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If this guitar could sing, oh, the stories it could tell. Over the past six months it has snuggled with Marisa Miller under bamboo trees in Jamaica, sunbathed with Fernanda Tavares on the white, sandy beaches of Itacar�, Brazil, and shared a warm outdoor bath (in a horse trough, no less) under a sun-baked Tucson sky with Yesica Toscanini.
"This guitar," says SI creative director Steve Hoffman, "has been intimate with 20 of the most beautiful girls in the world."
"This guitar," says Swimsuit associate editor Jennifer Kaplan, "should have its own frequent flier number."
"This guitar," says singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, the instrument's original owner, "looks like it had a pretty good time. I know I wish I could have been caressed by that many beautiful women."
So how did this 000-JBS Jimmy Buffett--Shellback signature edition guitar (number 5 of 168 created by the famed C.F. Martin & Company) get so lucky? Back in August, Hoffman was driving to a golf outing in New Jersey when he was struck by an idea. "I was lamenting the fact that here we were, doing a music-themed Swimsuit Issue, and we hadn't mentioned New Orleans," Hoffman says. "It occurred to me that maybe we could do something to raise some money for the musicians there."
That's where the mayor of Margaritaville came in. Buffett agreed to donate one of his guitars to the cause, and he autographed it--Play well, fins to the left, fins to the right, Jimmy Buffett--before it was passed on to 20 of the models in this issue, each of whom signed the guitar during her photo shoot. (Alas, not one of them left her cellphone number on it.)
The guitar will be auctioned on eBay, with bidding set to close on Feb. 23. The proceeds will go to the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic and the Habitat for Humanity Musicians' Village, two organizations close to Buffett's heart. "I was born in a little town called Pascagoula [Miss.], which was devastated by Katrina," says Buffett, who has worked to focus attention on the area. "I believe New Orleans is the cultural soul of America and needs to be saved."
This isn't the first collaboration between Buffett and SI. Two years ago he wrote a 4,700-word article in the Swimsuit Issue about battling tarpon on a windswept coral reef in the Virgin Islands. Along with his whimsical fishing tale, the issue included a CD that featured a single Buffett wrote for the issue, License to Chill, and a video of him singing the tune. Because of the success of that venture and his longtime friendship with SI Group editor Terry McDonell (the two have known each other since the late 1970s), Buffett was happy to join forces with SI again. In this issue you'll find another CD with a catchy new Buffett song, Getting the Picture, plus an accompanying video starring (and inspired by) some of the world's most beautiful women, fiddling with one very lucky instrument.
Since being donated to SI, the mahogany guitar has traveled to 14 cities in four countries on two continents. It has docked in posh surroundings (Four Seasons Maui, The Caves in Negril, Jamaica) and tight but memorable quarters ( Oluchi Onweagba strummed the guitar in the same tiny room at Sun Studio in Memphis where Elvis Presley recorded his first album in 1954).
The guitar's odyssey began in late August with a circuitous journey from Buffett's home in Sag Harbor, N.Y., to the Brazilian resort town of Itacar�, with one precarious layover in S�o Paulo. There it was nearly confiscated by customs officers before a quick-thinking Kaplan explained to them that it was part of an SI Swimsuit shoot. Upon hearing that story, Buffett smiled. "I have learned over the years that a guitar is a passport," he said. "It really allows you to go beyond borders."