I’ve noticed a growing trend in my travels up and down the docks, from the Great Lakes to Florida and up the East Coast: The stereo speakers on any nice sportfishing convertible over 50 feet are specially wired to play what’s on the SiriusXM “No Shoes Radio” channel, and nothing else. No Bach, no Ed Sheeran, no Notorious B.I.G. This is Kenny Chesney’s market now, and he’s learning well from Jimmy Buffett. “Islamorada country music,” as I call it, just sounds good in the cockpit of a convertible.
Chesney sings a song everyone reading this magazine should hear at least once: “Boats.” In it he sings, Ol’ Joe’s got a Boston Whaler he bought in Key Biscayne … And the chorus of his hit song “Get Along” might as well have been paid for by the National Marine Manufacturers Association: Call your mom, BUY A BOAT/ drink a beer, sing a song. Will do, Kenny.
It’s not only Kenny Chesney injecting our shared lifestyle into country music. So many modern country artists are singing about boats now that yachts are almost becoming the Fifth Pillar of Islamorada country—after whiskey, pickups, Daisy Dukes and shotguns.
Chris Janson’s “Buy Me a Boat” ain’t subtle: I know everybody says/ money can’t buy happiness/ but it could buy me a boat, it could buy me a truck to pull it/ it could buy me a Yeti 110 iced down with some Silver Bullets …
And this year’s Maren Morris country hit “Rich” leaps new lyrical hurdles by rhyming the fashion brand “Prada” with “water.” How, you ask? With a boat, of course. Head-to-toe Prada/ Benz in the driveway, yacht in the WAADA …
Alan Jackson brings a certain authority to the subject, as he clearly has the best taste in boats among these country crooners. A knowledgeable yachtsman, he owns several beautiful vessels and recently donated a 1955 Chris-Craft to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York. His contribution to Islamorada country is “Drive”: It’s painted red, the stripe was white/ it was eighteen feet from bow to stern light … ran her for years, till the transom got rotten/ a piece of my childhood will never be forgotten. Go ahead and dry your eyes now, before anyone notices.
If country music sounds natural coming from the cockpit of a sportfisherman, we must look at the other side of the coin. Some music is just wrong when it’s pumped loudly from certain boats.
For example, the squatter in the moldy 36-foot sailboat that’s been anchored in the ICW channel for seven years sure as hell better not be blaring AC/DC’s “Money Talks”: Come on, come on, LOVE ME FOR THE MONEY!!! And no red-blooded American would play Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound Of Silence” while thundering away from the fuel dock in a Cigarette.
Nor should the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” be heard coming from a 200-foot Feadship. Because indeed you can, at least when it comes to boats. Call me. Or Feadship. Or both, we’re friends.
No Eminem track should be heard on the deck of any Burger, without exception.
So it seems that “Islamorada country” is a reasonable fit for our boats in our time. Bach doesn’t validate our lifestyle the way Brooks & Dunn can. If you asked Ed Sheeran to clean a fish he’d probably spray it with Lysol. The Notorious B.I.G. would likely sink an unsinkable Whaler at the dock, if he were still alive. And after all, Islamorada rhymes better with Prada than “waada”.