Memories From the Museum—Arkansas’ State SongJanuary 17th, 2009 by Sheilla Lampkin
Memory from 2006.
During a recent visit with my dear friend, Mrs. Henri Mason, we began a discussion about the “words” to the state song of Arkansas. (Mrs. Henri was referring to the original state song.)
Mrs. Mason was telling me that when she and her sister, Liz Chandler, were children, her parents would have she and Liz sing the song for the entertainment of company. Mrs. Henri even recalled saluting the flag at the appropriate verse in the song.
I also remember learning the tune, “Arkansas”, in elementary music classes during my childhood near McGehee, Arkansas. Neither of us could remember all the lyrics of the song though.
When I sat down to research that first state song, I learned that the state of Arkansas actually has 4 acknowledged state songs! (That must be some sort of record!)
This first state song, “Arkansas”, was written and published in 1916 by Mrs. Eva Ware Barnett. It became the first designated Official State Song of Arkansas when it was adopted by Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 6 on January 12, 1917.
The gentle, melodic tune reminisces about growing up amid the natural beauty of Arkansas. Many of Arkansas’ products and treasures are also mentioned.
“Arkansas” remained the state song until 1945 when a copyright disagreement broke out between the state and Mrs. Barnett.
This disagreement led to the formation of a State Song Commission charged with finding a new state song.
At that point a fiddle tune and story by Colonel Sanford (Sandy) C. Faulkner, a wealthy planter from Chicot County, were combined to form the basis of a new state song. Col. Faulkner’s story told of a gentleman traveling through Arkansas who came upon a man sitting on his porch fiddling the same song over and over.
Many of you may have even seen a painting depicting the scene. The actual words to the song, however, were the product of the Arkansas State Song Commission.
This combination of story, words and melody became the song, “The Arkansas Traveler” and was adopted as the state song in 1949. (There is some confusion about whether the song was adopted in 1945, before it was reworded by the commission, or in 1949.)
“The Arkansas Traveler” remained the state song until 1963. At that time the copyright dispute was solved when the state purchased all copyrights to the original state song. The first state song, “Arkansas”, was renamed the Official State Song by House Concurrent Resolution No. 16.
(When “The Arkansas Traveler” was dethroned in 1963, the song was not abandoned however. No way! It was given a new designation as Official State Historical Song by House Concurrent Resolution No. 1007.)
“Arkansas” remained the official state song until 1987 when its designation was changed to Official State Anthem by House Concurrent Resolution No. 1003.
Now, in hopes that everyone would be happy, Arkansas had a State Anthem, “Arkansas”, and a State Historical Song, “The Arkansas Traveler”.
Confused yet? Wait. There’s more.
In 1986 Arkansas celebrated its 150th birthday. In honor of the occasion two prominent and talented Arkansas songwriters had each written a song about Arkansas.
One songwriting team included the late Terry Rose and Gary Klaff. Their song, “Oh, Arkansas” had been played and popularized on the local ABC affiliate, Channel 7, with the help of respected weather forecaster and pianist, Ned Perme. It was a rousing tribute to the spirit and beauty of Arkansas.
The second new tune had been written by Arkansas native and musician Wayland Holyfield, a talented Nashville songwriter. Entitled “Arkansas (You Run Deep in Me)”, it also told of his love for and memories of his home state. Again the television station aired it regularly during the holiday season.
In 1987 both songs had gained major support and followings demanding the songs be recognized in Arkansas history.
Once again, taking important matters in hand, the Arkansas General Assembly rode to the rescue and clarified the status and official designation of each of the four songs.
According to the Arkansas Code (Title 1, Chapter 4), the official declarations are as follows:
State Anthem – “Arkansas” by Mrs. Eva Ward Barnett;
State Historical Song – “The Arkansas Traveler” by Col. Sanford C. Faulkner;
State Song – “Oh, Arkansas” by Terry Rose and Gary Klaff;
State Song – “Arkansas (You Run Deep in Me)” by Wayland Holyfield.
(State Song honors are shared by the two tunes.)
This same law provides for copies of the first song, “Arkansas”, to be distributed through state offices as the Arkansas State Song.
I have often wondered if Arkansas shouldn’t have a 5th state song. I would nominate that venerable Oak Ridge Boys song, “Ozark Mountain Jubilee”. I always get a mental picture when Bill Golden wails “I hear the rooster crowing; it’s such a frosty morning when you’re going in your dreams”. That’s nostalgia!
See you at the museum!!