Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 8, 2014

Lawmakers push for ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ as W.Va. song

PRINCETON — West Virginia’s former governor had a surprise when he visited the nation of Thailand. After introducing him, Thailand’s prime minister started singing, “Almost Heaven, West Virginia...”

The former governor, now U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is just one of the many people who has heard the song, “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” while traveling the world, said Dreama Denver of Little Buddy Radio in Mercer County. It’s been heard in many Irish pubs, in the Czech Republic, and even at the Great Wall of China.

Since the song is so well known in West Virginia and around the world, there is now a resolution in the Legislature to make “Take Me Home, Country Roads” one of West Virginia’s official state songs.

“We started the effort here on the morning show, ‘Sunny Side Up’ a year and a half ago, about August 2012.’” Denver recalled. “We worked on getting it past the House that year, but it didn’t get through the Senate.”

On that day in 2012, the song was played on the air and a caller asked if it was the official state song.

“So, of course, we looked it up and it wasn’t,” Denver said. “It’s used unofficially as if it were the state song. They play it at every WVU game, if they win.”

The song was also played at the funeral of the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., and singers Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. and Kathy Mattea performed it during West Virginia’s sesquicentennial, Denver said.

“We decided right there and then that we should start a campaign to have it adopted as one of West Virginia’s state songs. It’s not going to replace anything. It just gets added to the list,” she said.

The current state songs include “The West Virginia Hills, the tune “West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home,” and “This Is My West Virginia.”

Besides being heard around the world, “Take Me Home, Country Road” has been recorded in French, Finnish, Czech, Slovenia, Japanese and German, Denver said. The version by the late John Denver might be the best-known rendition, but it has also been performed by Loretta Lynn, Olivia Newton John, Skeeter Davis and Ray Charles.

“We are identified favorably all over the world by the lyrics of ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads.’ Their whole vision of West Virginia is tied up in the song all over the world,” Denver said. “When the first four words are ‘Almost Heaven, West Virginia, that says it all, doesn’t it? I want to see this (resolution) happen.”

Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, introduced the resolution in the House. Gearheart said that after doing some research, he saw that the song gave listeners a good perspective of West Virginia.

“Everyone knows it worldwide,” Gearheart said. “It’s a feel-good song about West Virginia, and it’s a good marketing tool. I have anecdotal evidence; everybody automatically associates it with us.”

The resolution would not eliminate any current state songs, Gearheart emphasized. It would add “Take Me Home, Country Roads” to the list of official state songs.

State Senator Bill Cole, R-Mercer, said he planned to show the resolution to his colleagues in the Senate.

“Certainly, I’d be supportive of the resolution,” Cole said Saturday. “The song is know worldwide, you know, and regardless of culture or language barrier, people know ‘Country Roads.’ It would serve to improve and enhance the image of West Virginia not only in the nation, but also around the world. Even if they can’t speak English, they know ‘Country Roads.’”

Paul Dorsey, a volunteer with the Denver Foundation, said passing legislation making “Country Roads” an official state song should be a simple decision for lawmakers.

“This has gotta happen,” Dorsey said. “It’s just a no-brainer. Almost everybody’s initial reaction is, ‘you mean it’s not already the state song?’ People should get involved. You’ve got to start someplace.”

Dorsey has forwarded letters to multiple lawmakers asking for them to introduce a bill making “Country Roads” one of the official state songs. Among those he’s contacted are Senate President Jeff Kesler, D-Marshall; Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam; Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkley; and Senator Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha.

“If they can get together on a simple thing like this — who knows — maybe they could be able to get together on other issues,” Dorsey said.

Charles Owens contributed to this story

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