Songs About U.S. States; Illinois to Mississippi, Page 2


This is a continuation of Our May, 2003 Issue of songs about states or with state names, if you missed page one, check the link at the end of this page or use this link.



Stein Song (University of Maine)



Music by: E.A. Finstad
Lyrics by: Lincoln Colcord, arr. Vallee
Cover artist: unsigned


What is now the state of Maine was, before statehood, called the District of Maine and belonged to Massachusetts. Admitted to the union March 15, 1820, Maine was the 23rd State. Known as "The Pine Tree State," Maine is a natural paradise of vast wilderness, beautiful wildlife and astonishing coastline. The origin of the state name is not known for sure but is assumed to signify it as a "mainland" compared to the many surrounding islands. Folks from Maine have a legendary directness and gift for understatement and that is reflected in her single word motto "Dirigo" (direct). The state flower is the white pine cone and tassel and state bird is the Chickadee. Her official state song is State of Maine Song with words by Roger Vinton Snow and music by Roger Vinton Snow. For more information, visit the Maine website at .


Technically of course, this song is not about the state of Maine but it does have the state name in it! You'd be surprised how hard it is to find songs for some states (unless you live in that state) and though this one is a little off the mark, it is still a clear Maine related song. Later, you'll see just how far we've had to roam to find a song for some states. Regardless, this is a favorite that we've published before. The song is the University of Maine's "drinking song," now probably less emphasized due to politically correct concerns about college binge drinking. In spite of that, drinking has long been a basic course of instruction for college and is often learned in dank beer joints while singing rousing songs. I got my BS (Beer Swilling) degree at the famed (in Columbus, Ohio) S. Heidelburg across from Ohio State.


According to the University of Maine Athletics site ( The Maine Stein Song has its origins with undergraduate Adelbert Sprague. In 1902, while working in Bar Harbor, Sprague heard a march called Opie, written by E.A. Fenstad, and arranged the Stein Song melody based on the German composition. Sprague then gave the music to his roommate, Lincoln Colcord, who wrote the now-familiar words. This particular version was arranged by Rudy Vallee who was responsible for the popularization of the song. Vallee was the premier crooner of the teens, twenties and into the thirties. He was still a fixture in the 50's and 60's and I can recall seeing him regularly on TV. His smooth and mellow tenor voice just dripped with emotion. To hear the stein song sung by the University of Maine University Singers under the direction of Dennis K. Cox, see the U of M Stein Song page at:


Lincoln Colcord, the lyricist of the Stein Song, may well have the most unique birthplace of any composer from the Tin Pan Alley years. He was born in 1883 at sea off Cape Horn, South Africa. "Captain Lincoln Alden Colcord and his new wife, Jane Sweetser Colcord, departed on a two-year voyage on the bark Charlotte A. Littlefield in June of 1881. The voyage would take them around the world and witness the birth of their daughter Joanna in the South Sea Islands and young Lincoln's arrival during a treacherous winter storm off Cape Horn."( Lincoln (Jr.) attended the University of Maine and graduated in 1906. The arranger of the music, A.W. Sprague later joined the U of Maine faculty and chaired the Department of Music. It would appear that the Stein Song was Colcord's only foray into song writing


The writer of the original melody on which the song is based, E. A. Finstad, has faded into obscurity.


Listen to and see this stirring march song

Listen to MIDI version




Maryland, My Maryland!


Music from an old German Carol
Lyrics by: Finley Johnson
Cover artist: Unsigned

The Maryland flag may be unique among state flags in that it is based on two family crests, those of the Calvert and Crossland families. Maryland was founded as an English colony in 1634 by Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore. The black and Gold design is the Calvert family's. The red and white design is the Crossland family crest. Her state motto, "Fatti maschii parole femine," is translated as "strong deeds, gentle words." The Black-eyed susan is her state flower and the state bird is (had to be!) the Baltimore Oriole. According to some historians, Gen. George Washington bestowed the state nickname as “Old Line State” and thereby associated Maryland with its regular line troops, the Maryland Line, who served courageously in many Revolutionary War battles.(source
For more information about Maryland, see their attractive official state web site at


