds so wonderful But yer face don't look too clear So bar maid bring a pitcher, another round o' brew Honey, why don't we get drunk and screw Chorus: Why don't we get drunk and screw I just bought a water bed, it's filled up for me and you They say you are a snuff queen Honey I don't think that's true So, why don't we get drunk and screw -- Spoken: "Pick it Coral Reefers, here we go..." (swing instrumental) Chorus: Why don't we get drunk and screw I just bought a waterbed it's filled up for me and you They say you are a snuff queen Honey I don't think that's true So why don't we get drunk and screw Yeah, now baby I say, (Lord!) Why don't we get drunk and screw
Marvin with Steve at the Earl of Old Town