You’re ready for an epic road trip to Missouri. You’ve prepared for every eventuality by packing your camera, swimsuit, snow boots (yes, we know in Missouri you can sunbathe and shovel snow on the same day), travel snacks and the other essentials to make your getaway complete.
You may be overlooking one minor detail. It’s time to load your favorite mobile device with songs that get you in the mood for Missouri. Not sure where to start?
Here are 10 great tunes (plus a few bonus tracks) with Missouri ties. Some you’ll have heard of, some you won’t. Add them to your playlist because when it comes to music, Missouri is no one-hit wonder.
- “All I Wanna Do,” by Sheryl Crow, a native of Kennett, Mo.
- “Johnny B. Goode,” by Chuck Berry, a rock legend from St. Louis.
- “Missouri Moon,” by Rhonda Vincent, “The Queen of Bluegrass,” who lives in Kirksville.
- “Missing Missouri,” by Sara Evans, a country star from New Franklin.
- “Kansas City,” by Wilbert Harrison, it’s the city’s official song.
- “Take My Breath Away,” by Berlin, written by Glendale High School (Springfield, Mo.) graduate Tom Whitlock.
- “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.,” lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, from the musical “Damn Yankees.”
- “Country Grammar,” by Nelly, from St. Louis.
- “Maple Leaf Rag,” composed by Scott Joplin, who lived in Sedalia and St. Louis.
- “Elvira,” by the Oak Ridge Boys, who have a theatre and play several dates in Branson.
- Bonus track: “Sanford and Son theme,” composed by Quincy Jones for a TV show starring St. Louis comedian Redd Foxx.
If you’ve got a little more time on your hands, read on.
The first track features one of Missouri’s most well-known musical exports, Sheryl Crow. A native of Kennett in the state’s Bootheel region, Crow’s “All I Wanna Do,” makes a great vacation starter, with its catchy refrain, “All I wanna do is have some fun, I got a feeling, I’m not the only one.”
You’re not alone, Sheryl. Everyone in Missouri loves to have fun!
If you need more reasons to add this song to your playlist, remember it mentions one of Missouri’s most well-known brands, Budweiser (the song references peeling labels from “bottles of ‘Bud’) and L.A., which obviously is a shout out to Louisiana, a small town in Northeast Missouri.
For your next selection, keep the good times – or more aptly, “Goode” times – rolling with St. Louis legend Chuck Berry. His electric-guitar-powered anthem “Johnny B. Goode” is considered among the greatest songs of all time, and it’s available in space.
In 1977, NASA launched a Voyager spacecraft that included Voyager Golden Records. In the event an intelligent life form stumbles upon the craft – and has the technology to play the record – one of the songs they’ll hear is “Johnny B. Goode.”
We’ll move over to the bluegrass genre with song three, which comes from Rhonda Vincent, the “Queen of Bluegrass.” Vincent, who calls Kirksville home, is one of the most popular and successful bluegrass artists in the country.
Her song “Missouri Moon” honors both her home state and earth’s No. 1 satellite. You might play this song if you’re traveling with that special someone, as it includes the lyrics “… and it reminds me of the night we fell in love beneath that old Missouri moon.”
For the fourth song on your Missouri playlist, we’ll keep it country with Sara Evans. A darling of the country-music scene and hit-maker since the 1990s, Sara Evans is from the New Franklin area.
Her song “Missing Missouri” offers a glimpse of the Evans’ life and how she often misses the comforts of home, “… where they love me, where they know me, where they show me, back in Missouri.”
You’ll want to keep this one cued up if you drive across Missouri’s border and into another state.
That leads us our fifth hit, Missouri’s largest border city and Wilbert Harrison’s “Kansas City.” The catchy 1950s pays tribute to Kansas City’s popular music scene and references 12th street and Vine, an area synonymous with jazz clubs and nightlife since the 1920s.
As one line notes,
I’m gonna be standing on the corner of 12th street and Vine with my Kansas City baby and a bottle of Kansas City wine.”
The song has since been adopted as the city’s official tune, and today, “Goin’ to Kansas City Plaza” is found on 12th and Vine.
