Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.
MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: “Hang On Sloopy” is the Official Rock Song of the State of Ohio.
Forty-eight of the fifty states in the United States of America have official state songs (only New Jersey and Virginia are without state songs – Virginia decided to change their state song over a decade ago because their old state song “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” was considered to be too offensive. Fifteen years later they still can’t agree on a new state song. “Shenandoah” came really close in 2006). A lot of these songs are some of the most famous songs ever recorded, like “My Old Kentucky Home” and “Yankee Doodle.”
But only ONE state has an official ROCK song, and that state is the great state of Ohio, home of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame!
That makes some sense, but what’s interesting is WHAT song they chose…
“Hang on Sloopy” by The McCoys?!?
You see, the fellas in the McCoys were from Dayton, Ohio, and over the years, a marching band version of “Hang on Sloopy” had become very popular at Ohio State University football games. Soon, both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns were using the song, as well.
So, in 1985, when a Cleveland columnist wrote about rumors that Washington State was planning on having THEIR own official state rock song, the Ohio Legislature was quick to move, and soon, the following resolution was passed…
HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 16
WHEREAS, The members of the 116th General Assembly of Ohio wish to recognize the rock song “Hang On Sloopy” as the official rock song of the great State of Ohio; and
WHEREAS, In 1965, an Ohio-based rock group known as the McCoys reached the top of the national record charts with “Hang On Sloopy,” composed by Bert Russell and Wes Farrell, and that same year, John Tagenhorst, then an arranger for the Ohio State University Marching Band, created the band’s now-famous arrangement of “Sloopy,” first performed at the Ohio State-Illinois football game on October 9, 1965; and
WHEREAS, Rock music has become an integral part of American culture, having attained a degree of acceptance no one would have thought possible twenty years ago; and
WHEREAS, Adoption of “Hang On Sloopy” as the official rock song of Ohio is in no way intended to supplant “Beautiful Ohio” as the official state song, but would serve as a companion piece to that old chestnut; and
WHEREAS, If fans of jazz, country-and-western, classical, Hawaiian and polka music think those styles also should be recognized by the state, then by golly, they can push their own resolution just like we’re doing; and
WHEREAS, “Hang On Sloopy” is of particular relevance to members of the Baby Boom Generation, who were once dismissed as a bunch of long-haired, crazy kids, but who now are old enough and vote in sufficient numbers to be taken quite seriously; and
WHEREAS, Adoption of this resolution will not take too long, cost the state anything, or affect the quality of life in this state to any appreciable degree, and if we in the legislature just go ahead and pass the darn thing, we can get on with more important stuff; and
WHEREAS, Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town, and everybody, yeah, tries to put my Sloopy down; and
WHEREAS, Sloopy, I don’t care what your daddy do, ’cause you know, Sloopy girl, I’m in love with you; therefore be it Resolved, That we, the members of the 116th General Assembly of Ohio, in adopting this Resolution, name “Hang On Sloopy” as the official rock song of the State of Ohio; and be it further Resolved, That the Legislative Clerk of the House of Representatives transmit duly authenticated copies of this Resolution to the news media of Ohio.
And so “Hang on Sloopy” became the first and, after Oklahoma failed to renew their state rock song, The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize” earlier this year, the only) Official State Rock Song in the United States!
The legend is…
Thanks to reader Mary Warner for suggesting that I mention Oklahoma’s state rock song, which they no longer have, but they did for a few years! Washington also has an UNoffical state rock song, “Louie, Louie.”
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.