How Jimmy Buffett Influenced Some Of Your Favorite Country Stars

Jimmy Buffett with friends

(Left) Jimmy Buffett Official / YouTube (Top Right) Kenny Chesney / YouTube / (Bottom Right) Margaritaville / YouTube

Many Of Country Music’s Biggest Stars Owe A Lot To Jimmy Buffett & His Songs – Hear Them Describe His Influence In Their Own Words

Jimmy Buffett’s music almost can’t be defined by genre. Though he once referred to his style as “drunken Caribbean rock ‘n’ roll.“.

But the “Margaritaville” singer’s origins were in country music. He moved to Nashville in 1970, and released his first album, Down to Earth, later that year.

In 1971, Buffett was hired as the opening act for Dianne Davidson at the Exit/In club in Nashville.

According to the Washington Post, Buffett eventually moved to Florida at the urging of country artist Jerry Jeff Walker. He originally lived in the Coconut Grove of Miami before making the move to Key West in 1972.

How Jimmy Buffett Remained Connected To Country Music Throughout His Life

Although he left Nashville, Buffett remained connected to the country music community throughout his career. Many of his songs landed on the country charts, including his signature tune, “Margaritaville.” It peaked at the 13th spot on the Hot Country Songs chart.

In 2003, Buffett earned a renewed introduction to the country music world following the release of Alan Jackson’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.” Buffett is featured on the track, which went to #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart and #17 on the Hot 100.

Jackson and Buffett won a CMA Award and two ACM Awards for the song.

In 2004, Buffett released a true country album titled License to Chill.

The album contained collaborations with some of country music’s biggest stars at the time. Buffett sang “Boats to Build” with Jackson, recorded “Trip Around the Sun” with Martina McBride, and covered “Key of Heartbreak” with George Strait.

Arguably, the highlight of License to Chill was Buffett’s cover of Hank Williams’ “Hey, Good Lookin’.” The recording featured Jackson, Strait, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, and Clint Black. The group also filmed an accompanying music video.

Just How Much Of An Impact Did Jimmy Buffett Have On Country Music, Exactly?

We’re only scratching the surface when it comes to the role Buffett played in the country music industry. Beyond releasing his own music, his songs inspired many of your favorite artists. Artist, of all ages, from multiple generations, with varying musical styles.

Many country stars paid tribute to Buffett following his death on September 1, 2023. The artists opened up about their friendships with Buffett, and how he made a lasting impression on their lives.

Head below to hear from those artists, in their own words, as they describe how much Buffett meant to them.

Kenny Chesney Says He Will Carry Buffett’s Songs “In [His] Heart Forever

Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney
Kenny Chesney / Instagram

Following Buffett’s death, Kenny Chesney shared a video from the beach in Key West. He performed an acoustic cover of Jimmy’s song “A Pirate Looks at Forty.”

Chesney also shared a video from 2021, when he and Buffett performed “Margaritaville” at Exit/In in Nashville. In the caption, he wrote:

So goodbye Jimmy. Thanks for your friendship and the songs I will carry in my heart forever. Sail On Sailor.”

You can hear Buffett’s influence in Chesney’s many beach-themed songs. Some of these songs include “Old Blue Chair,” “Pirate Flag,” “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems,” and “Beer in Mexico.”

Chesney had the chance to work with Buffett numerous times over the years. One of their most meaningful collaborations comes from 2018. That’s when they united to remake Buffett’s “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season” for Chesney’s Songs for the Saints album.

Proceeds from the album went toward relief efforts following Hurricane Irma. 

Alan Jackson Was Friends With Buffett For Decades


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A post shared by Alan Jackson (@officialalanjackson)

Jackson’s decades-long friendship with Buffett is a testament to the role he played in his life. They collaborated multiple times after singing “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.”

When Buffett died, Jackson quoted the lyrics from another one of their duets, “Boats to Build.” He wrote:

Shores distant shores,
There’s where I’m headed for,
I got the stars to guide my way,
Sail into the light of day…” #BoatsToBuild

RIP my friend, @jimmybuffett.”

Jimmy Buffett Saw Something In A Young Clint Black And Gave Him A Platform


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Buffett played a pivotal role in shaping a young Clint Black’s career. Black opened up about how Buffett “was one of [his] biggest influences.”

