Known for his non-stop work ethic when it comes to music, he’s released over two dozen studio albums, relentlessly toured around the world and provided priceless inspiration to his devoted legion of fans, affectionately known as “Parrotheads.” Meanwhile, on the non-musical side of things, he’s written three best-selling books, started his own restaurant chain and co-owned two minor league baseball teams, to name a few.
It all started at Auburn University in Alabama, where Buffett first picked up an acoustic guitar. Eventually graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi with a history degree, he worked as a country music writer for Billboard, piquing an interest in the music world that carries on to this day.
Ultimately deciding to make music instead of writing about those who did, Buffett released his folk-flavored debut, Down to Earth, in 1970. Over the next six years, he recorded five more albums, eventually making his way to the top 25 of Billboard’s US Country charts with Havaña Daydreamin’ in 1976.
Then came Buffett’s 1977 album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, which, true to its name, changed the guitarist’s life forever. On the strength of international hit “Margaritaville,” Changes in Latitudes easily sailed to number two on the Billboard’s country charts and made it to number 12 on the magazine’s all-encompassing US charts. Famous for its laid-back guitar riff and witty lyricism, “Margaritaville” remains Buffett’s signature song 34 years later and is a mainstay on his concert setlists.
Even after his late-’70s breakthrough, Buffett continued to release new music at least once every two years. At a point where most musicians would simply sit back and rest on their laurels, Buffett kept writing, recording and touring out of a deep love for his work. Changes in Latitudes’ follow-up, 1978’s Son of a Son of a Sailor, the next year’s Volcano and 1985’s Last Mango in Paris, all cracked the top 15 of the US Country charts, cementing Buffett as one of the most popular musicians in the world.
In the 1980s, Buffett began to branch out from music while still anchoring his work in his songs. In 1985, Buffett opened the first Margaritaville restaurant in Key West, Florida. The chain now sports over a dozen locations in North America. In 1989, he penned New York Times best-seller Tales from Margaritaville and has followed it up with seven fiction and non-fiction works. Buffett is also a former co-owner of two minor league baseball teams: Florida’s Fort Myers Miracle and Wisconsin’s Madison Black Wolf.
Since a five-year hiatus from releasing albums in the early ‘90s, Buffett has been focusing his efforts on music as much as ever. Speaking to his lasting impact, Buffett’s 2004 album License to Chill and 2006’s Take the Weather with You both topped the US Country charts, his first to do so. Most recently, “Knee Deep,” his duet with the Zac Brown Band, has been enjoying a successful run on country and pop radio stations since being released as a single last month.
You would think Buffett would like a break at some point, but after more than 40 years of writing music, playing concerts, penning books and keeping an eye on countless business ventures, it doesn’t look like this guitarist will ever stop. And no one’s complaining about that.