MIN-NOH Musical Preview: Watching the River Flow


As I attempt to take us across the entirety of America (and beyond) before this season ends, let's use this game against New Orleans to explore uncharted territory between hither and thither. And what better way to hit upon that music than paddling down the Mississippi River? We've looked at Wisconsin, Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas and NO, but Missouri, Mississippi and Iowa are all fair game.

I'll kick things off with one artist from each state and a song for the river itself.

Scott Joplin came from Texas and ended up in New York, but was based in MO for the prime of his career. The King of Ragtime lived a hard life from 1867-1917; check out wikipedia at the very least.

His music became popular again in the 1970's when Marvin Hamlisch adapted some of his compositions for "The Sting." I assume the film from which the following clip is taken was an attempt to cash in on this renewed interest in Joplin. It's an odd little time capsule, albeit entertaining.

We've heard some great blues music from Mississippians, thanks to Dogpile and other CHers. The state just churns out excellent musicians of all stripes. Some dude named Elvis was born there, for example.

Jim Weatherly may not be famous, but he is a country songwriter from MS who penned one of the great R&B/Pop hits of all time, "Midnight Train to Georgia." How does it hold up without Gladys and the Pips? You tell me:

Finally, Iowa. What's the difference between a cow and an Iowa cheerleader? I'd tell you the answer but CH is no place for outdated, sexist jokes. Instead, I will look past our southern neighbor's infamy as the place where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper's plane crashed and give a shout out to one of its talented musicians... ummm... Bix? Bolin? The well seems kind of dry, though I look forward to being set straight on this by those of you much more knowledgeable than I am.

If I have to choose someone, I'll take the man who wrote a great musical which he described as "an Iowan's attempt to pay tribute to his home state." Here is Meredith Wilson leading 500 California high school musicians for a 1964 television special:

If that lively number doesn't change your face, i don't know what will.

A little Meredith Wilson trivia:

  • Paul McCartney owns his song catalog, which makes sense since he sang a great version of "Til There Was You" as a Beatle.
  • Wilson wrote the U of I's fight song as well as one for his high school in Mason City.
  • As a young man he played in John Phillip Sousa's band.
  • I always found it odd that the U on M's library is named for O. Meredith Wilson (a school president, it turns out) - what were the odds of TWO Midwesterner's having the same feminine name?

Finally, a song about that font of so much great music, the Mighty Mississippi:

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