‘This Place Is Pine Knob’: Jimmy Buffett Brings The Beach To The Midwest

By Gary Graff

Jimmy Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band played Pine Knob Music Theatre for the first time on June 29, 1982. Buffett is not the 50-year-old amphitheater’s most frequent visitor (see main story) but he has performed at the shed 32 more times and has become synonymous with summer fun in suburban Detroit.

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Cheeseburger in Motor City: Jimmy Buffett plays Pine Knob on June 30, 1982, among his 33 shows at the shed.
Photo by Ross Marino / Getty Images

Over the years, Buffett has generated plenty of memories at Pine Knob. Poison’s Bret Michaels hopped on stage with the band for “Margaritaville” in June 2010, two nights before Poison performed with Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Huey Lewis & the News opened Buffett’s 2016 stop. Buffett’s 1991 show was packaged for release with nugs.net.

Buffett acknowledges that Pine Knob is one of his favorite places to play and is more than happy to sing, or at least speak, its praises.

Pollstar: What is it about Pine Knob?

Jimmy Buffett: I like the crowd that comes to this place. Performers, when they’re coming through, they know certain areas that have really good fans of live music, whether it’s rock ‘n’ roll or whatever. This place has always had a great following, and there’s always been a great crowd that came out here. We weren’t sure how they’d feel about a couple of beach bums coming up from Florida, but they gravitated towards us immediately. Just getting to this level, filling it with that many people, was an amazing thing. You’re just appreciative that people start coming.

You were not unknown to the Detroit area, though.

I was playing clubs. I played the Raven Gallery in Southfield because it was on the circuit. I was by myself then, but people were very appreciative and very friendly to me and I never forgot that.

Were you aware of Pine Knob during the 10 years before you played there?

I knew about it because there were just a handful of the sheds. One thing is I didn’t come (to Pine Knob) and open for other acts; I came and headlined the first time. Back in those days, the Nederlanders (owned) this place and they had a belief in me to do it. The great thing is I’m still working with those guys. Thirty years later we’re still friends and partners on things.

What distinguishes Pine Knob from the other sheds you play?

Well, look how close everyone is. It has a proscenium stage that you do not see in other places – it sticks out and is really low, so you’re very close to the crowd. Other places, the stage is much higher, but even when it’s only inches I can tell the difference. It feels like I’m right on top of everybody out here, and I really like that.

The Jimmy Buffett experience is really made for outdoors, too.

That’s what I really learned from the audience here and those other sheds is how different it is when we played and we played what we preached outside. We were authentic in the way we did it, because we dressed like we did when we were on the beach. I felt like we were bringing the ocean to the Midwest, from a beach bum perspective, and everyone connected to that. There was no master plan; we just did it and they came. Then they started dressing up. We didn’t say, ‘Hey, go out and get these outfits.’ They went and bought Hawaiian shirts and we came to town and that was it. There was no internet back when we started; it was all word of mouth – ‘You’re gonna have a good time if you come see us, outside.’ And they still do.

Are you happy it’s called Pine Knob again?

They change the names of all of them. I’m sorry, but I don’t call them by (which company has the naming rights). I call them what they are to me and this place is Pine Knob.