Scarcely a month before the two-year date of beloved musician Jim Morris’s passing, I found myself in some of his old stomping grounds. We spent a week in a relatively small area of Florida, with certain things planned to do and see that were on our bucket list.
But what we discovered was so delightful during our week there, that I almost wonder if Jim was playing tour guide from the great beyond.
We arrived in Tampa and spent our only night there at Whiskey Joe’s the well-known site for the annual Music on the Bay festival. The place was hopping and we loved getting to see Steve Toliver and the Trop Rock Junkies.
The next day we swam chilly water searching for manatees, but the day after, we visited Jim Morris Mecca – The Nav-a-Gator Bar and Grill!
Imagine the delight I felt when entering the Nav-a-Gator Bar and finding a shrine to Jim Morris in the corner where he sat and played so many Thursday nights through the years.
His bar stool is there, and the walls are festooned with autographed relics and photos of Jim. We ate outside near the outdoor stage and enjoyed a fabulous grouper sandwich.
Having enjoyed out time at the Nav-a-Gator a bit past our schedule, we were late in arriving on Captiva Island, but were able to catch a gorgeous SW Florida sunset.
The next morning on a walk around where we were staying, I found the resort conference center Jim had to be referencing in his song “Laid Back Attack.”
Soon afterwards, I received a call from a fellow devotee of Jim Morris – Charlie Bukowski, from Texas. Through the magic of Facebook and posted sunset pictures, he learned we were on Captiva. He was nearby with a fishing buddy and we all had lunch that day.
Our next stop was Matlacha, and we drove on to Pine Island, where we stopped at the Low Key Tiki Bar for a libation. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a reference to this water front spot in a Jim Morris song, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t play there through the years.
I did find an abundance of palm tree farms, however! So, there is a real basis for Jim’s fun song “Palm Tree Farm.”
Dinner at Bert’s Bar was a must that night and we were in the company of Charlie and his buddy, who were staying next door to the place where Jim played many nights.
The Morris magic continued as our waitress overheard us mention Jim’s name and nonchalantly said “Oh, Jim’s widow is in the front bar with some friends right now.” What?
We sprang up and did indeed find Sharon Morris with a table full of friends. They were there to hear Scotty Bryan, who plays a tremendous amount of Jim’s songs.
Our Jim Morris Tribute Tour ended that night, as we didn’t find traces of his legacy in Naples or Fort Myers. We think that a little bit of Jim was there in every glowing sunset we experienced and that he probably sat with us at the many tiki bars we visited.
He is greatly missed, but to have so many unexpected thoughts of him and his music was serendipitous. Sail on, Jim and thanks for the adventure.