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.


  1. Hi Anne, my Grandmother Johnston never had a piano lesson, but she could play that old upright like no one elae I knew! She would play the Missouri Waltz and The Old Oaken Bucket. I begged her to sit at the piano as soon as she walked in our door. Such memories!

  2. Thank you for this great post! I love the Johnny Cash version you found!! As a Mizzou gal, I learned the words to lullaby to my boys as babies. I write a blog about gameday traditions called Gameday Style I have been in contact with the author of Gridiron Belles, a book about SEC football to fill her in on Mizzou traditions for her book. I told her about the Missouri Waltz, but forwarded your post because I thought it would be even more helpful.