It started in 1989, when Buffett asked Black to open for him at a show in Alabama. They performed “He Went to Paris” and “A Pirate Looks at Forty” together. Black calls that opportunity “a gift” Buffett gave to him.

Buffett continued to help Black in the early stage of his career. They eventually wrote a song together called “Happiness Alone,” which Black included on his fourth album, No Time to Kill.

When Buffett’s harmonica player left his band, he asked Black to come with him on tour in 1998. “He ran a fine ship & it was a most fun & relaxing voyage,” Black recalls.

He went on to write:

“If I were to answer my own question, ‘when you get to Heaven, if you could sing a song with someone who’s already there…’ today I’m sad to report, I know the answer. Rest in Peace on that golden beach my friend. We’ll miss you so badly.”

Toby Keith Said Buffett Was A “Tremendous Influence


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Like many of his country-singing pals, Buffett worked with Toby Keith multiple times over the years. In addition to singing “Hey, Good Lookin'” together, Keith sang with Buffett on his tune “Too Drunk To Karaoke.”

The collaboration came after Buffett previously turned down the chance to be featured on Keith’s “Red Solo Cup.” Keith said, “It’s kind of a funny story actually. I’d tried to rope Jimmy into doing ‘Red Solo Cup’ with me, and he passed. He said, ‘No, I don’t think so.'”

Keith said Buffett later expressed regret about his choice. Because of this, he told Keith he didn’t have to agree to sing on “Too Drunk to Karaoke,” but Keith was all for the idea.

You can hear Buffett’s influence in several of Keith’s songs, particularly 2004’s “Stays in Mexico.”

After Buffett’s death, Keith wrote about the impact he had on the lives of many artists. “The pirate has passed. RIP Jimmy Buffett. Tremendous influence on so many of us,” he said.

Keith later honored Buffett with a performance at his December 10, 2023 concert in Las Vegas. Keith himself passed away just two months after that show, on February 5, 2024.

Jake Owen Says Jimmy Buffett Was His “Musical Hero


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Much of Jake Owen’s music embodies the carefree vibe Buffett captures in his songs. One only needs to listen to Owen’s hits such as “Beachin’,” “American Country Love Song,” and “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” to hear Buffett’s influence.

After Buffett died, Owen said:

“@jimmybuffett was my musical hero and an embodiment of the kind of person you strive to be outside of music. He lived for surfing, embraced a barefoot lifestyle, and sang songs that celebrated the essence of living life to the fullest.”

Owen grew up in Florida, so Buffett’s music was part of his childhood. Years later, he asked Buffett to join him at his Jake Owen Foundation event, and Buffett was eager to participate.

He flew into Vero Airport, clad in flip-flops and a Hawaiian shirt, and transported our entire town to Margaritaville. This is just one example of how Jimmy touched people’s lives,” Owen said.

Zac Brown Band Was “Honored” To Work With Buffett


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In 2011, Zac Brown Band featured Buffett on their beachy single “Knee Deep.” The track reached the #1 spot on the Hot Country Songs chart and the 18th spot on the Hot 100.

The previous year, Zac Brown Band and Buffett joined forces for an episode of CMT Crossroads. They performed a mix of songs, including a rendition of Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried.”

After Buffett passed away, Zac Brown Band said, “Hope you’re knee deep in the water somewhere in paradise today, @jimmybuffett. We were honored to know you and to make music with you. Fins up.

Later, the group honored Buffett by performing “Margaritaville” at one of their shows. They shared the video on Instagram, and captioned it:

“Back when we did @cmt crossroads with JB, on there he said he’d pass the torch onto us… It was one of the greatest honors of my life…And we will mourn him and we will celebrate one of the most incredible lives of any artist that I’ve ever seen… an incredible American poet and soul. Rest in paradise my friend”

Watch the video of Zac Brown Band performing “Margaritaville” below. It’s clear how much Buffett influenced them and all of the other artists featured in this list.

Jimmy Buffett was devoted to philanthropy. He founded two charitable organizations, Singing for Change and Save the Manatee Club. He also had a company called Last Mango Boatworks that sells apparel and accessories. Items sold from Last Mango benefit Singing for Change and Freedom Fighter Outdoors. Learn more about Jimmy’s philanthropic efforts or donate to one of the above-mentioned organizations here.