As you probably know, Jimmy Buffett has long had an affinity with flying and space. On his new album Songs From St. Somewhere is the song The Rocket That Grandpa Rode, written about an encounter with Neil Armstrong’s family on the day of the final space shuttle launch.
Neil’s son relayed the following about the meeting:
As recalled by Rick Armstrong, one of the moonwalker’s two sons, he and his children were seated in the very last row of the bus. As they were driven past the voluminous Vehicle Assembly Building, he remarked something along the lines of “that’s where the rocket that grandpa rode was put together.”
Hearing this, the man seated in front of Armstrong and his family turned around and replied, “That sounds like a good idea for a song,” Rick Armstrong recounted in an e-mail to collectSPACE.
The exchange led to introductions, and Jimmy Buffett met the Armstrongs.
Buffett remembers it similarly, as told during the Radio Margaritaville album preview special for Songs From St. Somewhere:
Behind us there was this quiet couple and a couple of kids sitting there with their iPads like kids on a bus ride with a bunch of boring adults saying “when we gonna get there dad?” Then the dad says when we get there we’re going to go to the museum, we’re gonna go look at the shuttle, then we’re going to go see the rocket that grandpa rode. And I went “that is some kind of statement. The rocket that grandpa rode.” I was thinking “who could this be?” I snuck a look back and on the nametag was ‘Armstrong.’ It wasn’t Neil. It was his son and grandson.
We went through the tour and saw the Atlas rocket on display and the Apollo rockets, and when we got off the bus I introduced myself and said “you know there aren’t many people who could say that line you said to your son. You may see that line again. Is that ok?” And he said “sure.” So I can’t wait for the Armstrong family to hear that song.
In the album special, Jimmy added “I’m going into space, by the way. Before I’m done here.”
Read the full lyrics to “The Rocket That Grandpa Rode” and what Jimmy had to say about the song during the album special here.