In our May/June issue, we asked you to put your feelings for Paducah in song and submit them for our Sing A Song Of Paducah contest. You did not disappoint! We posted six of them on Facebook and asked our followers to vote. After a month of listening and deliberation, you chose our winner: J.D. Wilkes with his song Paducah, Jewel on the Ohio.
Here are profiles on all our songwriters and their songs.
J.D. Wilkes is a well-known name both locally and abroad. As lead of the Legendary Shack Shakers, who celebrate their 20th anniversary this year, he's made a career of music. You've seen him locally with the Shack Shakers, The Dirt Daubers, and various ensembles for events such as square dances.
"I basically wrote the tune in one sitting using chord structures common in old Tin Pan Alley jazz songs," says J.D. "The lyrical imagery covers my favorite things about the area: farmland, riverboats and southern history.
"I wanted language to be playful in the same way movie musicals and jazz standards are. Silly, wordy phrases like 'pulchritudinous tableau' could be something you'd hear in the Wizard of Oz. That early 20th Century-era of songwriting was my favorite.
Suzi simply loves Paducah. As owner of the Yoga Room, she's taught Paducah the meditative benefits of the exercise for twelve years. She'd never written a song before but received encouragement to try her hand at crafting a tune.
"A friend of mine sent me an email with the notice of the contest," says Suzi. "The email simply read, 'Suzanne Renaud, you can do this.' That put a fly in my bonnet and the words just came. A Yoga client said he had an old buddy that was in a band years ago and maybe he could help. That’s when I was introduced to Mark and Max Dodd, two brothers, part of an old band called The Rivals. It took us one weekend and five recordings, and the last one was perfect. It was a great experience and hard work."
Joe Hansen grew up in a family with a great love for music and married into a similar family in Paducah. His wife is Liz White Hansen, who is the daughter of Barron and Zelma White. Barron authored the books I Remember Paducah When and My Paducah, and he would be especially proud that Joe has written a song to honor the history and spirit of the community he loved so much
"Paducah True is a song that reflects the upbeat, positive, forward-thinking spirit of Paducah," says Joe. "Our community is rich in history, and that history is highlighted in verse one. The cornerstones of commerce here have been the rivers and the railways, and that fact is featured in verse two. Commerce and culture have diversified, and The Quilt (the "crazy quilt," in particular) is verse three's metaphor for a city that pieces all of its gifts together to build a beautiful future."
With the release of their first album, Welcome to the Atomic City in 2006, Bawn in the Mash took Paducah by storm. Most every song is an homage to our city and this region.
"I was living in Land Between the Lakes while working at the Homeplace," says Nathan. "I drove to Paducah on my day off to junk shop. I stopped for lunch at Whaler's where I started the song. I went down to the riverfront and back to my truck and sketched out the rest.
"It was a part of a group of songs that told the story of a young man who left his home in the LBL to work on the river. Some of those songs made it onto Welcome to the Atomic City."
The Rousters (Nathan Lynn, Josh Coffey, Eddie Coffey) are steeped in Paducah history. They draw not only their moniker and musical style from the river and its industry, but their ebb and flow of energy as well. Focusing on long forgotten river songs gathered by Mary Wheeler of Paducah, KY, the Rousters give a new twist to old tones.
"Back to Ole Paducah is an old-time number loosely based on numerous experiences we have had living in downtown Paducah," says Nathan. "'Barbecue chicken is the best ole meat' is a line taken from an old roustabout song called Hams the Best Old Meat. It's kind of an advertisement for a night on the riverfront.
"Regionalism seems to be a reoccurring theme for J.D., me, and a number of other songwriters from the area. The rivers have brought so much culture into far western Kentucky, and it shows in all of the entries to the contest. We are a proud group of people."
"The song is about my experiences growing up in Paducah in the 400 block of South 4th street in the 50's and 60's," says George. "I was a member of the Moxies band from 1964 till 1968 and then formed the Family Portrait group from 1969 until 1972.
"I and fellow songwriter, Mike Jones of Murray, wrote numerous songs together, including Paddlewheels, and many were recorded at various studios from Hollywood to Nashville. In 1971 the Paducah Tilghman Swing Choir recorded Paddlewheels, and it was a part of their album, 'Part II: Another Shade of Blue' recorded at the RCA Victor Studio in Nashville."