Q & A with A1A: The Official and Original Jimmy Buffett Tribute Show Celebrates the Big “25”
Article and Interview by Ashton Pike

For 25 years, A1A has been acclaimed as the Official and Original Jimmy Buffett Tribute Show, and for 25 years, they have been excelling with loyal Parrot Heads in tow. From its start as a one man band in 1991 to its transformative growth over the past 25 years that has resulted from overcoming multiple changes in band members, economic recessions, and personal hardships, A1A has repeatedly proven that they are a one-of-a-kind, unparalleled Trop Rock band that is here to stay; and the residents of Margaritaville couldn’t be more thrilled.

With a few moments to spare between sound check and show time, a few of the current members of A1A – Jeff Pike, Rick Meeder, Eric Baumgartner, Chris Blackwell, and Vance Kelly – including Manager Kathy Mullen laid out the facts of what it’s like being a part of a band that’s become well-established and at the top of the Trop Rock genre by its quarter of a century birthday.

Q: Over the past 25 years, A1A has played nearly 1,000 shows worldwide. During your last 4 years as the piano, keyboard and vocals of the Trop Rock performance, what has been the most memorable show you have ever played?

A: (Eric Baumgartner, Piano, Keyboard and Vocals, 2012) Hands down, playing on stage with Jimmy Buffett at The Master’s this spring. He’s the one who created the whole genre of music, and as we came up on stage to join him during “Change in Latitude”, it was the coolest thing to hear Jimmy Buffett’s voice come out of my monitor on stage instead of Jeff’s! I didn’t expect that to be the thing that surprised me, but it was just an incredibly surreal moment that I’ll never forget.

Q: We all know that putting 7 men in a green room together before every show has most likely resulted in some interesting stories and jokes. How would you describe the charisma of the band back stage?

A: (Chris Blackwell, Lead Guitar, 2014) Hmm, well. We’re the Three’s Company of tribute bands. There’s clear defiance of one another’s ideals, misunderstandings running rampant and underpinning rage. No, no, I’m just kidding. All jokes aside, there is clearly a brotherhood between the guys back stage, before and after shows.

Q: As one of the few members of A1A who currently have been with the band for over 10 years, what is something that you notice hasn’t changed over the years even when the band’s members did?

A: (Vance Kelly, Saxophone and Production, 2004) The comedy! There’s always one thing at every show that becomes the most memorable, no matter how good or bad the show was. We always have good stories to tell regardless, and it’s like a connector for the band – something we can all talk about or relate to that builds the bond between the guys.

Q: As the founder of A1A, you’ve been a part of it all for the past 25 years. What has been the largest obstacle the band has had overcome?

A: (Jeff Pike, Lead Vocals and Acoustic Guitar, 1991) As the Parrot Head Club has grown over the years, our popularity also grew, and other bands starting popping up trying to replicate what we do. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the rising Trop Rock bands weren’t as high of quality as A1A, and in turn, their presence in the genre watered down the respect of what we do on some level. As some clients have chosen the lesser, inexpensive bands, we’ve had to constantly prove why we’re better and worth the money in comparison. We’ve had to prove why we are the true Official and Original Jimmy Buffett Tribute Band.

Q: So, A1A essentially laid the path for other Trop Rock bands who then attempted to follow in the band’s footsteps. What makes A1A unique to stand out among the newer Jimmy Buffett Tribute bands?

A: (Rick Meeder, Bass Guitar and Vocals, 2009) There are several  bands out there doing Trop Rock like Jeff said, but no one is doing it how we’re doing it – or to the extent that we’re doing it. The whole concept of A1A that started 25 years ago has evolved immensely in production and material, which has given A1A the true Buffett persona throughout the years that other bands are just not able to match.

Q: Though the effect is different for everyone, what have you gained personally by being a part of a high-production, Jimmy Buffett entertainment band like A1A?

A: (Wayne Viar, Drums and Percussion, 2009) In the last 7 years as a member of A1A, I’d say I’ve gained a huge appreciation for quality production. From the planning stage and getting the gear to the logistics and all the way to the end of the show, I see the immense effort necessary to do the quality job that A1A does for every show, and it’s an insightful and humbling influence.