Well, as luck would have it we actually have again hit on a "real" state song with this one, according to the state site, The nine-stanza poem, Maryland, My Maryland, was written by James Ryder Randall in April 1861. A native of Maryland, Randall was teaching in Louisiana in the early days of the Civil War, and he was outraged at the news of Union troops being marched through Baltimore. The poem articulated Randall's Confederate sympathies. Set to the traditional tune of Lauriger Horatius (O, Tannenbaum), the song achieved wide popularity in Maryland and throughout the South. The song was so popular that it was picked up by many different writers who added their own sentiments to it. The version we have is slightly different, and perhaps much more venomous than the original and official state song. The original lyrics and those of the official song can be seen in the pop up lyrics link (below) for our version. Though different, both sets of lyrics convey the same message: Invaders, get out of Dodge!


Though we know some about the original lyrics writer, little can be found about the writer of our version, Finley Johnson.


Hear and see this historic song Printable sheet music! (Scorch format only)

listen to MIDI version




Return From Victory


Music by: John C. Hurley
Lyrics by: None, piano solo
Cover artist: unknown

One of the original 13 American colonies, Massachusetts became a state on Feb. 6, 1788, the 6th state in the new nation of the United States of America. With a state motto of "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty), her state bird is the Chickadee and the state flower the Mayflower. Known as the Bay State, Massachusetts is the birthplace of four of America's greatest Presidents (John Adams, 1797-1801, John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1961-1963, George Herbert Walker Bush, 1989-1993). For lots more interesting stuff about Massachusetts, visit the official state site at


The official state song of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is All Hail To Massachusetts (at Written by Arthur J. Marsh. We did not have a copy of that one and really were hard pressed for any song about Massachusetts. The best we could do is a wonderful march written in 1900 by John C. Hurley that commemorates the service of The Volunteer Infantry of Massachusetts on their return from service, presumably in the Spanish American War. A stirring march, as most are, it is reminiscent of the style of marches that were popularized by E.T. Paull. A well crafted march in an AABBC(Trio)A style, I found the Trio to be the most engaging and musically interesting.


John C. Hurley is another of the many "lost" composers from our ParlorSongs era. I'm unable to locate even a mention of him in my references or the net. As always, if someone out there can provide some history on Mr. Hurley, please e-mail us.


Hear this great old song Printable score! (Scorch format)

listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (There are no lyrics for this work)


I Want To Go Back To Michigan


Music by: Irving Berlin
Lyrics by: Berlin
Cover artist: John Frew


Originally featured in an early (1998) ParlorSongs feature about Irving Berlin (since updated) this song has proven to be a long time favorite with our visitors.. With a blend of down home lyrics and melody that is typical of Berlin's mastery, the song is a wonderful testament to the home and agricultural values and origins of the great state of Michigan.


A mecca for tourism and outdoorsmen Michigan offers a variety of scenery and has an economy based on a broad range of products from Blueberries to Buicks. A relative newcomer to the Union, she became the 26th state Jan. 26, 1837. Blessed with tremendous natural beauty and wildlife, Michigan's state symbols reflect her natural heritage. The state animal is the Wolverine, her state bird is the ubiquitous Robin. Michigan even has a state dirt (OK, they call it the state soil), the Kalkaska Sand, unique to one area of Michigan it covers nearly one million acres of the upper and lower peninsula. The blossom of the apple tree is the state flower. The Michigan website is at: For a cute state symbols brochure (in PDF format) , go to


The official state song for Michigan is Michigan, My Michigan (50 Written by: William Otto Miessner & Douglas M. Malloch. As for Berlin, we've written much about him over the years at ParlorSongs and recently updated and expanded our biography on him as well as published a feature on just a few of his songs. What follows is a very short synopsis of his life.


