The answer to a crossword clue I recently tackled was "Vermont" which immediately triggered memories of the beautiful 1950's song Moonlight in Vermont. When I first heard the tune as a kid it created such an alluring image of moon rays amid sycamore trees I dug out the atlas to find out where Vermont was actually located. It even looked nice on the map, tucked up in the right-hand corner of the US.
It serves as a reminder that all American states have had songs written about them. In 1967 when the Bee Gees recorded Massachusetts (a neighbour of Vermont), they admitted they had never even been to the place but simply liked its unusual name.
A couple of years ago I received an email from a Thai reader living in Alabama and married to an American. She signed off her message with Sweet Home Alabama, the Lynyrd Skynyrd song much loved by Alabamans. Another great song about the state is Stars Fell On Alabama and there's a lovely jazz version by Cannonball Adderley.
A song about a US state which had a big impact on me was the Ray Charles 1960 version of Hoagy Carmichael's soulful number Georgia On My Mind which has become Georgia's official state song. I was a huge fan of Ray and Georgia -- it was on the first album I ever purchased. When he sings "as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines" it still sends shivers up my spine. There must be something about moonlight that strikes a chord in Old Crutch.
I brought that vinyl album out to Thailand in the late 1970s. Unfortunately it bent out of shape in the heat. Eventually it disappeared when I was moving house and I have a horrible feeling that Georgia ended up on the Onnut rubbish dump.
The mid-sixties saw two catchy songs about the most populous state in the US. Released in 1965 there was the feel-good California Girls by the Beach Boys and the iconic California Dreamin' by The Mamas and the Papas. That song must have been responsible for many Californians pining for home.
One song that has kept West Virginia on the map is Take Me Home, Country Roads released by John Denver in 1971.
It has always been popular in Thailand and if you ever attend a karaoke session in Bangkok you'll be lucky if you escape without hearing someone having a bash at it.
Why not start the day with a hearty breakfast rendition of "Country roads, take me home to the place I belong…"?
In the late 1950s my parents loved watching The Perry Como Show because they liked Mr C's relaxed manner and my mum loved his cardigans which added to his "easy-going" persona.
One song I can't forget from that show, though I wish I could, was Como's 1959 novelty number Delaware that makes references to 15 different American states. It links the states through a series of painful puns commencing with "what did della wear boy?" bringing the response "she wore a brand New Jersey." You get the idea.
The song then lurches into assorted awkward puns including "Calla phone ya''. Despite my misgivings it was a massive hit and although I wasn't keen on his "easy-listening" music, Mr C's cardigans looked rather neat.
The Mississippi song
I have to thank American singer Bobbie Gentry for helping me tackle the spelling of one southern state and the famous river which runs through it.
When she released Mississippi Delta in 1967 the opening line began "M I double S I double S I double P I".
To this day when I write the name of that river or state that song's opening line automatically pops up in my rapidly shrinking memory bank. Apart from helping with the spelling it's also a pretty good song.
In the US, in addition to musical rivalries, there is much competition between states in trying to attract city folks to experience the peace and tranquillity of the great outdoors.
One that catches the eye is the Illinois slogan "A Million Miles From Monday" which has a certain lyrical feel to it and sounds like it should be a country and western song title.
Then there is Wyoming's Like No Place on Earth, which you can interpret in any manner you wish.
Perhaps the bravest slogan is Montana's There's Nothing Here. It takes considerable guts to promote nothing. Taking a similar approach is Nebraska with the frank slogan "Honestly, It's Not for Everyone".
Some of the smaller US towns display a touch of wry humour in the promotion of their particular communities.
Lake City in Iowa splendidly boasts "Everything but a lake", while the town of Gettysburg in South Dakota bills itself as "Where the battle wasn't".
The town of San Andreas in quake-prone California comes up with the disclaimer "It's Not Our Fault" while Walla Walla in Washington settles for "The City So Nice They Named It Twice."
It is hard to argue with the town of Gravity in Iowa which claims "We're Down to Earth".
And then there's the remote settlement of Bushnell, in South Dakota, which humbly admits "It's not the end of the World, but you can see it from here."
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