Q: As the 25th Anniversary year peaks at the halfway mark this summer, what would you say has been A1A’s biggest accomplishment of 2016 so far?

A: (Vance Kelly, Saxophone and Production, 2004) As Eric mentioned earlier, playing with Jimmy Buffett at the Master’s this past April was an incredible day in the history of A1A. For Jimmy Buffett to have requested A1A to be his famous Coral Reefer Band for the show, it was a huge honor.

Q: In your short two years and still counting as A1A’s Manager, the band has had nothing but incredible things to say about you and your dedication to A1A’s present and future. How have you seen the band progress?

A: (Kathy Mullen, Manager, 2014) I have the shortest tenure with A1A, but I’m in the middle of and witnessing significant changes! We have created a business model with a foundation for immense growth, and we are striving to put a fresh look into A1A by adding more shows at new venues with our overarching goal being to create a bigger and better show, aligning more with Jimmy Buffett. With a phenomenal band where each member has extraordinary talent, bringing their talent together to form A1A combined with the ongoing changes guarantees numerous performances to remember.

Q: Now we know what the woman in charge has to say about the future of A1A in terms of business, but what do you see or hope to see in the future for A1A as the man who started it all?

A: (Jeff Pike, Lead Vocalist and Acoustic Guitar, 1991) Overall, I would like to see us do more original music to break back into the market as well as make our shows bigger, production wise. However, to put it simply, I would just like to keep this band in the future. A1A has conquered numerous obstacles, made great progress and has changed frequently, but it is truly an original, and so my hope is to keep it.

With each show, A1A proves why they are the Official and Original Jimmy Buffett Tribute Show. Performing classic favorites that get the crowd off of their feet and clapping to the beat like “Cheeseburger in Paradise” or swaying on the dance floor with their loved one like “Come Monday”, each performance is truly memorable for Parrot Heads stuck on island time.

The inclusion of A1A originals into every show exposes the band’s own personality and is evidence of their hard work and dedication over the past 25 years to not just being a Jimmy Buffett Tribute Show, but also being a success in the Tropical Rock music industry. Well, leis off to this group of talented gentlemen and cheers to hopefully 25 more years of A1A’s spectacular shows. Happy 25th Birthday, fellas!

By Ashton Pike

www.twentysomethingandfearless.wordpress.com

There may not have been cheeseburgers served, but it was most certainly paradise. This past winter (December 2015), A1A lived the high life as they packed their bags and flew to the Grand Cayman Islands in anticipation for a birthday show like no other. When A1A Manager Kathy Mullen received an email from Ellen Schwartz regarding a private party featuring A1A for her long-time significant other’s birthday, she beamed with excitement, knowing an incredible opportunity had just risen for the band, but what she nor the rest of the band could have prepared for was the astounding, once-in-a-lifetime experience they were about to witness firsthand.

Adrien Briggs is an icon on the island of Grand Cayman and was the man of the weekend as his love for Jimmy Buffett and his status as a Parrot Head brought the A1A crew to the island over 1,000 miles away from Atlanta, GA. Co-owner of the family-owned Sunset House (Grand Cayman’s Hotel for Divers, By Divers – sunsethouse.com), Rum Point Club (rumpointclub.com) and Red Sail Sports (redsailcayman.com), Adrien has brought immense success not only to himself but to the island he calls home. His businesses have endured through years of operation and continue to be a huge asset to the island’s tourism. But for the few days the crew was in town, it was all play and no work for Adrien’s big birthday!

As the Managing Director of Travel Pros (travelproscayman.com) and, according to Kathy, just about the best woman to work with, Ellen Schwartz, Adrien’s significant other, was able to plan and book flights from Atlanta to the Grand Cayman Islands for the band plus one – myself being the plus one. Between her patient back-and-forth communication prior to the trip and Adrien’s incredible hospitality by allowing us to reside at Sunset House, the two are a true dynamic duo that brighten any room (or beach!).

