When Edinboro’s J.L. Jamison graduated from General McLane High School in 1980, his background in music was pretty simple: he never played an instrument, he couldn’t tell you much about music notes and he never took a music class.
He was a fan of Aerosmith, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, but most importantly, he loved Rock and Roll.
Fast-forward 35 years, and he’s running a 48-man band crew for Jimmy Buffett.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” Jamison said. “I went to concerts and everything growing up in Erie, but I never pictured myself doing anything like this.”
Jamison left Edinboro right out of high school to work at a ski resort in Lake Tahoe. While working for the lodge, Jamison started working for a local band, Unicorn.
He started doing lighting and then headed down to Key West to work with a variety of bands, including The Producers, the Bangles and Berlin. It wasn’t long before he got the call.
“When I started touring with bands, we would stay at people’s houses or camp grounds or in one hotel room. The sound guy and I roomed together, and he was the one who got me on the tour with Jimmy,” Jamison said. “When I first got hired, I didn’t know who Jimmy was. But I got a call saying, ‘they want to interview you and no one on our tour has to room together, not even the t-shirt guy.’ That was the coolest thing to me – not sharing a room.”
With that, Jamison said he was sold. He headed down to Hawaii in December of 1984. The following summer, he was called back to join Buffett’s lighting crew. It was there that another opportunity came up.
“[Buffett] and I were always running into each other, and we’re at a bar and he goes, ‘I’m thinking about opening a club in Key West, you should come help us out.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, great idea,’ but I didn’t really think he was serious. Then I got a call, ‘Buffett’s down in Key West and wants to know where you are.’”
Jamison was one of Margaritaville’s first employees when it opened in 1985. When he wasn’t on tour, he would serve as the soundman for the restaurant.
Although he still books the bands for Margaritaville, including Edinboro’s own High Life and Tiger Maple String Band, Jamison’s involvement with Jimmy Buffett has expanded from when he first started as a member of his lighting crew. Now, he serves as everything from a Project Stage Manger to Crew Chief to Entertainment Director and Studio Manager.
“I run the band crew, which is all of the crew that takes care of the musicians. From lighting to sound and video to wardrobe and set, that all goes through me,” Jamison said.
Jamison has toured all over with the band, from Tokyo to Dubai to the West Indies and Caribbean.
“We were just at the Byron Bay Bluesfest, and that was really cool because I know a lot of these bands from here in the States, so it was fun getting together on the other side of the world,” Jamison said.
When he’s not on the road, Jamison also runs Buffett’s studio, Shrimpboat Sound. It was there that they recorded George Strait’s album, Troubadour, which earned a Grammy Award for Best Country Album. An image of the Grammy-award winning album hangs in his cottage in Edinboro, which he frequents quite often to visit his family.
Jamison’s mother was a librarian and reading teacher at Edinboro Elementary School, and his father was a football coach and health and physical education teacher for General McLane High School. His four older sisters Beth, Kathy, Cindy and Jenny also graduated from General McLane.
“My parents are 93 and 90, so I want to spend more time with them. I was gone so much after high school, it’s nice to spend time with them now,” Jamison said. “I also love Edinboro Lake. I grew up on the lake, so it was like my playground. Those are my favorite things about coming back home – family, friends and the lake.”
Jamison and his wife live in Key West with a beagle, Clover, and a cat named Ritto.
He just recently got back to Key West from Europe, his first time home since Hurricane Irma went over the Keys.
“The damage and loss of historic landmarks is pretty hard to explain, but it’s one tough little island chain and seeing the whole community come together, we will bounce back in no time.”