Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Phil Clark: A Pirate Looks At 40

The infamous Phil Clark
Jimmy Buffett 's song, "A Pirate Looks At Forty" has been a long-time anthem for those who dream of quitting the rat race and sailing off to some exotic island and living the life of a beach bum. While most people believe this song to be autobiographical, Buffett actually wrote the song about a Key West resident named Phil Clark.

In the early seventies, when Buffett was an unknown hippie folk singer trying to scrape a living together playing Key West watering holes, he met a sometime bartender, sometime marijuana smuggler named Phil Clark. Probably a good ten years older than Jimmy, the mysterious Clark regaled Buffett with stories of his adventures sailing around the Caribbean, drinking, drugging and romancing beautiful women.
Buffett during his hippie days

Not much is known about Clark before he showed up in Key West (some say he was an insurance man from up north somewhere) but around the keys he was thought of as a modern day twentieth century pirate. His hedonistic lifestyle was a big influence on Buffett and you have to wonder, would there be a Parrotthead Nation if Jimmy had never met Phil Clark?

Eventually, Clark got into trouble with the law and fled Key West. (After he went on the run, locals started referring to Buffett 's song as, "A Pirate Looks At Five To Ten". He reportedly drowned near Sausalito, California a few years later.

Here is a video of Jimmy Buffett and Jerry Jeff Walker (who also lived in Key West in the early seventies) reminiscing about Phil Clark.

For more information on Phil Clark check out these books:
"Jimmy Buffett:  The Key West Years" by Tom Corcoran
"Mile Marker Zero" by William Mckeen
Both are available at:

--Rock N Roll Casey
January 13, 2016
Shangri-La, Ohio

Casey's Website


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  2. I am proud to say I was fortunate enough to get to stand and have a drink with Phil at a few bars, more than a few times. A classic gentleman.

  3. Phil spent a month on my couch in NYC before we drove down to KW in 1965...he broke his leg demonstrating a paratrooper jump out of a first-story window. (everyone else jumped safely)