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Gullickson brings harmony to Buffett favorites

Submitted photo / Brenda Long Coral Reefer Band backup singers Tina Gullickson, left, and Nadirah Shakoor will perform with Jimmy Buffett tribute band Fins to the Left on Saturday as part of the River Rock at the Amp concert series.

Tina Gullickson doesn’t do a lot of gigs with Jimmy Buffett tribute bands, but she has an added incentive when Fins to the Left calls.

During a telephone interview from her home in southern California, Gullickson said she has cousins in the area, so those trips to perform at the Warren Community Amphitheatre give her a chance to visit with family.

Gullickson, who has been a backup singer in Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band since 1995, and her bandmates Robert Greenidge, Eric Darken and Nadirah Shakoor will perform with Fins to the Left on Saturday as part of the River Rock at the Amp concert series.

Coming in on a red-eye flight leaving Friday night, Gullickson and the others won’t have much time to rehearse, but that’s also part of the gig.

“It’s one of the jobs of a background singer,” she said. “With any support musician, you listen to the lead singer and Fins, they do a great job. We just try to pay attention to what they’re doing. They might play something in a little different key (than the band does now), but you just laugh through it and try to catch up … It’s all part of the fun and you just try to roll with it.”

Buffett traditionally spends much of the summer playing outdoor amphitheaters across the country. COVID-19 wiped out most of his 2020 tour plans, and the band only has played a handful of dates this dates, including some warm-up shows at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville

“Those were pretty much, ‘Let’s see if we can jump back into this,'” Gullickson said. “There was some technical work, getting the video to go with the sound and lighting, a little bit of experimentation and trial and error, and for me personally, just to scrape the rust off my voice and body.”

The audiences clearly were ready to be back, and so was the band.

“Nadirah and I were talking, this has been a part of our lives for so many years and something was missing (over the last year),” Gullickson said. “Entertainment, I like doing that. It helps people forget their troubles and it’s good exercise. We enjoy it.”

During the time off, the band members individually filmed their parts to create a music video for the song “Down at the Lah De Dah.” Gullickson said she tended to her garden and also helped care for her mother. While she played her guitars, she didn’t work much on solo material.

Gullickson recorded a five-song teaser EP where the backing singer steps out front, but she admitted those songs were getting a little “dusty.”

Her guitar-based songs may fit alongside Buffett’s catalog, but Gullickson said she doesn’t try to write or record solo material to appeal to the audience that knows her from the Coral Reefer Band.

“When I was talking to the people I respect most, (Coral Reefer bandmates Mac McAnally and Peter Mayer), who were helping me to produce, they said don’t ever try to write for a certain direction. Just write what comes from your soul, your heart and that will be the best and most truthful.”

While the Coral Reefer Band takes up most of her time — Gullickson said the band is on call year round for private gigs and other demands that come up as well as the tours scheduled months in advance — she had an interesting resume before joining the band.

She was “Miss California Angel,” a position Angels owner Gene Autry created in 1978 to generate some attention for his struggling baseball team. Gullickson was one of three finalists and was picked as the winner in a fan vote. She did promotional appearances, television spots and appeared at games.

And those who remember the early days of MTV may recognize her as the female lead in the John Waite video “Change” (the director also wanted to use her for the “Missing You” video, which was an even bigger hit, but that idea was nixed by someone with the band’s management or label).

“Those early videos were in such high rotation because there weren’t that many to choose from, I’d be walking in North Hollywood, and people would honk and wave at me before I’d seen the finished product,” she said. “When I finally saw it, I was pretty pumped. It was kind of a special introduction into a new genre, a new era.”

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