Jimmy Buffett died in September, and several of his favorite artists honored him with a performance at the CMA Awards on Wednesday.
Ahead of the tribute, Mac McAnally, a guitarist and longtime member of Buffett’s Coral Reefer band, spoke to Fox News Digital about the late singer-songwriter, even sharing some of his final words.
“I saw him 24 hours before he was gone,” McAnally said, “and he was smiling wider than his head and saying, ‘What a hell of a ride, keep it going, keep the party going,’ and it’s our intention to do that.”
“I didn’t know what to say,” he admitted of that final visit with Buffett, “and I didn’t know if I could talk without crying, but I picked up a guitar and played, and we told a couple of tour stories and laughed. And he made sure that I knew that he wanted nobody to be sad, and everybody to keep the joy that he started rolling, rolling.”
Leading up to his death, Buffett had been “fighting Merkel Cell Skin Cancer for four years,” according to an obituary shared on his website.
He’d had to cancel numerous concerts due to his health, but “continued to perform during treatment, playing his last show, a surprise appearance in Rhode Island, in early July,” the obituary read.
After decades in the music business, his death had a major impact on countless fans, as well as fellow performers.
McAnally, along with Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band, performed a medley of Buffett’s songs at the CMA Awards on Wednesday that included “Margaritaville” and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.”
“Every connection I’ve ever had with Jimmy means something to me, because I wouldn’t be here without him,” the guitarist told Fox News Digital.
“But this particular night, when we just put out his last album, which he worked so hard on and put so much joy and labor into… I’m in this tribute with a bunch of people that he loved so much and that — everyone loves Jimmy — but he loved everyone that’s involved in this tribute tonight personally.”
He continued, “It means the world. So we’re going to be sending his music out as far as we can send it, and he’s going to be smiling at us, and we know that.”
Buffett was known for how intensely he enjoyed life and how much he promoted the idea that others do the same, and McAnally said that that sort of positivity was reflected in how Buffett wanted his fans to think of him after he passed away.
“He didn’t want anybody to be sad,” he said, “although you can’t help losing somebody that you look up to to that level, but he didn’t want anybody to be sad… we’re not going to be sad tonight.”
“We’re gonna send some love out with some Jimmy Buffett music, put our hearts up against the microphone and it’s gonna work, I got a feeling,” said McAnally.
When asked what he wanted people to remember most about Buffett, McAnally said, “He was just a big rolling ball of goodwill, and it didn’t matter what level you saw him on. If you met him at the grocery store, you would think the same thing as if you saw him onstage for all these years.
“He was really the character that everybody thought he was… he was smiling at everybody he crossed paths with, every day of his life, including the last one.”