At What Point in Time Did Jimmy Buffett Add Extra Words to the Chorus of “Margaritaville”?

Why is he on Ellen? I think that might be the real question.

I can’t imagine how disappointed this crowd was when Ellen announced that Jimmy Buffett would be performing. Here’s an example of how I think someone explained this situation to their friend:

Ellen Audience Member, After the Show: “Yeah, it was okay.”

Friend of Ellen Audience Member: “What’d you get? A TV? A huge gift card? Who was there? Michelle Obama? Someone from Modern Family? They’re always on there. A cute little kid?”

Ellen Audience Member: “Uh, Jimmy Buffett.”

Friend: “No, seriously, who was there? Demi Lovato? Kim Kardashian? Chewbacca Mom?”

Ellen Audience Member: “No, Jimmy Buffett. He played ‘Margaritaville.’”

Friend: “How do you feel? Did she give anything away?”

Ellen Audience Member: “No. I just heard Margaritaville.”

Friend: “Me too. On the radio. Like one hour ago.”

If you do a little more digging, you’ll see that the other guest that day was Pamela Anderson. Again, imagine waiting in line for Ellen and you get Pamela Anderson and Jimmy Buffett. I bet it was like watching a rerun of an old Ellen episode live.

Put yourself in Jimmy Buffett’s shoes (I imagine they’re ironic sandals with a bottle opener on the bottom of one of them, so silly) for one minute. Regardless of circumstance, don’t you hate playing Margaritaville? Yeah, it is the most profitable song of all time, spawning restaurants and man cave mantras across the world, but do you actually enjoy this song anymore?

You’ve probably played this song every single night since you wrote it in 1976. How do you not get tired of the story? The disenchanted man, the illustrious island lifestyle, the fruity drinks… how do you not stick your head in an official Margaritaville Key West Frozen Concoction Maker with Auto or Manual Shave and Blend when those God forsaken steel drums start? How can you play this song with the same excitement that you once had?

I thought about this reality for a while. How is it possible that artists, especially those that have been playing for decades, can stomach playing the same exact songs every night? Margaritaville is like Satisfaction, Baba O’ Riley, Another Brick in the Wall… anthemic, sure, but pedantic and almost certainly oversaturated.

As I watch that Ellen video and look into Jimmy Buffet’s beautiful sailor eyes, I can’t help but notice how he still enjoys playing this song! I mean, yeah, he’s still constantly bobbing from left to right like a palm tree in an unfortunate tropical storm and smiling like someone who has never heard Margaritaville, but he’s still excited nonetheless. Why? How?

Notice in the chorus: Wastin* away again in Margaritaville/searching for my lost shaker of salt, salt, salt. (* = is it wastin’ or wasted? There’s literally a Wikipedia entry debating this.)

Buffett adds extra salt. Instead of playing the plain version of Margaritaville that you know and love every night, he plays it on the rocks. When did that happen?

Maybe that’s the wrong question to ask. I think the real question here is why? Why does he add the extra salt to that chorus? For what it’s worth, I believe Buffett does this because one day he realized that he was sick of the normal Margaritaville, and he thought that adding extra lyrics would be fun. And if we can uncover the exact date that he added the extra lyrics, we can uncover exactly when that happened.

To accurately answer this question, we have to go back to the beginning. According to (more on this site later) the first time Margaritaville was played was July 18th, 1976. This song is 40 years old. Has he played it every night since then? No. Has he played it most nights? Yeah. Yeah, he has. 40 years of Margaritaville.

If you go on YouTube and type in Margaritaville 1976, the earliest actual live version comes from Aspen High School (what in the world?) with Glen Frey of Eagles fame. The video is not on the rocks, but of course it isn’t. Buffett had literally just written the song. Why would he need to spice (or salt) it up?

We can do this all day, go to YouTube and search Margaritaville + any year and find that the salt is absent for a significant amount of time. 1980? Not there. 1990? Nope.

Let’s swing farther. There’s a nice performance from July 2001 where the extra salt gets added, which means that the answer is within the first twenty-five years of the song’s existence.

Narrowing the search was a little harder; YouTube doesn’t pull a lot of results for videos in this period of time because YouTube wasn’t around in that era. Videos weren’t so common at concerts, which means they’re hard to find on a video hosting site.

I set my parrot-rimmed glasses on a website that serves Parrotheads exclusively, On Buffett News, fans can add setlists, comments, pictures, and audio from Buffett concerts over the years. I looked at the statistics surrounding Margaritaville and saw some pretty interesting facts. It’s been played 926 times and it has appeared on every live release Buffett has put out. One of the live releases, 1999’s Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays contains extra salt. We can conclusively say that the gap is getting smaller, and our answer is approaching.

From that point, I joined an FTP server that had over 300 live Buffett shows. I downloaded every Margaritaville on the server, and I worked backwards from 1999.

1998 had extra salt.

1997 had extra salt.

1996 had extra salt.

September 30, 1995 did not have extra salt. August 8, 1995 did not have extra salt.

October 4th, 1995 had extra salt.

Jimmy Buffett did not play a show in between those two gigs.

Therefore, I can conclusively say that he added the extra salt on October 4th, 1995.

What does that mean? First off, it means that Buffett got sick of this song after only nineteen years. We know exactly when he was tired of the song, because that is when he added the extra salt.

Secondly, it means that if you know how to Google something, you can find any answer you’re looking for.

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