Jimmy Buffett’s Country Connection to Every Artist Who Paid Tribute to Him During the CMAs

Country music was always at Jimmy Buffett‘s core, long before more tropical sentiments penetrated his music. In 1970, Buffett moved to Nashville, Tennesee to pursue a country music career and released his debut Down to Earth, and another folk-rock-driven follow-up High Cumberland Jubilee a year later before his transition into more Gulf-driven music and a lengthier trop-rock catalog.

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Throughout his career, Buffett’s country roots always resurfaced in songs and collaborations. In 1993, Buffett co-wrote “Happiness Alone” for Clint Black‘s fourth album, No Time to Kill, which went to No. 2 on the country chart. More country collaborations spanned “Trip Around the Sun” with Martina McBride, and “Too Drunk to Karaoke” with Toby Keith. Buffett even penned the Barmageddon theme song for Blake Shelton‘s television series.

At the 57th Annual CMA Awards on November 8, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, and Coral Reefer bandmate, songwriter, and producer Mac McAnally all paid tribute to their late friend and collaborator, who died on September 29 at age 76, with a medley of his hits.

Kicking off with Chesney and McAnally seated and strumming guitars to Buffett’s 1974 ong “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” the stage opened to Jackson and Zac Brown Band, who went through a few lines of a song with the lyrics Adios my friend before Buffett’s 1977 hit “Margaritaville,” while a screen flashed a collection of photos of Buffett behind them.

[RELATED: 3 Songs You Didn’t Know Jimmy Buffett Wrote for Other Artists]

Here’s a deeper look at Buffett’s collaborations with those who honored him at the 2023 CMA Awards.

Alan Jackson

In 2003, Alan Jackson got together with Buffett for their duet “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.” Written by Jim “Moose” Brown and Don Rollins, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” was a laid-back rolick around day drinking since it’s five o’clock somewhere.

Released on Jackson’s Greatest Hits Volume II, the song spent eight weeks on the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” also picked up a CMA for Vocal Event of the Year, which also marked Buffett’s first award in his then-30-year career. The song also won ACM awards for Single of the Year and Vocal Event of the Year.

Kenny Chesney

In 2004, Chesney first collaborated with one of his heroes, Buffett, on a cover of Hank Williams’ 1951 hit “Hey Good Lookin'” featuring Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, George Strait, and Clint Black. Chesney is also featured on the title track of Buffet’s 2004 album License To Chill.

[RELATED: 5 of Jimmy Buffett’s “Big 8” Songs Beloved by Parrot Heads]

A lifelong Buffett fan, Chesney previously covered Buffett’s 1974 song “Come Monday” on his 2004 album When the Sun Goes Down. That same year, Chesney also covered Buffet’s A1A track “Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season,” as a duet with the “Margaritaville” man.

Chesney featured their rendition on his 2018 album Songs for the Saints. The inspiration behind Chesney’s album was the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in September of 2017, which devastated a number of islands within the Caribbean in September 2017, including Chesney’s home on St. John.

“Jimmy, more than the lost shaker of salt, understands the poetry of the islands beyond what tourists see,” said Chesney, “the life in a way that made a song written decades ago so current.”

Zac Brown Band

In Zac Brown Band’s 2010 song “Knee Deep,” the lyrics follow the story of a man coping post-breakup by getting on a boat and escaping for awhile: Gonna put the world away for a minute / Pretend I don’t live in it / Sunshine gonna wash my blues away. It sounds like something Jimmy Buffett would have written. Penned by Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette, Coy Bowles, and Jeffrey Steele, the song did get a Buffett touch with his guest vocals.

Released on Zac Brown Band’s second album You Get What You Give, “Knee Deep” went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

“We met him on a camping trip last year, and just sat around the fire with him for a while,” said bassist John Driskell Hopkins on how they first connected with Buffett. “That was a quick friendship. He’s a real cat, really down to earth doesn’t have a whole lot of ego, and is just a super nice guy. We did a lot of vocals down at his place in Key West and he happened to come through, so we got him to sit in and it sounded great. It sounds like a Buffett song when he sings it. Whatever he sings sounds like a Buffett song, y’know?”

Mac McAnally

A member of Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band since 1994, Mac McAnally has written for Reba McEntire, Alabama, Bellamy Brothers, and more. He has also written and produced dozens of songs with Buffet throughout the years. Along with the musical director for the Coral Reefer Band, Michael Utley, McAnally also co-produced Buffett’s final posthumous album Equal Strain On All Parts. McAnally also co-wrote seven of its songs, including the title track, a tribute to Buffett’s grandfather.

“’Equal Strain On All Parts is special to me,” said McAnally in a statement. “JB [Buffett] gave me the task of helping him write a song that was a saying from his grandfather, who was a big influence.”

RELATED: 3 Songs You Didn’t Know Jimmy Buffett Wrote for Other Artists]

McAnally continued, “Jimmy always told me that his grandfather took him to the edge of the water in Mississippi and told him you can get in this water and go anywhere in the world. I got to channel some of my family in this song too, as we had a lot of family stuff in common. I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Photo: Savannah Jane Buffett / Courtesy of Press House PR

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