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Billy Reed: It’s time to update Kentuckys state song and send ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ to the dustbin


This proud traditionalist is ready for a change. I can no longer, in good conscience, defend “My Old Kentucky Home” as our state song. Its warranty expired about 1960 or so, but only now am I ready to send it the way of Jefferson Davis and Stephen Collins Foster.

The truth is, the song has become an embarrassment. Why, in this day and time, should we continue to support anything to do with slavery? Plus, no longer would we have to hear various singers butcher it.

We need something that extolls the virtues of the Commonwealth and with which we can sing along, certainly, but it needs to be happy and upbeat, not a song as dark and moody as Foster’s lament.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon.

I am certainly no expert on state songs, but it seems to me that Sinatra’s “New York, New York” is perfect for that state. So you can start spreading the news: This old fogey is ready for a change, the sooner the better.

I don’t know if “Sweet Home Alabama,” by Lynard Skynard, is Alabama’s official state song, but it should be. It’s a song that George Wallace may have hated if it were around in his day, but it’s perfect for today’s Alabama. Old rockers like my own self can wrap their arms around it, and so can youngsters who might want to drink a few beers while it’s being played.

Here I should mention one important thing. It’s one thing to be progressive, quite another to be tasteless. Congress should pass a law stipulating that any rap or hip-hop song will ever be considered as a state song. That stuff is not music. I don’t know what it is, but it if you can’t dance to a song or sing the lyrics, I have no use for it.

By the way, I’m not sure if “Tennessee Waltz” is the Volunteer state’s official song, but it should be. It was written by Kentuckians Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart.

I can’t think of any current song about Kentucky that provides what I want. So we would have to challenge the nation’s songwriters and bands to enter a contest to produce a new state song. It would be introduced simultaneously in concerts at Commonwealth Stadium and Cardinal Stadium.

The winner of the contest would receive a share in a talented racehorse bred in Kentucky, lifetime passes to the Derby, a year’s supply of Woodford Reserve or some other Brown-Forman product, and a new bourbon named for the writer or the group.

Personally, I’d like to see the song introduced by Ashley Judd. But I’d be cool with Loretta Lynn and/or Crystal Gayle, Athena Cage, John Michael Montgomery, Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoakum, Billy Ray Cyrus, John Conlee, Ricky Skaggs, or even George Clooney.

A new state song would give the world a new way to look at Kentucky. It would make us feel better about ourselves. It would mean that we could rid ourselves of the tortured logic necessary to defend “My Old Kentucky Home.”

I can’t think of any good argument against this change, radical though some old-timers would see it. Of course, were it up to this kind of citizen, we probably would still be using outhouses and smoking corncob pipes.

What could be some of the themes wrapped into the new song? Well, thoroughbred breeding and racing would top this list, followed closely by the bourbon industry. After that, I’m open to anything so long as it’s classy and relevant.

As we prove with our arts and crafts, Kentuckians can be artistic when we put our minds to it. There’s no question in my mind that we can do a top-notch job of sending “My Old Kentucky Home” to the dust bin of history.


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5 Comments

  1. Willie says:

    Wow Billy. Horrible take. You are off your rocker (no pun intended).

  2. PAC says:

    So…was it sarcasm, satire, or irony of the “woke” kind that spurred this vitriol, in your attempt to insult or shame our entire state and everyone in it?

  3. Richard says:

    Cancel Stephen Foster and his anti-slavery song!!

    [ Frederick Douglass wrote in his 1855 autobiography My Bondage and My Freedom that the song “awakens sympathies for the slave, in which antislavery principles take root, grow, and flourish”.]

  4. Pamela says:

    Lyrics have changed I suppose you did not get the memo changed Lyrics in 1990

  5. Phil says:

    Billy, Billy, Billy, still stirring up things. Time to let it go.

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