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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Escape to Margaritaville

Jan 25, 2021 02:14PM ● By Randal C. Hill
Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville

The Jimmy Buffet song that inspired a musical, and a living community

After years of being asked if they were related, in 2017, Warren Buffett and Jimmy Buffett submitted to a DNA search for 23andMe. The result? They are not related—except by wealth, that is. 

The senior Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, has amassed a fortune of $82 billion, while in comparison, the younger Buffett is worth a mere $550 million. 

That’s right. The music star with the 1977 Top 10 song about guzzling booze is worth more than half a billion bucks because of this lone hit. 

Best six minutes spent

“I was with some friends in a Mexican restaurant on a hot day in Austin, Texas. We had a couple of margaritas, and they really tasted good,” Buffett recalled in a magazine interview. “Afterwards, I was heading back home to Key West. I wrote ‘Margaritaville’ in about six minutes, driving down the Overseas Highway.”

James William Buffett, Jr., was born on Christmas Day, 1946. He grew up in Mobile, Alabama, where he went to a Catholic school and played trombone in the school band. Buffett went to college at University of Southern Mississippi, where he took up the guitar in order to meet women and eventually joined a bar band. He earned a history degree but never used it. 

Buffet and his bandmates endured hardscrabble times in a trailer. He later moved to Nashville, where he hoped for country music stardom, which never materialized. Buffett never really found his groove until 1972, when he relocated to Key West and began playing local bars while promoting an easy-going “beach bum” persona.

In 1974, Buffett scored a Top 30 hit with the plaintive “Second Avenue.” Three years later, Buffett found success with “Margaritaville,” the catchy ditty that wormed its way into the collective American conscience and never departed. 

Cashing in

That solitary song provided the motivation Buffett needed to shift his career into overdrive. 

Since the 1980s, he has written five hit books, opened a chain of restaurants, developed a line of beach clothing, started his own record label (called Margaritaville), and developed the Broadway jukebox musical, “Escape to Margaritaville.” He even created the Margaritaville retirement communities in Florida and South Carolina.

Today, he lives with Jane, his second wife, in Palm Beach, Florida, where he sails his boat, pilots his plane and offers enthusiastic support for environmental causes.

His zealous followers are dubbed Parrotheads, a name coined at a 1985 concert when Buffett commented on the number of people in the audience wearing Hawaiian shirts and parrot hats. He said they follow him from show to show much like Deadheads followed the Grateful Dead.

“It’s fun, and it’s getting away from the rigors of real life,” he told NPR. “These days, I think we need it more than ever.”

Read more nostalgic stories by Randal Hill here.