Thursday, March 15, 2012

“The Missouri Waltz”

45 rpm of the "Missouri Waltz" and "Old Missouri"
My Missouri roots run deep, at least seven generations, and when I bleed, my blood is black and gold. The 45 rpm of the “Missouri Waltz” pictured above spun on my childhood turntable while I tried to learn the lyrics to keep up with my Daddy at University of Missouri football and basketball games. He knew every word to each song and cheer; too bad his off-key voice turned heads as he shamelessly sung loud and proud at every Tiger game. As Daddy became Dad, I grew to adore that enthusiastic, but musically flat voice that I inherited from him. If I close my eyes and imagine, I can hear him serenading me from above.
An endearing tradition at Tiger games is the playing and singing of the “Missouri Waltz”. Marching (or Mini) Mizzou strikes the chord late in the game but before the end--fourth quarter in football and five minutes left in basketball. The band has created its own take of the ballad that incorporates a marching beat at 3/4 time. With a few opening notes, the fans rise to their feet to “do” the Waltz. As the song plays, people sing (or hum) and sway in rhythm from side to side with their arms high in the air before the band breaks into a clapping tone that leads into the beloved “Hooray, Hurrah, Mizzou, Mizzou, a Bully for Mizzou” cheer. It brings a smile to my face each and every game.

"The Missouri Waltz," January 2012
NCAA Basketball Prediction:
Mizzou WALTZES to the Championship!

For many years, I thought the “Missouri Waltz” was simply a Tiger thing. I can’t remember when I learned that it was the official state song of Missouri (adopted 1949). The song, performed in a spectrum of styles, has been covered by the likes of Eddy Arnold and Johnny Cash among others. It was also the theme song for Winter’s Bone (2010), the chilling movie set in southern Missouri.

Since the 1940s there have been many commercial recordings of the song from radio crooners like Perry Como and Guy Lombardo to country stars like Johnny Cash, Gene Autry, and Eddy Arnold. Ultimately, the song has become what a Missouri music historian called a “country rag waltz,” an apt description of Johnny Cash’s take on this piece of Missouri history.

Hush-a-bye, ma baby, slumbertime is comin' soon;
Rest yo' head upon my breast while Mommy hums a tune;
The sandman is callin' where shadows are fallin',
While the soft breezes sigh as in days long gone by.

Way down in Missouri where I heard this melody,
When I was a little child upon my Mommy's knee;
The old folks were hummin'; their banjos were strummin';
So sweet and low.

Strum, strum, strum, strum, strum,
Seems I hear those banjos playin' once again,
Hum, hum, hum, hum, hum,
That same old plaintive strain.

Hear that mournful melody,
It just haunts you the whole day long,
And you wander in dreams back to Dixie, it seems,
When you hear that old time song.

Hush-a-bye ma baby, go to sleep on Mommy's knee,
Journey back to Dixieland in dreams again with me;
It seems like your Mommy is there once again,
And the old folks were strummin' that same old refrain.

Way down in Missouri where I learned this lullaby,
When the stars were blinkin' and the moon was climbin' high,
Seems I hear voices low, as in days long ago,
Singin' hush-a-bye.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Historic Neon Signs in Columbia, Mo.

International Order of Odd Fellows Sign, Columbia, Mo.

With all the spring strolling weather in Columbia this week, I’ve covered many miles downtown on foot. On Monday, while shooting some pictures for a free-lance photography assignment, I found myself drawn to old neon signs in the downtown area. Here are several pictures and the information I discovered when I popped my head in the businesses with a few questions. 

The International Order of the Odd Fellows Sign (southwest corner of 10th and Walnut) features the letters IOOF. Since the building is home to a local insurance company and the acronym was unknown to me, I had often wondered about this sign. The friendly staff at the insurance company told me that it was the Odd Fellows sign and the organization owns the building. The sign, made of porcelain, is currently being restored by the original company who built it. Upon completion, the sign will be lit for the first time in 40 years.

D&M Sound Sign, Columbia, Mo.

D&M Sound, a fixture in the high fidelity business in downtown Columbia for 40 years, sign has an interesting history. D&M’s owner Anne Kelly Moore’s father owned Kelly Press. When she moved her business from Broadway to its current location at the corner of 8th and Locust twenty years ago after a devastating downtown fire, she used a 1950s Kelly Press sign to craft a new D&M sign. According to Anne: “It was very carefully restored then and painted with our logo. When we took it down for maintenance again a few years ago (about 2006) and Jim McCarter from Creative Neon did even more restoration and added the neon.” Anne notes that since the sign does not conform with the present ordinance, though it is grandfathered by the city, she is careful when taking the sign down for maintenance.

The Tiger Hotel Sign, Columbia, Mo.

The Tiger Hotel’s neon, gracing the Columbia skyline, can be seen for miles and often is used as a reference point to out-of-town visitors and locals alike. After 42 years of darkness, the sign was restored and relit in 2004. 
I’ve been building a photograph collection of iconic Columbia, Mo. signs and soon realized that what may appear ordinary today could be iconic ten or fifty years from now. The signs tell a story of time and place (and often fond memories) and once they are gone, the image likely disappears from the mind. Accordingly, I also snapped a couple of shots that day of two longtime downtown fixtures whose signs will soon disappear from the scene: The Regency Hotel and Cool Stuff.