The day before the birthday soiree, Adrien and Ellen treated the band to a day in the life of an islander on a permanent vacation. We set sail on the Spirit Cayman with Red Sail Sports in the early morning with the sun high and the skies clear. Anchored far out in crystal blue water near the northern tip of the island, we got the unbelievable opportunity to snorkel with stingrays in a bay area that has popularly become known as Stingray City. Surprisingly, they were calm and loving creatures, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t on our toes a few times! After a day out on the water, Adrien and Ellen brought us back to Rum Point Club, one of Adrien’s top successes tucked away on the northern tip of the island, where colorful bungalows, picnic tables and decorations brought the quaint beach area to life. The band along with everyone in tow were all smiles and tanned skin at the end of the day as we sipped on beachy beverages and watched the sun sink into the ocean.

Day two on the island meant it was back to business with an eventful and exciting day ahead of us! Sound check with the band began promptly at 3:00pm, and with the band in high spirits and the sun shining bright, it was a beautiful day in paradise! As 8:00pm neared when the show began, guests arrived by boats large and small, donning their best island attire – that’s right, lots of florals! Lights were strung between palm trees and guests were treated to a variety of gourmet treats from fresh fish to delicious meats, and of course the desserts had a table of their own. The Parrot Head theme held true throughout the party as margaritas were poured, Coronas were sipped and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” began to play. It didn’t take long for the large crowd to hit the sandy dance floor as A1A lured the party-goers with the classic “Margaritaville”. Adrien and Ellen took their well-deserved spotlight in front of the stage and danced ‘til the music stopped and not a moment sooner.

From the island cuisines and themed decor to the beautiful beach backdrop and wonderfully pleased Adrien and Ellen, the night could not have gone any better. Ellen transformed Rum Point Club into a true Maragaritaville like a dream come true for Adrien, and A1A delivered seamlessly. Although it was bitter sweet to pack up and leave the beautiful island, we want to thank Adrien Briggs and Ellen Schwartz yet again for an incredible experience and a wonderful evening. A1A is honored to have been chosen to help give Adrien the birthday celebration he truly deserved. We hope to be back in the Grand Caymans very soon. After all, changes in latitude, changes in attitude!

Follow A1A The Original Jimmy Buffett Tribute Show on social media: @A_1_A or check out our website at a1alive.com

Also, search #A1AintheGrandCay on Twitter to find great pictures and videos from our stay in the Grand Caymans!

Hello Trop Rock Fans and Jimmy Buffett Fanatics,

I wanted to drop you a quick note today to quickly catch up. I wanted to let you know that A1A had a fantastic season and are in the process of working on our new show for 2016.
2015 brought us many extremely complimentary reviews on the bands performance. Pretty much everyone said it is the best version of A1A that they have ever seen. All of our clients were very happy and it was  such a joy to be onstage. I am sure that a lot of that had to do with the addition of guitarist, Chris Blackwell, new management in Mullen Music Management, the return of our Production Team, Chad Stewart and Stewart Productions and saxophone player and audio production manager, Vance Kelly. While we did not achieve all we set out to do this year I am pleased with how far we have come since this time last year. The band is happy, well and we are all looking forward to what 2016 brings. Thanks again to everyone who has supported us for the past 24 years.

Check out our photo page for pics from past performances. Then book us for a show!

Let’s Get Tropical!

Jeff Pike

Greetings Phriends and Parrot Heads,

Noticing that it has been awhile since my last update, I figured there was no time like the present to let everyone know what we have been up to. I am pleased to say that our spring and summer so far have proven to be quite successful. It has also proven to be very HOT. Yes, this has indeed been a sweltering season down here in good ole’ Hotlanta. Seeing that the majority of our shows are outside we all have lost a little weight…uh..I think..:-)

The last half of 2014 and all of 2015 has been a huge year of change for A1A, and not all of our changes have been at all easy or pleasant. Yes, it has been a really tough year of growth in many ways. But they say out of great pain, change and struggle that great success is possible. Looking where the band is today as we sit here in the dog days of 2015, I can say this to be true. All of our shows this year have been extremely well attended and our popularity seems to keep right on moving. For this I am eternally grateful. We have had many people come up and tell us that they have never heard the band sound any better than it does now. That really means a lot and has given us all an excitement for what lies ahead.

