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A1A, the fourth album from Jimmy Buffett, was a transitional work in every sense of the word. Buffett had spent better than half a decade in the trenches of Nashville trying to make it as a country singer and songwriter, playing dives like Sam’s Pizza Place and pitching tunes to publishers on Music Row. Buffett’s third ABC Dunhill album, 1974’s Living and Dying in 3/4 Time, scored a minor pop and country hit in “Come Monday,” an effective mid-tempo soft rocker closer in spirit to California-based Avocado Mafia songwriters like Jackson Browne or David Crosby as opposed to the new brand of Texas-bred cosmic cowboys like Guy Clark or Jerry Jeff Walker.
In the wake of a divorce and re-location to Key West, Florida Buffett began to shed his Music City roots and re-invented himself as a country-rock beach bum. A1A, named for the highway which runs along the Atlantic coast of Florida, mixes autobiographical tunes like “Trying To Reason With Hurricane Season,” “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” and “Life Is Just A Tire Swing” with choice covers like Alex Harvey’s “Makin’ Music For Money” and John Sebastian’s “Stories We Could Tell,” the performances blending country, rock, and the occasional island riddims. Buffett enjoyed a minor country hit with the album’s twangiest track, the humorous “Door Number Three” (#88), while the album itself struck a chord with mainstream audiences, A1A becoming the singer’s highest-charting LP to date (#25).
The ABC Dunhill ad for A1A wasn’t particularly effective or gripping, the giant head of Jimmy Buffett hovering, godlike, above a sand-coursed stretch of highway. The ad copy says little of the album save for an attempt to make a Nashville connection for the music – not the best way, perhaps, to sell the singer’s new creative direction, but then again, ABC didn’t have the spare cash to spread around and hype the album at the time. It didn’t matter, really, ‘cause Buffett had clearly found his preferred musical blueprint and, after his tiny label was absorbed by the multinational MCA Records, he’d hit the big time three years later with his signature song “Margaritaville,” the perfect distillation of his beach bum troubadour persona which would hit Top 20 on both the pop and country charts.