How Austin is part of the legend of Jimmy Buffett and Margaritaville

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Singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett died Friday, "peacefully … surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs," according to statements posted on his website and social media. He was 76. If you're not a Parrothead or a longtime Austin music fan you might not know the city's connection to one of his best-known songs, or Buffett's other deep ties to Austin.

How Austin fits into the legend of 'Margaritaville'

Buffett's last Austin show was in 2022 at the new Moody Center. "Because Buffett often rehearses his Coral Reefer Band here before launching tours, he's played tune-up gigs at smaller venues such as ACL Live and Stubb's in recent years," former American-Statesman music writer Peter Blackstock explained in his review of the show. "But the last time he'd played one of the city's large venues was in 2014 at the Austin360 Amphitheater."

The review continues with more on "Margaritaville," Buffett and Austin:

Buffett's ties to Austin run deep. He noted when introducing "Margaritaville," which closed the main set, that he'd begun writing the tune here in the mid-1970s. "It started in Austin in a little tequila bar," he explained. "We had a couple margaritas in the morning."

He'd been drawn here in the first place by Jerry Jeff Walker, who had previously driven Buffett from Miami to Key West in the early 1970s and "changed my life," he explained when introducing the mid-set number "Migration."

Buffett's first gigs in Austin were at the folk club Castle Creek in 1974. He moved up to Armadillo World Headquarters in 1976 and then to the Erwin Center in the 1980s, taping a couple of "Austin City Limits" episodes along the way.

More: Jimmy Buffett, 'Margaritaville' musician and mogul, dies at 76

A special moment from Buffett's final Austin show

Buffett canceled some shows in 2022 because of an undisclosed health issue, but he was able to play Austin's new Moody Center in June. Blackstock's review includes another moment of note from that Moody show:

"You never know what’s going to happen in Austin!” Buffett said.

Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band at their last show in Austin during Jimmy Buffett’s Life on the Flip Side Redux Tour on June 11, 2022, at the Moody Center.
Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band at their last show in Austin during Jimmy Buffett’s Life on the Flip Side Redux Tour on June 11, 2022, at the Moody Center.

Buffett had a giant grin on his face, basking in the moment of giving the city a very special moment at the Moody Center.

Fifty years ago, Buffett explained, he was just beginning his career when he heard the self-titled debut album from a 21-year-old Austin troubadour named Willis Alan Ramsey. Buffett covered that album's opening track, "Ballad of Spider John," for his 1974 album "Living and Dying in 3/4 Time" — but the two songwriters apparently had never sung the song onstage together. Until this night.

More: Jerry Jeff Walker, Austin country music legend, dies at 78

As memorable moments at the new arena go, this one ranked second only to George Strait and Willie Nelson dueting on "Sing One With Willie" a few weeks ago. Buffett cracked early in Saturday's two-hour set (plus a three-song encore) that the fresh arena had drawn him in: "Build the new arena and he will come!"

Read the full review from that show.

'Wasting Away Again in Austin, Texasville': the title that almost was

The famous song became the basis for a Broadway musical in 2018, and Buffet told the New York Post a little more about its background, including what he almost called it it. From that story:

He was in Austin, Texas, some 40 years ago, visiting a woman he was dating, and “there was the potential for a breakup,” he recalls.

After a couple of margaritas and a few tears, she drove him to the airport so he could catch a plane back home to Key West, Fla. At the gate, he got out his guitar and found the hook and the chorus for a new song.

“I was going to call it ‘Wasting Away Again in Austin, Texasville,’” he tells The Post.

He came up with a far better title after he got on the plane.

Where was the bar that inspired 'Margaritaville'?

Various stories in the Statesman archives say "a Mexican restaurant on Anderson Lane." More than one source online says it was Lung's Cocina del Sur, at 2700 W. Anderson Lane, now home to High 5 Austin, a bowling alley.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Jimmy Buffett has died: How Austin fits into his 'Margaritaville'