Alan Jackson’s ‘It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere’: Story Behind the Classic Drinking Song

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Never let it be said that Alan Jackson doesn’t know how to have a good time. His classic drinking song “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere” was a smash hit when it graced airwaves in 2003.

The tune became the anthem cry of every overworked employee dreaming of living it up at 5 o’clock. Or in Jackson’s narrator’s case during his extended lunch break. The tune had a good-time, party feel that populated most of Jimmy Buffett’s music at the time. So much so, Bubba himself made a guest appearance in the song.

Alan Jackson Wasn’t the First Choice

Despite how irreplaceable Jackson feels on the track, he actually wasn’t the label’s first choice to sing the tune. That would be newcomer Colt Prather, who had recently signed a label at Sony. They wanted a Jimmy-Buffett style song to help launch Prather’s career.

Don Rollins and Jim “Moose” Brown wrote the song, based upon the common cocktail hour phrase.

“It was definitely that ‘Margaritaville’ feel,” Rollins told The Boot. “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. 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.”

Describing Buffett’s involvement, Rollins continued, “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. 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.”

But, surprisingly Prather’s producer passed on the song when they finished. After a few other artists passed, Rollins learned that Jackson planned to sing the song. The news surprised him because it wasn’t a typical Jackson song. But combined with Buffett, Jackson had another hit in his career.

The song went No. 1 on the country charts with crossover into the pop genre. It also won a CMA Award.