“Country Roads” Becomes An Official West Virginia State Song

(Charleston, WV)  A special resolution to make the John Denver hit “Take Me Home, Country Roads” an official West Virginia state song successfully passed during the state legislative session last Friday.

“Country Roads,” which begins with the lyrics “Almost Heaven, West Virginia…” was a huge million seller for singer John Denver and his co-writers Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert.

A reception was be held Friday at the lower rotunda of the State Capitol featuring Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and state legislators, musical performances from the Appalachian Children’s Chorus, students from Cabell Midland High School, and more.

Princeton, WV resident Dreama Denver, wife of the late television icon Bob “Gilligan” Denver, is not related to John Denver (whose real last name was Deutschendorf). But, as head of the Mercer County WV-based Denver Foundation, she began pushing for “Take Me Home, Country Roads” to become the state’s official song in 2012. It all began with an on-air chat with her “Sunny Side Up” show listeners on Little Buddy Radio 93.1 FM, which is heard around the world at www.littlebuddyradio.com.

Denver then enlisted the help of House of Delegates member Marty Gearhart in 2012 and then State Senator Bill Cole in 2013, who worked together to get the resolution reintroduced in the legislature before the session wrapped up last week.

“We are identified favorably all over the world by the lyrics of ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads,’” Dreama told the Associated Press in a recent interview. “Their whole vision of West Virginia is tied up in the song all over the world. When the first four words are ‘Almost Heaven, West Virginia,’ that says it all, doesn’t it?”

That same Associated Press story also reached the family of John Denver. Denver sang and co-wrote the song with Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert (the duo who also penned the 70’s hit “Afternoon Delight” for their group Starland Vocal Band). John Denver’s three children, Zak, Anna Kate, and Jesse Belle, released the following statement on behalf of their late father’s estate:

“We are really touched by this honor, and we wish that our dad could be here to share it. We are thrilled that such an important part of his musical legacy will live on in such a meaningful way. Thank you for bringing our father into the West Virginia family, we know how happy he would be.”

“Country Roads” co-writer Bill Danoff, contacted by West Virginia Music Hall of Fame head Michael Lipton, added:

“It’s a wonderful honor; it was over 43 years ago when we put the song out. John would be really happy, as would my former wife Taffy. Personally, I’m thrilled, and really proud to be a part of what I like to think of as the West Virginia Pride movement. I’ve had these incredible stories of people from all over the world connecting to the state because of the song. It’s really nice for it to be a part of the positive image of West Virginia.”

“Country Roads” has been heard and performed around the globe from Irish pubs to the Czech Republic, and even at the Great Wall of China. When now U.S. Senator Joe Manchin visited Thailand as West Virginia’s Governor, Thailand’s prime minister started singing, “Almost Heaven, West Virginia” after being introduced to Manchin.

The song has been recorded in French, Finnish, Czech, Slovene, Japanese, and German, and along with Denver’s hit version, “Country Roads” has also been recorded by Loretta Lynn, Olivia Newton John, Ray Charles, Lynn Anderson, Eddy Arnold, Skeeter Davis, Emmylou Harris and others.

“Country Roads” has played at every West Virginia University football game since 1972. It was also played at the funeral of the late U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. Country star and West Virginia native Kathy Mattea and America’s Got Talent winner Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. performed it with the Wheeling Symphony during West Virginia’s sesquicentennial celebration last year.

Dreama notes that Friday’s official resolution has not eliminated any current state songs; it has instead added “Take Me Home, Country Roads” to the list of official state songs. Says Denver, “If there is one thing that all lawmakers in Charleston should be able to agree on, Democrats and Republicans, it should be ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads.’”