No-Brand Nudo

Jimmy Buffett Cover Band Keeps the Trop Rock Going

This article is about The Boat Drunks, a longtime popular band in Champaign-Urbana and beyond. It was originally published in the summer of 2006 in a C-U rag called The Hub.

Howie Golub doesn’t have a favorite album by Jimmy Buffett, but there is a lyric by the artist that has always caught his attention: “It never is too late to make a brand new start,” from Buffett’s song “Knees of My Heart.”

Golub plays harmonica, congas, percussion, and contributes vocals for The Boat Drunks, a Jimmy Buffett tribute band that has entertained crowds in Champaign-Urbana and in other parts of the country since 2001, playing Buffett’s songs and its originals tunes.

Joining Golub on stage are fellow Drunks Jake Tatar (vocals, guitar), Mike Miller (bass, guitar, vocals), Andy Gaines (keyboards, background vocals), Larry Lister (drums), and Michael B. Favreau (saxaphone, flutes, woodwinds).

“It’s never too late,” said Golub, who has been playing in different bands in the Midwest since the mid-1970s, including with country rockers Appaloosa. “We sometimes look at each other and go, ‘We never thought it would get this far.’ This has just been a real good experience.”

The Boat Drunks’ latest good experience was releasing the new album Wahine Man, a fiery collection of original songs that expand upon the band’s musical chops and songwriting subjects.

The album has a carefree, Buffett-style outlook that tackles weighty life issues with a drink in one hand and golden hooks from the other. On Wahine Man, The Boat Drunks put Buffett’s sense of humor on display by confronting important topics such as how to make the perfect margarita (“Tangy Margaritas”) and how to take life as it comes while savoring the moments along the way (“Wind It Up”).

Other tunes on the CD revel in the joy of one-night stands (“Torrid Affair”), demonstrate human fortitude by singing about the perils of attending church on Sunday after a night of debauchery (“Hypo-Christian”), and poke fun at washed-up musicians (“Big in Japan”).

Though The Boat Drunks’ endearing tropical rock sound permeates many of the songs on Wahine Man, the band cranked out a few country rockers, some genuine rock ‘n’ roll tunes, and delved into swinging blues. The album title track tune has a smooth, lounge-like sound.

Two of the songs on the album — “A Pirate on the Caribbean” and the crowd favorite “Hollow Man” — are revamped versions from The Boat Drunks’ previous album, This Ain’t Duval Street, which has sold approximately 2,500 copies. Golub said the addition of a saxophonist to the lineup (Favreau), as well as the contributions of several outside musicians, made the opportunity to redo a few past tunes irresistible.

Guest musicians on Wahine Man include Doyle Grisham, the steel guitar player for Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band; Billy Payne and Paul Barrere from Little Feat; and Quincy Yates from the Knoxville, Tennessee, trop rock band St. Somewhere.

Golub wrote two of the tracks on Wahine Man — “Torrid Affair” and “Wake Up” — and said the band generally writes its songs individually.

“I think everybody writes from their own musical background, and that’s kind of where I come from,” he said.

Popularity growing outside of Champaign-Urbana

Thanks to exposure on Radio Margaritaville and from playing lots of live shows in varied cities, The Boat Drunks’ music is getting noticed beyond fanatic Parrot Head members in C-U.

Steve Huntington, program director for Radio Margaritaville, heard The Boat Drunks live in Key West, Florida, which led to exposure on Sirius. The band also benefited by signing with Hot Tomato Records, the same label Little Feat is on. Record distribution will be more prominent for the Drunks; Golub said the new CD will hit Best Buy stores and other retail outlets.

The band’s forte, however, is playing live in front of enthusiastic crowds. Jimmy Buffett fans are not a shy group, and The Boat Drunks thrive onstage as listeners let loose by dancing, forming conga lines, doing “crowd circles,” and yelling “Social!” at the top of their lungs.

Boat Drunk fans have also had the pleasure of watching the band play live with past and present members of Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band, which Golub said is always a treat.

“We enjoy playing in a bigger band format, and I think they (the Coral Reefer Band) enjoy playing in a more scaled-down format,” he said. “The Parrot Heads and fans really enjoy meeting the members of Jimmy’s band.”

For Golub, the experience of playing with The Boat Drunks has been a renewed chance at music and a lot of fun. Playing charity events for good causes, such as last year’s C-U in the Prairibbean, which raised $20,000 to fight Alzheimer’s disease, makes the endeavor even more worthwhile — for him and his bandmates.

“I think I appreciate this more now,” Golub said of his music career. “I’ve been at it a long time in one form or another. I appreciate the chance that I’m still able to do it, and that something tangible is coming out of it.”

Photo by stevosdisposable


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