Irving Berlin. Born Isidore Baline in Temun, Russia, in 1888, Berlin moved to New York City with his family in 1893. He published his first work, Marie of Sunny Italy (Scorch format) in 1907 at age 19 and immediately had his first hit on his hands. It was at that time he changed his name to Irving Berlin. His total royalties for this first song amounted to 37 cents. In 1911 the publication of Alexander's Ragtime Band (MIDI) established his reputation as a songwriter. He formed his own music-publishing business in 1919, and in 1921 he became a partner in the construction of the Music Box Theater in New York, staging his own popular revues at the theater for several years. Berlin wrote about 1500 songs. One unique fact about Berlin is that he was not able to read or write music or play the piano except in one key (F sharp). He picked out melodies or dictated them and had assistants fill in the harmonies and accompaniment for him. Berlin never seemed to give credit for these very talented people. In his later years, he had a special device attached to his piano that allowed him to transpose any song into his "favorite" key. His initial start in the music industry was as a singer and then as a lyricist. It was only after great success in writing lyrics that Berlin turned to melodies.


Whether for Broadway musicals or films, for humorous songs or romantic ballads, his compositions are celebrated for their appealing melodies and memorable lyrics. Among the numerous musical comedies and revues for which Berlin wrote music and lyrics were Annie Get Your Gun (1946), and Mr. President (1962). His many popular songs include There's No Business Like Show Business, God Bless America, and White Christmas. In 1968 Berlin received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. On September 22nd 1989, at the age of 101, Berlin died in his sleep in New York City.


It is almost impossible to provide a meaningful biographical sketch of Berlin in only a few words, he is perhaps the most celebrated and successful composer of American song from the Tin Pan Alley era. Way back in November of 1998 we did a feature on Berlin's music, which we updated early in 2003. In addition, we have added a more extensive biography of Berlin for those who want to know more about him.


Listen to and see this great Michigan song (Scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version



The Undertaker Man


Music by: Chris Smith
Lyrics by: Smith
Cover artist:


They say, never start with an apology but I'm afraid I'll have to violate that principle for I must offer some apology to citizens of Minnesota. I've been completely unable to find any song from the Tin Pan Alley Era with Minnesota in the title. I'm sure there are plenty of them but I'm afraid I've failed to find any. This song represents the longest reach we've had to make for a state named or song about a state. The first line of the lyrics mention "Cinderella Jack-son from a town in Minnesota," that's it, no other mention but at least it did mention the state! A terrific novelty song, perhaps we can make up for the slight with some good humor and our apology. If anyone from Minnesota can provide a better song, (published prior to 1923, in the public domain) we'd love to have it.


Minnesota came to the Union as the 32nd state on May 11, 1858. A huge state, 12th in size, she boasts plenty of water and wilderness as well as a vibrant economy that is balanced between agriculture and industry. Her state bird is the Common Loon and state flower, the pink and white lady's-slipper. With a state tree of the red pine, darned if Minnesota doesn't have a state dirt too, the Lester soil which is in 17 different counties in south-central Minnesota. According to the USDA web site; "These soils are very productive and of significant importance to the economy in Minnesota." Known both as the North Star State and Land of 10,000 Lakes her motto is "L'Etoile du nord"
(the star of the north). Minnesota's state song is Minnesota State Song
Hail, Minnesota (MN. State Band Site). To learn more about Minnesota, visit the official state site at:


Chris Smith (b. Charleston, SC 1879 - d. New York City, 1949) One of a very few African American composers to be successful during this era, Smith distinguished himself with a large oeuvre of published works including several hits. He taught himself to play the piano and the guitar. His first appearances on the stage was with Elmer Bowman, who had a medicine show. Bowman never paid him, and he had to walk back home to Charleston. At some point, Chris traveled to New York, and in 1900, he began to write popular songs. His first song, Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice was published in 1900 with lyrics by Cecil Mack. His collaborations included a number of major lyricists of the time including Silvio Hein ( He's A Cousin Of Mine), Jack Drislane ( After All That I've Been To You) and Avery and Hart (Down Among The Sugar Cane). Sadly, after WW1, Smith stopped writing. He lived in an apartment in Harlem's St. Nicholas Avenue, in seclusion and neglect till his death at age 70.


