Why Elvis Presley Never Sang Jimmy Buffett’s ‘Margaritaville’ Even Though the Song Was Meant for Him

TL;DR:

  • Jimmy Buffett wanted “Margaritaville” to be one of Elvis Presley’s songs.
  • None of Buffett’s other songs received a similar reception in the United States.
  • The song appeared on Buffett’s most popular studio album.
Joan Blackman and Elvis Presley on a beach
Joan Blackman and Elvis Presley | Paramount Pictures/Courtesy of Getty Images

Many of Elvis Presley‘s songs were written by famous songwriters. In the same vein, Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” was written with the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll in mind. Buffett explained why he wrote the song and why Elvis never recorded it.

The place that inspired Jimmy Buffett’s most famous song

During a 2021 interview with The Arizona Republic, Buffett discussed “Margaritaville.” “Margaritaville has been a myth for such a long time,” Buffett said. “There was no such place as Margaritaville.”

Despite this, “Margaritaville” has its roots in reality. “It was a made-up place in my mind, basically made up about my experiences in Key West and having to leave Key West and go on the road to work and then come back and spend time by the beach,” he said.

“Key West was always kind of mythical and also had a lot of history of great writers who kind of use it as their oasis as well,” Buffett said. “That’s kind of how I stumbled upon it,” he added. “And I stayed there. Then the reality was that you had to take it out on the road. But you were singing [for] people to take them away somewhere mythical for a while until they have to return back to their real lives.”

The sad reason Jimmy Buffett’s ‘Margaritaville’ wasn’t 1 of Elvis Presley’s songs

During a 2010 episode of CMT Crossroads, Buffett performed “Margaritaville” with the Zac Brown Band. He revealed the song was initially intended for Elvis. Notably, “Margaritaville” has elements of country music and the “Heartbreak Hotel” singer was making many country songs at the time.

Buffett said Elvis died before he could record “Margaritaville.” For context, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll died in August 1977, and Buffett released “Margaritaville” in February 1977.

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How ‘Margaritaville’ and its parent album performed on the charts

“Margaritaville” became Buffett’s biggest hit in the United States. It reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it his only top 10 single. The song stayed on the chart for 22 weeks.

Buffett released “Margaritaville” on the album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. The album reached No. 12 on the Billboard 200. Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes remained on the chart for 42 weeks. It lasted longer on the chart than any of Buffett’s other studio albums.

“Margaritaville” is a classic song even if fans never got to hear the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s take on it.

[Correction: An earlier version included an incorrect release date for “Margaritaville.”]