While “Kansas City” makes perfect sense for a Missouri playlist, the No. 6 song doesn’t. But we’re going to include it anyway because it’s from the 1980s, was a major part of one of the biggest films of the 1980s and was written by a guy from Springfield.
Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away,” is better known as the love theme from Top Gun, starring a young Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis.
And while it certainly makes no mention of the Show-Me State, it was penned by Tom Whitlock, a graduate of Glendale High School in Springfield.
So while you’re thinking about music from movies, it makes sense our next song is from a musical.
“Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.,” is a splashy number from “Damn Yankees,” and it makes sense to fall into the No. 7 slot because it references the popular dice game craps, “… like sevens come elevens come …”
This song is best enjoyed en route to Mark Twain’s boyhood home or perhaps on your way to one of Missouri’s popular casino destinations. Just a note, there are many songs on this playlist you’ll want to put on repeat. This is not one of them.
Okay, we’re on the home stretch, let’s see about songs eight, nine and ten.
For No. 8, get that musical nonsense out of your head with Nelly’s “Country Grammar,” (the clean version, of course).
This song is sure to get everyone in your travel party shoulder dancing in the car.
If the rhythmic beat isn’t awesome enough for you, note Nelly – St. Louis born and raised – pays homage to Missouri by mentioning “The Lou” aka, St. Louis, and U-City, aka, University City.
If you’re more of a musical purist and need a break from lyrics, add Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” as track nine.
The tune is often connected to Joplin’s time in Sedalia and a popular music spot, the Maple Leaf Club. There’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard “Maple Leaf Rag,” but didn’t know it was Joplin’s; the tune has appeared in countless films and other productions.
The 10th track on your Missouri playlist has a connection to what’s probably Missouri’s most well-known music destination, Branson.
Selecting just one artist to represent one of the most-talented towns in the world is a tough chore, but we’re pretty sure this is a good one.
If nothing else, there’s one part everyone in your traveling party will sing to: “Giddy up, oom poppa oom poppa mow mow; giddy up, oom poppa oom poppa mow mow.”
That’s right, “Elvira” by the Oak Ridge Boys. Yes, they’re named after a city from another state, but they’ve got their own theatre in Branson and play shows there regularly.
“Elvira” is one of the most popular songs in the history of country music and it merits a topic header of its own on the Oak Ridge Boys’ website. Play it once, you’ll be singing it all day.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a vacation without bonuses, so here’s a fun bonus track to add: the theme song from the TV show “Sanford and Son,” starring St. Louis native Redd Fox. The song is particularly appropriate when traveling Highway 50 between Sedalia and Knob Noster.
Why? One of the towns you pass along the way is La Monte. If you don’t get that reference, Google “Sanford and Son.”
So there you have it, a top 10 musical experience – plus a special bonus track – with Missouri connections. There are plenty of other songs to consider, click the green plus sign below and they will appear (some with notes), but the selections above are the cornerstone of your Missouri vacation playlist.
Enjoy the music.
Enjoy the music.
- Johnny Cash: “Missouri Waltz”
- Scott Joplin: “The Cascades” (it’s about the 1904 World’s Fair fountains)
- The 5th Dimension: “Aquarius” (group members were born in St. Louis)
- Tina Turner: “Proud Mary” (she moved to St. Louis as a teenager)
- Little Milton: “Grits Ain’t Grocery”
- Pokey Lafarge: “St. Louis Crawl”
- Judy Garland: “Meet Me in St. Louis”
- Julia Lee: “Show Me Missouri Blues” (Lee is known as “Kansas City’s First Lady of the Blues”)
- Coleman Hawkins: “Body and Soul” (Hawkins was born in St. Joseph)
- Eminem: “Slim Shady” (Marshall Mathers was born in St. Joseph)
- Ha Ha Tonka: “Colorful Kids” (the band is based in Springfield and shares its name with one of Missouri’s most popular state parks; this song mentions Huck Finn)
- The Hatrick: “Bend in the River” (band is based in Columbia)
- W.C Handy: “Saint Louis Blues”
- Elvis and the Jordanaires: “Teddy Bear” (The Jordanaires, from Springfield, did background vocals for Elvis for 14 years.)