Hear this great old novelty song
Printable! (Scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version



I Miss That Mississippi Miss That Misses Me


Music by: Pete Wendling
Lyrics by: Joe Young, Sam M. Lewis
Cover artist: Barbelle

A territory established on May 7, 1798, Mississippi became the 20th state of the Union on December 10, 1817. A commonly misunderstood and often unfairly maligned state, her agricultural heritage, though still an important part of her economy, has been augmented by vibrant industry, tourism and the establishment of gambling and entertainment meccas that are rivaling Las Vegas. Strongly grounded in proud Southern heritage, her state bird is the Mocking bird and state flower the Magnolia. Known by that flower as the Magnolia state, her motto is Virtute et armis (by valor and arms). Her state song adopted in 1962 is Go, Mississippi ( with words and music by Houston Davis. For more information, visit the Mississippi state web site at:


For our final state and song for this month, we've picked a classic novelty song by one of Tin Pan Alley's greatest teams. Of course many of us may have had hard times learning to spell Mississippi in grade school and many may have used the great old learning rhyme or worse yet, through a rather commonly circulated tasteless joke. However, had any of us heard this song and its alliterative title, we may have become hopelessly tongue tied forever and may never have learned to spell it. This song wins my award for best title, at least for the year 1918.


Pete Wendling (b. June 6, 1888, d. April 1974) Wendling was one of the true Tin Pan Alley musicians, both a composer and lyricist. Between the years 1919 to 1929, he made a great many piano rolls, for the player pianos that were then in vogue. Over his career, he produced a huge number of songs, written with a great many different collaborators. Among his hits are; He Loves It (1922), Red Lips, Kiss My Blues Away, Yaka Hula, Hickey Doola (MIDI), I'm Growing Fonder of You, Oh What A Pal Was Mary (MIDI), How Long Has This Been Going On, and Crying Myself To Sleep. (Adapted from a biography at the tunesmiths database)


Joe Young (b. 1889, New York, N. Y., d. 1939, New York, N. Y. )
Joe Young was most active from 1911 through the late 1930's. Joe began his career working as a singer-songplugger for various music publishers. During WW1, he entertained the U.S. Troops. Starting in 1916, he and co-lyricist Sam M. Lewis worked as a team up until 1930. Among his earliest lyrics (without Lewis) included: Don't Blame It All On Broadway; When The Angelus Was Ringing; Yaaka Hula, Hickey Dula, (MIDI) written with Pete Wendling & Ray Goetz and the great novelty song Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday on Saturday Night? (MIDI) an Al Jolson favorite. In 1930, Young and Lewis collaborated with composer Harry Warren on an early talking motion picture Spring is Here. It was one of the Young and Lewis team's last projects together. From 1930 on, Young mostly wrote lyrics by himself and continued writing nearly to his death with his last known songs published around 1935. Joe Young is a member of the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.


Sam M. Lewis (b. 1885, New York, NY, d. 1959, New York, NY )As with many songwriters, Lewis was a performer first and he sang gigs in nightclubs in New York before songwriting took over his life. Lewis was actively writing from 1912 through the 1930's. From 1916 into the 1930's, his principal collaborator was Joe Young, but he did write with some other well known composers including Walter Donaldson, Ted Fiorito and Harry Warren. Sam Lewis and Joe Young were a powerhouse Tin Pan Alley combination. They collaborated only on lyrics but the list of lasting hits for them is astounding. Among their many hits are; Rockabye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody (Scorch format) 1918 , music by Jean Schwartz sung by Al Jolson in Broadway play 'Sinbad'; Dinah, with music by Harry Akst, from the Broadway show Sinbad starring Al Jolson later, also in Plantation Revue starring Ethel Waters; Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue, music by Ray Henderson and I'm Sitting on Top of the World, again with Ray Henderson's music (1926). Sam Lewis is a deserved inductee into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.


Enjoy this great Mississippi song (scorch)

listen to MIDI version



That completes our second installment of songs with state names or about US States. We still have twenty-six more to go and hope you'll come back to see them all as we complete the series this year. In the meanwhile we hope you enjoyed this month's feature. Be sure to come back next month for a new and different feature article or just come back anytime to browse our extensive archive of issues and special articles.

Most of the state facts featured this month were taken from each of the state web sites cited for each featured song and the excellent US state reference site See our resources page for a complete bibliography of other resources used to research this and other articles in our series. In text citations in this issue refer to works in the bibliography except where otherwise noted.

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