Jimmy Buffett, 'Margaritaville' Magnate And Parrotheads' Pied Piper

Entertainment | December 25, 2019

The magnate of Margaritaville, circa 1970. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Jimmy Buffett has "Margaritaville" to thank for his image as the pre-eminent beach bum and singing sailor, and the song has made him one of the richest musicians working today. The laid-back lifestyle of Hawaiian shirts, flip flops, and island paradises turned out to be hugely appealing to his fans, who (putting their own spin on the Deadhead idea) are known as Parrotheads. His empire includes restaurants and resorts, and his artistic output includes not just albums and concerts but also musicals and books. Buffett's net worth is over $560 million -- not bad for a kid from Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Buffett's his story tracks a lot differently than some of the other rags to riches musicians. For one, he didn’t learn how to play the guitar until he was in college at Auburn University. And while Buffett has earned a mint playing music, he’s raked in cash as a businessman and writer as well! Here’s the story of Mr. Margaritaville himself, Jimmy Buffett. 

Son Of A Son Of A Sailor

Jimmy Buffett in Austin, Texas, 1974. Source: facebook.com/scottnewtonphotography

Born on the Gulf Coast, young Jimmy Buffett knew his way around a boat. His nautical knowledge was thanks to his grandfather who was a sailor. Amazingly, Buffett only picked up a guitar during college to meet girls. That's a well-traveled path, but it would earn the sun-soaked magnate heaps of money. But first, he tried his hand at the get-rich-never profession of journalism.

Writing In Music City

Jimmy Buffett performing in an Auburn football jersey. Source: thewareaglereader.com

Music was clearly in Buffett’s future but first, he went to work writing about his eventual profession for Billboard magazine. He was the hard-charging journalist who broke the news that Flatt and Scruggs were breaking up. After moonlighting as a first mate in the yachting community, Buffett finally started playing his guitar in Nashville before moving on to Key West to develop his self-proclaimed “Gulf and Western” or “Drunken Caribbean Rock n Roll” as he once called it in 1978.

The Mayor Of Margaritaville

Everyone enjoys a Jimmy Buffet concert (pubclub)

After a few albums of moderate success, Buffett started making his bones touring the country. His laid back beach bum style became a real draw and made Buffett far more money than selling albums. However, that was before he wrote the billion-dollar song, “Margaritaville.”

The song that spawned an empire was written by Buffett in Austin, Texas while touring, “It was a hot day and I had a couple of margaritas," Buffett recently recounted to Rolling Stone. "I was a bit hungover, but I started writing the song on my guitar case at the Austin airport. It was written in five minutes. I wasn’t wasting away–I was working my ass off. I thought, 'This is a pretty good song.'"

It’s 5 O'clock Somewhere

Buffet made not one but two appearnce on Hawaii 5-0 (buffettnews)

That hangover-inspired Margarita masterpiece peaked at number #8 on the charts and turned Buffett from a good concert musician into a money-making monster. "Since I wrote the song 40 years ago, 'Margaritaville' has affected just about everything we’ve done," Buffett said. "From getting me on the radio first, to the evolution of the brand in so many areas that we couldn’t possibly conceive of in the beginning." 

When you take into account all the restaurants, casinos, resorts, and apparel, “Margaritaville” stands as the most lucrative song in music history! The savvy businessman has even recently started a retirement village called “Latitude Margaritaville” in Daytona Beach, Florida, that is estimated at $1 billion.

A Prolific Performer

Jimmy Buffett is more than one song -- yes, "Margaritaville" is his signature and it's the branding on his restaurants, resorts and airport taverns. But in his 50-year career, he's released 27 studio albums, starting with Down to Earth in 1970. Better-known discs, on which he honed his true sound, include A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean (1973), Living and Dying in 3/4 Time (1974), A1A (1974), and Havana Daydreamin' (1976). The single "Come Monday" was a hit in 1974, but it was of course "Margaritaville" that propelled his breakthrough album, Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes (1977) to #3 on the US Country chart and #13 on the Billboard Hot 200. By 1985, Buffett was king of the genre he'd invented, with enough memorable tunes to put out a best-of compilation that, to those in the know, lived up to its title: Songs You Know By Heart. "Cheeseburger In Paradise," "Fins," "Volcano," "Pencil Thin Mustache," "He Went to Paris," "A Pirate Looks at 40" and numerous others from this 7x-platinum seller are anthems to the working stiffs who wish they could throw it all away and live life like, well, a Jimmy Buffett song.

A Hard Working Man Behind That Sun Glazed Stoner

Buffet and his The Coral Reefer Band are bringing a new marijuana strain to a medical dispensary near you! (thehustle)

Don't buy the image of Buffett as a slacker, drifter, or stoner -- he may have lived those identities at various stages in his life, but overall he's one of the hardest working men in show business. From best-selling books to over 40 different tours and an upcoming Broadway play, Jimmy Buffett the carefree troubadour looks much more like Jimmy Buffett, Inc, an international conglomerate and marketing juggernaut.

He and his backing band, The Coral Reefer Band, have even gotten into the medical marijuana scene. As the merchant of music would say “I just want to live happily ever after, every now and then.”

Tags: Jimmy Buffett

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Kellar Ellsworth


Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!