I have updated the photo section here at a1a-live.com with many photos from some of the shows we have done this year. I invite you to check them out so you can share some of our memories with us. I have also added photos to our Facebook page. So get your social media hat on, grab a margarita, sit down and catch up with us. Then drop us a line and give us your thoughts. Also, don’t forget to sign up for our mailing list. Thanks for everyone who has been out to see us this year. But the year is not over yet and there is still music and memories to be made. So check our concert calendar and make it out to a show. I look forward to performing for you. :-)

Let’s Get Tropical!

Jeff Pike

Well, I have to say that the gig this past Saturday evening at Pinckney Hall in Bluffton, South Carolina turned out a lot different than we thought it was going to. The event was for a Del Webb retirement community and it was their first Parrot Head Function. Being a 55 and older retirement community I don’t think we were expecting the kind of party and reception that we received. Much to our surprise, the entire event was sold out and the hall and attendants were decorated to the hilt. With party attitudes to match! They stayed all night, danced pretty much nonstop and had one of the best conga lines I have ever seen. It was a fantastic evening and everyone enjoyed themselves immensely.

The band looked and sounded wonderful and we were all very happy with the gig. I want to send out special thanks to Vance Kelly and Kathy Mullen for help with the BEAUTIFUL new backdrops that came in just in time for the gig this weekend. Absolutely stunning! You two really made it shine.  Also thanks to Vance for getting us a trailer, and for Wayne and Eric in helping with rehearsals and sets while I have been absent for the past few weeks. The extra effort everyone has put forth is paying off and it is greatly appreciated, by me and the audience. Nothing can be finer than to be in Carolina…..with cheeseburgers.

Let’s get tropical!

Jeff

Hello Friends and Phans,

Well, we played our first show of the season on March 21 and I want to share my enthusiasm with you. The event took place at Gordon State College in Barnesville, Georgia where we were part of the Founders Day Celebration and annual fundraiser for their scholarship fund. Their goal for the evening was $25,000.00. We are pleased to say that they reached it before our performance was even over. Everyone at the College enjoyed the concert so much that they had one of the longest conga lines in A1A history! This first show of the year was very important to the band for many reasons, and I would like to share them with you.

First, it marked the first show with our new guitarist Chris Blackwell. Chris is one of Atlanta’s finest guitar players and we all knew what a blessing it was for us when he joined the band. He blew everyone away on this first gig and brought a different feel to our show that we have never had. In one word – Wow!

I am also extremely pleased to have Vance Kelly back with the band. Vance has worn many hats in A1A over the years and it is just not the same when he is on hiatus. Looking back onstage to see him behind the keyboards and blowing the saxophone again had me smiling all night. Having two keyboard players in the band has always been something I knew would add something very special to our sound. Guess what? I was right.

It was also long awaited treat to welcome back Chad Stewart and Stewart Productions into the A1A Family. The quality, work ethic, professionalism and state of the art audio and lighting production that Chad and Stewart Productions bring to A1A is unprecedented. What he brings to A1A is of the highest quality. Quite frankly, he is the best of the best and the sky is the limit when he is involved.

Working alongside Chad Stewart this year is Mark Joseph. Mark runs his audio and light production company, MJ Sound Solutions. We were unsure at first how two companies would work together but it is turning out to be perfect. Mark brings a friendly and professional attitude to the band that makes us all feel like family. It is going to be a joy to have him on board.

Last but not least I want to thank our new business manager, Kathy Mullen. Kathy came on board this year to help run the band and move us upward and onward to the next level. Her willingness, strength and passion to continuously go the extra mile has been a key factor in us being able to turn a lot of things around so quickly in 2015. Starting our year out with a great success.

I am humble and thankful for all of the multi-talented people that I am blessed to share the stage with. I am very proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to having you hear this amazing band, once again giving you the best Jimmy Buffett Tribute Show that money can buy.

Let’s Get Tropical!
Jeff Pike

Well, here it is the first week of 2015 and I honestly cannot believe it. Even though we are warned by our elders throughout our entire life at how faster time goes by when you get older, I don’t think anyone ever really believes it until they get there. Well, at least that has been my experience.

