Jimmy Buffett is a smart man.
The hit song “Margaritaville” captured the imagination of millions and spurred the creation of a devoted following that has remained loyal to the singer for his entire career since. He decided to license that and turn it into the successful tourist trap “Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Restaurant”™. I can respect that, even if the chain itself is a canned, one-size-fit-all, bland vaguely beach-y experience. Not to say I haven’t eaten there before and found the food to be… generally fit for human consumption.
There’s a point to all of this, but in order to get the full scope of what we’re talking about, I had to bury the lead a bit here in paragraph three. But here it is, the next Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville™ is planned for the edge of downtown Atlanta. In probably the worst spot ever. Why? Because of the building they’re going to have to tear down to build this generic, tourist trap-y, Key-West-in-a-bottle restaurant.
The building is a two-story brick building that happens to have a key place in country music history. That place is the beginning (basically). Because 94 years ago, Fiddlin’ John Carson, a Georgia mountain fiddler, recorded a song there called “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane” that went on to become country music’s first hit, and basically launched the genre of country music as we know it today to a national audience.
Yes, the birthplace of modern country music might be replaced by a Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville™.
The city of Atlanta is now trying to preserve the building in the face of this pressure from corporate behemoth Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville™. “We were really blown away by it,” Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane told the Associated Press of the building’s connection to music history. There is now an effort to landmark the building.
The location is all the more remarkable because at the time, artists typically had to go to recording studios in New York and Los Angeles where they had the infrastructure. This little building in Atlanta was one of the first efforts to build a “pop-up” recording studio so they could be closer to sources of yet undiscovered talent.
Knowing that is important because you should definitely care about the building and its landmark status despite what I’m going to tell you next. The artist in question, Fiddlin’ John Carson, was pretty racist. Like SUPER racist. His catalogue of music before “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane” was pretty awful, in a moral sense. His music was also often used to whip up lynch mobs, including the one case where he was involved in inciting anti-Semitic animosity against Atlanta factory superintendent Leo Frank, who was lynched in 1915 after the murder of a young girl.
Despite the deep flaws of the artist himself, there is no denying the place in country music history that the building at 152 Nassau Street. The negative side of that history shouldn’t be an excuse to allow the be-suited Florida invaders behind Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville™ to knock down a building. Instead, that building should be honored for its history and place in music, as well as an opportunity to educate about the sometimes dark origin of the early figures in the genre.
Besides, that plot is situated right in the middle of everything, prime area for tourism. Do you want to shuffle them through a generic restaurant experience that they could get at any other Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville™ in the world, or something that is uniquely Atlanta?
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