The Buford Pusser Incident

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In 1974, Jimmy Buffett had a run-in with famed “Walking Tall” sheriff Buford Pusser. The story is referred to in “Presents To Send You” from the 1974 album A1A and also in “Semi-True Stories” from the 1999 album Beach House On The Moon.

In both songs, few details are mentioned. But at a show in 1974 at the Exit Inn in Nashville, just a few months after the incident, Buffett took some time to tell the crowd about the altercation:

“There were a lot of rumors circling around that I had an encounter with this young man. Which are true. We finished doing our recording over at Woodland Studio, real happy that the album had come out so well. All the lightweights had went out to get a few bottles of champagne and celebrate. Sammy Creason and Chuck Nease and I decided to go out and get a bottle of Cuervo Gold Tequilla and 3 straws. We went at it and in 15 minutes we were just knee-crawlin’ drunk. So we proceeded to the flashiest night spot in town, the roof of the King of the Road Hotel.

We’re there dining and dancing. Ronnie Milsap was on vacation. Sammy Creason was with me, so we provided just a gala of entertainment. Me on acoustic guitar so drunk I couldn’t hit the chords and him just pounding the drums out in 3-quarter time. Ran everybody out. We got the screaming munchies and we were going to Charlie Nickens to eat. And I couldn’t find my rent-a-car, which was parked somewhere amidst thousands of cars in the parking lot of the fabulous, plush King of the Road hotel. It was a little bitty car. It was hiding among many big ones there. And there was a Tennessee Prosecutors convention going on there. If they had made it to room 819 they would’ve had a closed door case.

So I stood on the hood of this car with a pair of… actually they were old Ra Ra’s that I bought in Miami for 2 bucks. They were white and brown old Ra Ra’s but they were golf shoes so I had to take the cleats out but they still had the posts in them so they clicked a lot. I was standing on the hood of this particular car and as fate would have it it belonged to a rather large man who came up behind me and threatened my life real quickly. And I hadn’t been in a fight since junior high school on the city bus in Mobile. He came up and said “Son you stay right there, you’re under arrest”. So I politely turned around and said “You kiss my ass”. He didn’t. Instead he followed me over to the car which Sammy had found. I got in the driver’s side and Sammy got in the passenger’s side. My window was up, his was down and this fellow poked his head in and said “Would you like for me to turn this car over?”.

I was not scared of this individual. I just thought he was some ex-football player turned counselor. And Sammy said “look whatever damage we did ABC will pay for everything” which was awfully generous of Sammy since he didn’t have the authority to say so. Being a good company man I took up for my company and said “No they won’t. I’m still gonna beat your ass if you don’t leave us alone”. With that he pulled up then stuck his big head and his hand in and grabbed me by my hair until it separated from my head. I had a big bald spot on the back of it and I looked like a monk for about 3 months. Then he punched Sammy right in the nose. We knew he wasn’t kidding. So Sammy defended himself bravely with a big pen. He starts stabbing at this man’s arm trying to get it out of the window because we couldn’t start the car because with the new modern features of ‘74 automobiles you can not start your car unless your seat belt’s buckled and we were too drunk to get ours hooked up.

So we sit there while this man pounded the hell out of both of us. I looked over at Creason and I said “Sammy I don’t wanna die in a Gremlin.” Eaten by a shark, killed in a plane crash, but what’s my mother gonna say? Smashed to death in a Gremlin in the parking lot of the plush King of the Road hotel. Nope. So I mustered all the courage and energy I had and all the coordination I had left in my poor body and got the seat belt buckled and went to Charlie Nickens. We ordered our barbecue and on the way back we hit the Jefferson St. Bridge. Luckily there was no one around so we just backed up and headed for the hotel.

Got back, and we decided that this man may be lurking in the bushes or else may haven been snorkeling around in the pool trying to scoop up coins that people threw in. So we decided to defend ourselves with a classic southern weapon: a tire tool. So we destroyed the back end of the Gremlin looking for the tire tool, found it. Walked through the lobby of these prosecutors, and we had caused a turmoil by this time. And got up to the 8th floor where we were staying and figured we were all safe. But I had forgotten my key.

So I had to go back downstairs and Sammy said well you take this I’m not going back down there. And he gave me the weapon, which I stuck in my back pocket. Walked down into the plush lobby of the plush King of the Road hotel, walked up to the desk and asked for the key to my room. This man snuck up behind me and took the tire tool out of my back pocket. I whipped around and I said “look you, that was for my protection and you started this whole thing. I didn’t mean to get on your car and I’m still gonna beat your ass if you don’t quit bothering me.” At this point, two detectives seized me, drug me into the elevator and said “son, we would call the police and have you arrested. You’ve caused quite a disturbance here tonight. But we figure your just lucky to be alive because that was Buford Pusser.” And I went “Oh. 8th floor please.”

Sheriff Buford Pusser

Sheriff Buford Pusser


from “Semi-True Stories”

Well, the picture is fuzzy
And the details are sordid
It was on the same day
God’s Own Drunk was recorded
A walking tall sheriff
And a big Cadillac
And me and my golf shoes
On the hood makin’ tracks
This daring young singer
Was under attack


from “Presents To Send You”

There sits a fifth of tequila
God I swore I’d never drink it again
But my last little bout
I had my hair pulled out by a man
who really wasn’t my friend
And I know I’ll never see him again