Missouri History:: Missouri State Song
What is Missouri's State Song?
The "The Missouri Waltz" was adopted as the official state song on June 30, 1949.
Hush-a-bye, ma baby, slumbertime is comin' soon;
Rest yo' head upon my breast while Mommy hums a tune;
The sandman is callin' where shadows are fallin',
While the soft breezes sigh as in days long gone by.
Way down in Missouri where I heard this melody,
When I was a little child upon my Mommy's knee;
The old folks were hummin'; their banjos were strummin';
So sweet and low.
Strum, strum, strum, strum, strum,
Seems I hear those banjos playin' once again,
Hum, hum, hum, hum, hum,
That same old plaintive strain.
Hear that mournful melody,
It just haunts you the whole day long,
And you wander in dreams back to Dixie, it seems,
When you hear that old time song.
Hush-a-bye ma baby, go to sleep on Mommy's knee,
Journey back to Dixieland in dreams again with me;
It seems like your Mommy is there once again,
And the old folks were strummin' that same old refrain.
Way down in Missouri where I learned this lullaby,
When the stars were blinkin' and the moon was climbin' high,
Seems I hear voices low, as in days long ago,
Origin of Song:
It is difficult to determine the origin of the "Missouri Waltz." Historians generally agree that the tune was first printed around 1912 by Frederick Knight Logan of Oskaloosa, Iowa. About 1000 copies were published in Chicago and distributed to various music dealers and orchestra leaders. The lyrics did not appear with the tune until later.
Most versions of the song's origins agree that Logan picked up the song from orchestra leader John Valentine Eppel of Fort Dodge, Iowa. According to one version, Eppel learned the melody from an African American man in Missouri who had been taught the tune by his mother. Around Moberly, Missouri, residents say that the original composer was Dab Hannah, an African American piano player, but in Oskaloosa, some say that Henry Clay Cooper, an African American dance instructor, gave the melody to Logan. Another version claims that gifted piano player Edgar Lee Settle of New Franklin, Missouri, obtained the tune from the DiArmo sisters, a musical team on his theatrical circuit, who in turn, had been given it by an old African American man from the South. Settle's brother claimed that Settle composed the piece, which he called the "Graveyard Waltz," and was playing it one evening when John Valentine Eppel heard it and used it with his orchestra.
In 1914, the Forster Publishing Company of Chicago secured the rights to the melody from Logan and, with lyrics composed by Jim Shannon, it appeared in 1915 as the "Hush-a-Bye Ma Baby" song with "Missouri Waltz" printed as a substitute in parentheses.
Becoming the State Song:
The "Missouri Waltz" gained in popularity after Harry Truman became President of the United States in 1945. He played the song on the piano at the White House and, in so doing, enhanced its popularity. There were unsuccessful attempts to get the president to record the song.
In 1949, the year after Truman's unexpected victory over Thomas Dewey, Representative Floyd Snyder (D-Independence), suggested that the "Missouri Waltz" be given official status as state song. Due to some of the lyrics, which were considered racist, the song was amended and became the official state song on June 30, 1949.
When the song legislation was being considered, reporters contacted the White House, asking whether the song was really his favorite. The following reply was published by the White House: "President's attitude towards the song? He can take it or leave it. Is it really his favorite? No. Does he play it often? No. Is Margaret ever heard singing it? No. What is the President's reaction to song's adoption by Missouri as state song? See answer to first question."
Although the song is often associated with Harry Truman, the president did not claim it as his favorite song. In fact, he had this to say about it in a television interview: "If you let me say what I think, I don't give a ... about it, but I can't say it out loud because it's the song of Missouri. It's as bad as 'The Star Spangled Banner' as far as music is concerned."
Sheet music for the state song
Coleman-Topi, Debbie. "Giving credit for Missouri's song." Kansas City Star, December 21, 1986, p. 15B.
Watson, Bob. "The Missouri Waltz." The Statesman, March 1997, pp. 14-15.
Wolfe, James F. "Amended waltz became state song." The Joplin Globe, January 3, 1993.