I do hope that your Christmas season and New Years Eve were pleasant. Mine definitely was. Aside from having  the great opportunity to perform with The Rhythm Jets and Mercy Myra at The SERV Ball in Atlanta, I was blessed with the good fortune of spending a lot of time with my family and my girlfriend, more so than usual than in recent years past. It was absolutely wonderful. It all just went so fast. I really do wish that it had lasted a lot longer…But it didn’t and we are now 5 days into a New Year with a lot to do.

I want to thank everyone who has stood by the band for the past 24 years. It really has been a wild ride. Actually, it still continues to be one and we are loving the track we are on at the moment. 2014 was a year filled with of a lot of changes in my life and I am hoping to implement many more in 2015. I hope you will join me, and I wish you also a year of change, prosperity and happiness.

See you on the road! Let’s Get Tropical!

Jeff Pike

Greetings A1A Friends and Fans Old and New,

As the old year winds down with a new one fast approaching, I am feeling a lot of emotions about my past 23 years with A1A. The importance that A1A has played in the birth of the enormous and still growing Parrot Head and Trop Rock Community still fills me with pride. The fact that the band, and myself, have managed to last this long is also something I am very proud of. Especially in the declining state that the music industry has been in for quite some time now. Yes, I have seen much come and go since I first joined, and then started performing, for The Atlanta Parrot Head Club (The very first club for those not in the know) way back in 1989. And while there is much I could probably complain about, I sit here today writing you with much thankfulness, gratefulness, enthusiasm and awareness.

I am very thankful for all of the people who have stuck with the band through thick and thin for the past 23 years. I am also quite grateful to all of the band members and behind the scenes people that have helped keep this machine rolling during their time aboard. We have moved fast and we have moved slow, but we have always managed to keep the wheels rolling. Of course, occasionally a wheel would roll off and we would crash. So yes, some members have come and gone. But I have learned that if you are really going to grow, as an individual and as a business, then change is inevitable and it should be looked at in a positive light. Not being one keen on change I have always had difficulty with that concept. But it seems that with each incarnation of the band we manage to find a new level for us to aspire to. It keeps things periodically fresh, new and has brought to all of us our own personal and professional challenges for growth. Be that as it may, it is with mixed emotions when I say this is where I sit with A1A on the brink of 2015.

2014 was a year of great personal and professional change in my life and in the life of A1A.
I will tell you that in many aspects of my professional life I feel that I have been drifting for far too long. It was through much soul searching, coaching, life recovery work and wonderful opportunities of growth and awareness which entered my life, that I came to a realization in early 2014 that it was time to get back in charge of the team. The time was right and I was once again ready to be the ball and make some changes. It has been a long road to get where I am today and I will be honest in saying that it has not been without conflict, pain or loss. But amidst the difficult changes within the band, we can all say that we have grown and are looking forward to what the future brings with our own respective projects. So while it is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Chaz, Ansley and Nico from our A1A family, we are very excited and looking forward to what Chris Blackwell, Scotty Sells, Vance Kelly and our new management/marketing/media team of ImageMil Studios and Mullen Music Management have in store for us.

I can honestly say that I have never had this much high end creative, marketing, media, musical talent and power within and around A1A throughout the entire history of the band. The dedication, drive and team spirit that all of these people around me are conveying is deeply soul stirring and very big. Great things are happening and I am feeling extremely blessed. Stay tuned for our new website, our new promo video, our new EPK, and a new show and look for 2015. I have to say, A1A is a beast that will not be put down. We always seem to get back up again. Stronger than before and ready to grab the biggest Parrot by the beak.
Wishing everyone a New Year full of growth, awareness and positive changes.
Now….let’s get tropical!

Jeff Pike

A1A performed in the Lionsgate Major Motion Picture Release, “What To Expect When You’re Expecting,” which was released in May of 2012. The movie stars Dennis Quaid, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Chris Rock, Brooklyn Decker and more. We are happy to announce that we also have one song on the soundtrack. The movie was released in May of 2012 and the DVD and Soundtrack are now available. Pick them up and enjoy!