Special Photo ---- A1A founder Jeff Pike, right, performs Jimmy Buffet tunes with Israel Hands during a concert.
Although he's made a good living for some 20 years as the leader of A1A, known as "The Official and Original Jimmy Buffett Tribute Show," Atlanta native Jeff Pike admits that Buffett was not necessarily his favorite musical artist when he was growing up.
"In 1978-79, I lived, breathed, slept and could have eaten Dan Fogelberg," Pike said during a recent telephone interview. "He was my hero. I'm a big classic rock fan, but I've always been into the Fogelberg singer-songwriter thing."
Pike will bring his five-piece band to Conyers on Saturday, June 8 for a fundraiser on behalf of the Conyers Rockdale Council of the Arts. The 8 p.m. concerts (doors open at 6 p.m.) is set to be performed at the Olde Town Pavilion.
Pike, a Woodward Academy graduate who studied voice and piano at both Shorter and Clayton State, said he'd been performing a one-man acoustic tribute to Buffett in the late 1980s when he fell in with Scott Nickerson, who developed the original Parrot Head Club. The duo formed A1A (named after the Florida road that runs from Fernandina Beach to the Keys and after Buffett's 1974 album) and things really took off in the early 1990s.
"At the time, nobody else in the country was doing what we did," Pike said, describing Buffett's musical style as "trop-rock." "And as a result, we got to know Jimmy and made everything legal. He likes the band because we do a good job of promoting him. We just grew with it -- it's been a hell of a day gig for the last 20 years. This isn't what I set out to do with my life, but I guess I've just been lucky because it's been fun."
Besides being sanctioned by Buffett himself, A1A has appeared with the fun-loving performer on numerous occasions and has even employed former members of Buffett's Coral Reefer Band. And in the 20 years that A1A has been in business, there have been untold Buffett tribute bands sprouting up throughout the country.
"We blazed the trail for all the Buffett bands that have since formed," Pike said. "We've been happy to pass the torch and step back because it's cool to see the trop-rock genre grow. A bunch of bands have cited us as influences."
While Pike says A1A is adamant about performing many of Buffett's bona-fide hits -- "Come Monday," "Cheeseburger in Paradise" and "Fins" among them -- the band often endeavors to dive a little deeper into the Buffett canon, playing deep cuts that may not be as famous but are just as captivating.
"Jimmy has to play the hits, even if he's tired of hearing them," said Pike, a one-time Parrot Head himself. "But he's got a huge catalog of fantastic songs, tons of songs he never plays in concert. And when we first started, people would ask us to play Buffett songs I'd never heard of before. So we enjoy doing that."
The band has released several Buffett-flavored albums, including "Ship Happens" in 2003, "Beachwrecked" in 2008 and "The Road to Paradise" in 2011. In addition, Pike has fashioned a solo career that's decidedly different from the high-energy A1A sound, as he showcases his voice, acoustic guitar and his original songs. Pike admits that he sometimes wonders how things might have been different for him had he followed his own muse, instead of Buffett's.
"I've had a hard time with that all my life," he said. "I'm grateful for this, but it's something I kind of just fell into. When I started, everything happened so fast and I was still kind of young then. I look at my life, and while it didn't really turn out the way I wanted it to, it's still been great. I've had a lot of good times, played in a lot of places and met a lot of people and had experiences I probably never would have had otherwise."
The band's concert in Conyers, Pike said, will feature "a lot of hits and all the Buffett stuff you like to hear," along with some reggae numbers and original songs.
"It's a high-energy show," Pike said. "We can be laid-back, but I think one thing that's always kept us alive is we don't look like Jimmy Buffett and his band, so we kind of infuse our own personality, which I think makes a big difference."
For more information on the A1A concert in Olde Town Conyers, visit www.conyersarts.org. For more information on A1A, visit www.a1a-live.com.
If you go
What: A1A Jimmy Buffet tribute band
When: 8 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.) on June 8
Where: Pavilion in Olde Town Conyers on Main Street
Cost: Pavilion seating $20 in advance, $25 at the door; lawn seating $15.
Info: Call 770-922-3143 or visit www.conyersarts.org.