Instant Ocean

Let's meet artist/author Tony Lee Head, aka: Papa T




Anthony Lee Head, our featured Parrothead Artist, is the author of an award-winning tropical get-away novel entitled, Driftwood: Stories from the Margarita Road.


"The name on the front of my new book is Anthony Lee Head. That’s my formal name, the one only my mother ever used (and then only when I was in trouble). Tony is what most friends and family call me.


But if there is such a thing as a Parrothead name, mine is Papa T (as in “Papa T sneaks a taste” from Jimmy’s song Creola.) That’s what people called me after I ran away to the Caribbean to live the life Jimmy always sings about.

"So how big a Parrothead am I? I don’t belong to any clubs, as I’m not really a joiner. But I do have most of the albums and have read all the books. And I’ve seen Jimmy perform many times in concert halls and stadiums, at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, and on the tiny stage of the French Quarter Margaritaville one magical night when he showed up unannounced. But I think what really makes me a Parrothead is that I have completely embraced the sense of adventure that Jimmy’s storytelling inspires. In fact, it changed my life.


"I used to be a fairly normal, button-down guy. I grew up in Detroit and then after law school, moved to San Francisco. Marriage and fatherhood followed. I had a good career as a trial lawyer, and for fun I ran a martial arts school, offering classes in Karate and Gracie Jiu-jitsu. I never once thought of jumping on the jet-stream to find adventure. Then, one Christmas morning, my wife Cheri gave me the Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads boxed set as a gift. Up until then, Buffett hadn’t been on my musical radar. I was a classic rock type of guy. But all that rainy west coast winter, I listened to Jimmy sing about escaping to paradise. Before long, I was reading Tales from Margaritaville and buying concert tickets. Those stories and lyrics must have seeped deep into my heart and brain, because Cheri and I began using our vacation time traveling to find “somewhere hot.” Using Buffett songs as a guide, we went wandering through Hawaii, the Baja, New Orleans, the Keys, the southern California coast, the Gulf Coast, Jamaica, Belize, and Mexico’s Riviera Maya. In every place and on every trip, we would sit on the beach with a boat drink in our hand and laughingly say, “We should live here!” Finally, after many years of dreaming, we decided to make the leap and follow Jimmy’s songs to paradise. With an empty nest (our son Chris was now an adult and living his own life), Cheri and I quit our jobs, packed the car, and headed south for a new life in the tropics.


"After leaving San Francisco, we drove 3500 miles in a Chevy Express van to Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. The town is a big tourist stop these days, but back then it was small, sweet, funky, and a slice of paradise.


We bought a rundown hostel a couple of blocks from the beach (you could see the Caribbean Sea from the front door), and remodeled it into a boutique hotel. We added an open-air, thatched-roof bar with swings instead of stools and then proceeded to live the life Jimmy sings about.

"It was everything we ever dreamed of. We met pirates, spies, hustlers, strippers, smugglers, tourists, and wanderers from around the world. They all sat at our bar and shared their stories. Cheri and I practiced our Spanglish, rented rooms, poured drinks, ate barbacoa tacos on the beach, and started each day swimming in the blue ocean. It wasn’t all fun. There were clashes with drug dealers, crooked cops, tarantulas the size of dinner plates, and scary storms. But it was always an adventure, and we soaked up the beauty of Mexico, the tropics, and the love of expats and locals who lived there. And we never forgot that Jimmy was our inspiration. We regularly had Parrothead parties with Jimmy’s live concerts blaring over the satellite radio speakers in the bar. One year, after a devastating hurricane destroyed a tiny village near the coast, we appealed to Radio Margaritaville for help. They put out the word, and Parrotheads came through like gangbusters with donations. We will always be grateful for that.


"We once actually tried to entice Jimmy to come down to sing in our bar. We had a small wooden pallet in the corner we used as a stage and a microphone that almost always worked, sometimes. Through our blog, we offered Jimmy the outrageous sum of ONE THOUSAND PESOS (which at the time was about $98.15 US) just to sing a couple of songs. We even sweetened the deal by offering to pass the tip jar while he sang, AND give him our best room and let him drink for free! Sadly we never did hear from him. However, all good things come to an end. I had a big honkin’ heart attack and almost died. I pulled through, happily, but the need for advanced and regular healthcare brought us back to the States.


"Now living in Northern California, I was again inspired by Jimmy, this time to write down the adventures that I lived and heard about from my fellow vagabonds. Which is how I ended up writing a book: Driftwood: Stories from the Margarita Road.

Driftwood is a novel about the flip-flop life of expats in a Mexican beach town. By the way, “the Margarita Road” is what I call the journey to a new life in paradise. As it says in my book: “It’s the course your heart sets when you want to leave the past behind and start over someplace new and warm.” The book consists of a series of interwoven vignettes about people who have taken the Margarita Road to a fresh start. Their stories are narrated by the main character, Poppa, the local beach bar owner. While trying to give voice to the many different types of people drawn to the idea of escaping to a distant shore, I also focus on the almost universal tug of war that exists when our hearts want both a place to call home and the freedom to roam. I am thrilled to say the book seems to have struck a chord with my fellow Parrotheads. Reviewers have described the book as a combination of “Jimmy Buffett and John Steinbeck” and as “Joseph Conrad collides with Jimmy Buffett.” Driftwood has also just been named one of the Best Books of 2020 by Kirkus Review magazine, one of the oldest and most respected national book reviewers. In the end, after everything is said and done, I am grateful to Jimmy for inspiring my inner storyteller and to my fellow Parrotheads for reading these stories. There will be more to come, I promise.

In the meantime… Fins Up!


" A little gift for Parrotheads everywhere… When I first decided to open a bar in Mexico, I knew I wanted three things. I wanted a roof made of palm leaves, I wanted swings around the bar instead of stools, and I wanted to serve a great margarita. I managed to accomplish all three."

Here is my recipe for “Papa T’s Perfect Margarita.”

1. Pour one shot añejo tequila, one shot silver tequila, and one shot orange liqueur over ice in a shaker. My personal tequila preference is Herradura, with Grand Marnier for the orange flavor.

2. Using an exprimidor (if you don’t own one, rush out and buy one; if you don’t know what it is—google it), squeeze the juice of two limes into the shaker. Save

one of the lime rinds to use later.

3. Add one shot of simple syrup–more if you like your margaritas sweet. You can buy it commercially made or make it yourself. To make your own, dissolve one cup of sugar in one cup of boiling water. Cool before adding.

4. Finally, add in just a splash of orange juice. Shake it all up.

5. Run the leftover lime rind around the rim of your margarita glass. Spread a little salt out on a plate and dip the rim of the glass into it. Fill the glass with ice, and strain the contents of the shaker into the glass. Add a small slice of lime as garnish.

6. Drink.

7. Immediately repeat steps 1-6. One final note: this cocktail tastes best while lying in a hammock staring at the ocean.


"My book is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook. People can reach me on my website, www.anthonyleehead.com, and also sign up there for my email list."


Thanks Papa T!


If you'd like to be our next "Featured Parrothead Artist," please fill out the following questionnaire and we'll get back with you as soon as we can.

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Fins Up my Parrothead Friends!

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