20 Years Ago: Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett Release ‘It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere’
On June 2, 2003, Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett teamed up to release the pint glasses-clinking ode "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere." The song appears on Jackson's Greatest Hits Volume II album; the two men had also teamed up in 1999 to cover Buffett's beloved "Margaritaville" on Jackson's covers album, Under the Influence.
"It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" was co-written by Jim "Moose" Brown and Don Rollins. With its breezy tempo, playful pedal steel and fiddle, and easygoing guitars, the song conjures an afternoon with no cares in the world. The lyrics incorporate vivid imagery — "Work day passes like molasses in wintertime / But it's July" — to describe a worker who needs a vacation (and a stiff drink). "I'm getting paid by the hour, and older by the minute / My boss just pushed me over the limit / I'd like to call him something / I think I'll just call it a day."
In a 2010 interview with The Boot, Rollins elaborated on the song's background and premise: "It was definitely that "Margaritaville" feel," he said.
"Jim and I agreed what the story was, that this was a guy who decided to have a few at lunch and then decided to stay there. Once that framework was there, then the lyrics were very easy for me," he added. "The musical setting of it was more Jim's end of it. That chorus, 'Pour me something tall and strong ...' musically, was definitely Jim's thing."
Buffett appears around the middle of the song. Introduced by Jackson, who sings the line "What would Jimmy Buffett do?," he's ushered in by a roar of hooting and hollering applause.
"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 said. "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."
Rollins, who used to work as a band teacher, also came up with the tune's titular phrase: A colleague of his would say, "Let’s go grab a beer, it’s five o’clock somewhere," once the clock struck 3:30PM.
"Don just tucked it away for years, and thank goodness he saved it for our writing appointment," Brown said during a 2010 interview.
In another interesting wrinkle, "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" was first offered to Kenny Chesney, although his team ended up declining the tune.
"I think they wanted to not do so much beachy stuff anymore,” Brown says. “If we had gotten it to him three years earlier, he probably would have jumped on it, but the timing wasn’t right."
Still, "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" certainly resonated upon its release: After debuting at No. 31 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, the song ascended to No. 1 and spent a whopping eight weeks there. It also peaked at No. 17 on the Hot 100 and finished at No. 4 on the year-end Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
"It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" nabbed the 2003 Country Music Association Vocal Event of the Year award. The song also netted Buffett his highest-charting appearance on the Hot 100 since 1977, when "Margaritaville" was a Top 10 single.