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Songwriters know that rejection is part of the territory, but that doesn't mean they have to like it. But rejection turned into a happy ending for Don Rollins and Jim Brown, writers of the megahit "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere."
"After we wrote it last February, we pitched it to this record producer, who was looking for a Jimmy Buffett-island vibe kind of song," recalls Don. "He passed on it. I don't think he even got through the first chorus."
The breezy tune found its way to Alan Jackson's management. "Alan was actually looking for something he could sing with Jimmy Buffett," says Don. "They took it to Alan in March of last year, and he and Jimmy cut it in April. What a twist of fate."
And what a hit! "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" became one of the biggest smashes of 2003, spending six weeks at No. 1 and winning a 2003 CMA Award for Vocal Event of the Year. It was also the first chart-topper of Buffett's incredible career.
Even in their wildest dreams, the writers never imagined such amazing success. They wrote the tune in one day, in the space of about four hours.
"I had the idea from a guy that I used to teach school with in Texas," explains Don, a former high school band director who moved to Nashville three years ago. "He would want to get a beer in the early afternoon after class and he would always say, 'Well, it's five o'clock somewhere.' I remembered that as being a good line."
Don got together with his friend, studio musician Jim Brown. "All I walked in with when I met with Jim was the idea and that last line: What would Jimmy Buffett do?" Don laughs. "We just had to fill in the middle!"
Jim came up with the island melody, evoking Buffett's trademark sound, while Don completed the lyrics. And as Don recalls, "We only changed one thing. After we looked at it, we realized that the first and second verses had to switch. It didn't make sense the way we had it."
The writers watched in awe as their song literally flew up the charts, reaching No. 1 after only eight weeks. "I'd had some cuts before, but never a No. 1," says Don. "And this was Jim's first cut ever."
Don pauses and smiles. "The fact that it was that big is still sinking in."
-- Bob Paxman