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.
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 http://www.state.me.us
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 (http://www.goblackbears.com/pride/index.html)
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
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 http://www.state.md.us/
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
sheet music! (Scorch format only)
listen to MIDI version
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 http://www.mass.gov/portal/index.jsp
The official state song of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is All
Hail To Massachusetts (at 50states.com) 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
Hear this great old
Printable score! (Scorch format)
listen to MIDI version
Lyrics (There are no lyrics for this
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: http://www.michigan.gov/.
For a cute state symbols brochure (in PDF format) , go to http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mhc_mhm_statesymbols2002_47909_7.pdf
The official state song for Michigan is Michigan,
My Michigan (50 states.com) 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.
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
Music by: Chris Smith
Lyrics by: Smith
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
Minnesota (MN. State Band Site). To learn more about Minnesota,
visit the official state site at: http://www.state.mn.us/
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
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 (50states.com) with words and music by Houston Davis.
For more information, visit the Mississippi state web site at: http://www.mississippi.gov/
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
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
Enjoy this great Mississippi
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 50states.com. 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.
If you missed page one, or want to return to it, click
here to go to page one
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