For those of us who love Paducah, it wouldn’t seem strange to find a song about our fair city gracing our lips. Over the years, several songwriters have felt the same, and tunes about Paducah entered into pop culture. Here’s a round up of some of the best Paducah songs!
It Rained in Every Town Except Paducah
Tom T. Hall
Paducah has always been well-known to those in the country music scene. Its proximity to Nashville as well as its location on well-traveled tour routes makes it not only a popular concert spot but the inspiration for songs as well. Tom T. Hall, a Kentucky native himself, wrote a melancholic tune called “It Rained in Every Town Except Paducah” for his 1975 album I Wrote a Song About It. The song was the B-side to “Deal”, a single from the album. “It Rained in Every Town Except Paducah” poetically equates the sunny disposition of Paducah to the bittersweet yet fond memories of a lost love. And just like that last ray of sunlight before a storm, the love didn’t last forever, and eventually it rained in Paducah, too.
McKinney’s Cotton Pickers
One of the oldest Paducah songs we discovered is “Paducah” by McKinney’s Cotton Pickers from 1928. The song is an instrumental typical of the big-band era, and it was ultimately recorded by several different bands. It was composed by Don Redman who took over as the Cotton Pickers musical directer in the same year. He went on to arrange for Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, and Jimmy Dorsey. While the inspiration for “Paducah” is unknown, it may very well have come from the city’s prominence as a river town. In the late 1920s, jazz made its way from New Orleans to points north and east as small bands and orchestras provided entertainment on river boats up and down our inland waterways. Many of the music leaders were familiar with Paducah as a river port.
Benny Goodman & Carmen Miranda
This may be the most well-known of the Paducah songs on our list. The song was part of the 1943 musical The Gang’s All Here starring Alice Faye, James Ellision, and Carmen Miranda. The movie cemented Carmen Miranda’s image as the lady with the big fruity hats. According to the University of Virginia Library, one scene shows dozens of women handling five foot tall bananas, which caused the censors in Miranda’s home country of Portugal to block the film. US censors said that the chorus girls could hold the bananas at waist level, but not any lower. While bananas may have been an issue with censors, Paducah was not. “If you could see a certain town down south, I’ll bet you fifteen cents you’d holler ‘Shut my mouth!’ I’m not exaggeratin’ when I say there’s not a sweeter town in the U.S.A.”
Mention My Name in Sheboygan
The song “Mention My Name in Sheboygan” is not about Paducah per se, but one of the three verses is. And even though Paducah was probably chosen due to its unique and “funny sounding name” (only to outsiders, and 99% of people who work in call centers, right?), the song is flattering and fun. The most popular version was recorded by the Everly Brothers who grew up just a little over 90 miles from here. But the most fun version of the song was recorded by Beatrice Kay in 1962. “Mention my name in Paducah. It’s the greatest little town in the world. I know a gal there you’ll simply adore. She was Miss Paducah back in 1904“.
Ok, this song is admittedly not even close to being about Paducah. It’s about a space monkey. But when Prine mentions American vodka from Paducah, the crowd goes wild!
Bawn in the Mash
No list of Paducah songs would be complete without one from our friends at Bawn in the Mash. This Paducah band has chronicled many aspects of life in our area, and it all started with their first album Welcome to the Atomic City. With songs like Land Between the Rivers, At the Hotel Irvin Cobb, Past the Painted Wall, and the Nuclear Waltz, Bawn sets the life of our region to music like no one else. For our selection, we simply chose the song “Paducah”. “When you come ’round the bend to the mouth of the Tennessee, I’ll meet you on the old market square, where the streets are all brick, the ladies are charming; we’ll be docked in Paducah again.”