Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson perform the song "It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere" (
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'It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere': The Story Behind Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett's Iconic Party Anthem

The country hit scored Jimmy Buffett multiple career firsts.

In 2003, Alan Jackson and pal Jimmy Buffett came together with "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," and the song became an instant hit for both of them. Released as the lead single from Jackson's compilation album Greatest Hits Volume II, they had a No. 1 on the country charts, scored a Top 20 hit on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 and were awarded Vocal Event of the Year at the CMA Awards. It became Buffett's first industry award of any kind in his three decades of recording music. So, how did this dream team and its hit come to be?

The Story Behind 'It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere'

According to songwriter Don Rollins, it all started with a concept. He had the the phrase "it's five o'clock somewhere" in mind and went from there with his writing partner, Jim "Moose" Brown. He realized it was just one of those phrases everyone knew but he hadn't heard it in a song before.

Singer Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet winners of the "Vocal Event of the Year" pose backstage at the "37th Annual CMA Awards" at the Grand Ole Opry House November 5, 2003 in Nashville, Tennessee

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"I had the idea just as a title with no concept of how it would work musically," he explained to American Songwriter.

"I was writing with Jim "Moose" Brown one morning, and he mentioned that he was playing keyboards on a project by a new artist named Colt Prather, and that Colt was looking for a song with a Buffett vibe," Rollins continued. "I mentioned the title that I had and we agreed that it was a good fit for that style. We wrote the song in about two hours."

Many songs go through multiple rounds of rewrites, but that wasn't the case here. Rollins and Brown flipped the order of the lyrics, and that was about it. Rollins told The Boot that the Buffett line was in there from the beginning, as well.

"The "What would Jimmy Buffett do?" line in the bridge was there from the beginning. It was me being sarcastic, poking a little fun at the 'What would Jesus do?' bumper stickers," Rollins shared. "It happened to be exactly the right thing for that situation. That was the way they brought Buffett into the song. It turned out to be the thing to make the song work for that situation."

Prather passed on the song, and it was also offered to Kenny Chesney. After all, the Margaritaville vibes were perfect for Chesney's beachy country persona. But he ended up passing, too. When Rollins heard that Jackson had it on hold, he was a bit confused.

"When Moose told me that Alan had it on hold and was about to record it, I remember thinking that Alan was way too country for that song. Then the duet with Buffett was mentioned and it started to make sense," he said.

The music video premiered on CMT's Smash Hits of Country and was filmed at the Square Grouper Bar in Jupiter, Fla., the future location for Jackson's "Long Way to Go" video. Buffett got his first No. 1 hit thanks to his duet with the Nashville legend, and the duo earned numerous accolades including a Grammy Award for Best Country Song. It held its No. 1 spot for seven consecutive weeks until Dierks Bentley's "What Was I Thinkin'" pushed its way in.

Decades later, the song is the embodiment of having a good time with your friends and continues to make its rounds on party and vacation playlists. Does Chesney remember when he passed on this hit song? Who knows, but it feels meant to be that it ended up with Buffett and Jackson.

This story originally ran on April 19, 2022.

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