|BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA
Lyrics to BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA
I have always been a wand'rer, over land and sea.
Yet a moonbeam on the water, casts a spell o'er me.
A vision fair I see, again I seem to be.
Back Home again in Indiana
And it seems that I can see
The gleaming candlelight still shining bright
Thro' the sycamores for me
The new mown hay sends all its fragrance
From the fields I used to roam
When I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash
Then I long for my Indiana home.
Fancy paints on mem'ry's canvas,
Scenes that we hold dear
We recall them in days after,
Clearly they appear.
And often times I see, a scene that's dear to me.
One of my favorite Indy 500 pre-race traditions
is the singing of "Back Home Again in Indiana".
Sycamore trees are huge, typically reaching 100-130 ft. tall.
They tower above our other trees, such as oaks and maples.
They also have leaves that can be as big as your head.
They are easily identified as they lose their bark as they
stretch and grow, revealing the white wood beneath.
In this age of safety consciousness, it's hard to believe our
parents paid us no mind as my friends and I climbed these
giants when we were little.
But there we'd be, 9-years-old, one hundred feet up in the air,
swaying in the breeze.
The tradition of singing the song before the Indy 500 began in
1946, when James Melton, a New York Metropolitan Opera
singer, performed the song with the Purdue University band.
He and two other singers, Indianapolis-based Frank Parrish
and nationally renowned Morton Downey Sr., handled the
song through 1954.
(Purdue University is north of Indianapolis in Lafayette. Their
marching band has continued to play the song through the
Then, for the next 18 installments, "Back Home Again" was a
rotating job. From Dinah Shore (the only woman to sing it
solo) to Mel Torme to 1925 Indy 500 winner Peter DePaolo
and others, the microphone was passed around.
"It was always popular, an emotional part of the day,"
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian Donald Davidson
said. "But many years we'd arrive at the (IMS Radio) Network
office on race morning, and we still didn't know who was
going to sing it. It was last minute."
In 1972, Jim Nabors attended the race as a guest of
businessman and casino magnate Bill Harrah. Tony
Hulman, owner of the speedway, approached Nabors and
asked him if he'd like to sing a song for the crowd. He said
he'd be happy to and assumed it would be the National
|Jim Nabors Final Rendition at the Indy 500 - 2014
Anthem. Later, he learned it would be "Back Home Again."
He knew the tune, but wanting to be extra careful, he scribbled
the words on his palm. He then delivered a stirring rendition
and was invited back to sing it the following year. Then again
Nabors would sing the song 36 times from 1972 to 2014,
becoming as much of a "500" institution as the field of 33 and
the winner's milk.
While born in Alabama, lived in California and eventually
Hawaii, Nabors was an honorary Hoosier. He died in
November 2017 at age 87. Toward the end of his life, he
became too ill to fly to Indy from Hawaii.
In 2015, a ten-member A cappella group, formed at Indiana
University performed the song.
In 2016, the 100th Indy 500, the Indianapolis Childrens Choir
From 2017 to the present, Jim Cornelison has been singing
the song. Cornelison is an American tenor best known for
singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "O Canada" at the
start of home games for the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team.
|History of "Back Home Again" at the Indy 500
|The song was a hit when it came out in 1917.
|Words by Ballard MacDonald
Born in Portland, Oregon
|Music by James F. Hanley
Born in Rensselaer Indiana
(1892 - 1942)