John Denver – Take Me Home Country Roads

This John Denver song I really like. Denver was a huge star in the early to mid-seventies.  I’m not a huge fan by any means but he did have a few songs I liked. He was a songwriter, musician, activist, actor, and he sold millions of records (over 33 million). He was never known to be cool or hip.

Denver was an easy target for critics and peers. Robert Christgau dubbed him “the blandest pop singer in history,” and comparing him to James Taylor…  “If James is a wimp, John is a simp, and that’s even worse.”

I don’t think all the criticism was fair. Some of his music was really good to great like Rocky Mountain High…

Denver wrote this song with his friends Bill and Taffy Danoff. Denver was in Washington, DC to perform with the Danoffs, and after the show, they went back to the couple’s home where they played him what they had of this song. Denver almost didn’t make it because he was in a car wreck and injured his thumb.

The Danoffs have stated they were hoping to get Johnny Cash to record this song when they wrote it. They almost didn’t play it for Denver because they didn’t think it fit his style.

Denver helped them complete the song, and the next night they sang it together on stage. Denver knew he had a hit song on his hands, and brought the Danoffs to New York where they recorded the song together – you can hear Bill and Taffy on background vocals.

The song peaked at #2 in the Billboard 100 and #3 in Canada in 1971.

 

From Songfacts

The country roads in this song are in West Virginia, but Denver had never even been to West Virginia. Bill and Taffy Danoff started writing the song while driving to Maryland – they’d never been to West Virginia either! Danoff got his inspiration from postcards sent to him by a friend who DID live there, and from listening to the powerful AM station WWVA out of Wheeling, West Virginia, which he picked up in Massachusetts when he was growing up.

Bill Danoff told NPR in 2011: “I just thought the idea that I was hearing something so exotic to me from someplace as far away. West Virginia might as well have been in Europe, for all I knew.”

The Danoffs were in a band called Fat City at the time they wrote this. They later formed the Starland Vocal Band, who had a big hit with “Afternoon Delight” in 1977. There was some speculation that Denver somehow screwed the Danoffs when he became famous and they remained in obscurity, but the couple always defended Denver in interviews, pointing out that he brought Fat City on tour and helped them get a record deal with his RCA/Windsong Records. Denver also recorded several other songs Bill Danoff wrote.

The Shenandoah River is in West Virginia, running right through Harper’s Ferry into the Potomac. The Blue Ridge Mountain Ranges run in a strip from northeast West Virginia to its southwest across the eastern part of the state. Clopper Road originates in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It was a single lane road, but is now a busy four-lane road that heads to Germantown, Maryland. No country road anymore… not even close! It is attainable by exiting off of I-270 at Exit 10.

This was released as a single in the spring of 1971. It broke nationally in mid-April, but moved up the charts very slowly, as Denver was a little-known singer. To this point, Denver’s biggest success was writing “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” which he performed as a member of The Chad Mitchell Trio but was a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in 1969. Denver pushed RCA records to keep promoting “Take Me Home Country Roads,” and their persistence paid off when it became a huge hit that summer. It was Denver’s first hit, and the first of 13 US Top 40 hits he scored in the ’70s.

Denver charted earlier in 1971 with “Friends With You” at #47, but “Country Roads” established him as a crossover artist with appeal to Pop, Country and Easy Listening audiences. >>

Clopper Road is still there. It is a four lane road from Qince Orchard Boulevard to just past Rt. 118 where it returns to a two lane road. The end of Clopper Road is in a town called Boyds. From Rt. 118 to the end, the road is much like it was in 1969 through the mid-1980s.

In 1969, it really did seem idyllic in a way. Other than the farms and a few houses, there was nothing between Gaithersburg and Boyds other than the few stores and a few businesses in Germantown, and a gas station/country store at the corner of Clopper Road and Rt. 118.

Today, the road is built up from Quince Orchard Road to Seneca Creek, but the last mile or two is like it was back then. The concrete batch plant has been gone for a number of years, the old B&O railroad flag stop is now a MARC commuter rail stop for Boyds, but the rest of Clopper Road has been sold to housing developments. The trip from Rt. 118 to Boyds and to Dickerson beyond is still one of the nicest and peaceful drives in the Metropolitan area. >>

After hearing the first verse, most people feel compelled to sing the chorus, especially in a group environment or if alcohol is involved. The St. Louis Blues hockey team learned this on February 9, 2019 when they played the song during a break in the third period of a game against the Nashville Predators. When play resumed, they faded the song just as it was getting to the chorus, but the crowd sang it anyway and a tradition was born. It helped that the team was winning: they ended up going all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 49 years. Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” also soundtracked the team that season.

Take Me Home Country Roads

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains
Shenandoah River,
Life is old there
Older than the trees
Younger than the mountains
Blowin’ like the breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

All my memories gathered ’round her
Miner’s lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky
Misty taste of moonshine
Teardrops in my eye

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

I hear her voice
In the mornin’ hour she calls me
The radio reminds me of my home far away
And drivin’ down the road I get a feelin’
That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

Take me home, now country roads
Take me home, now country roads

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

26 thoughts on “John Denver – Take Me Home Country Roads”

    1. Thank you I sure will! I’ve always wanted to visit there. I almost took a job out there 3 years ago.
      I’ve read a lot about Red Rocks…and how many people have played there.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m sure this song was the first I heard of John Denver. I loved it from the first listen. They play it at WVU during their games, so I hear it whenever Kansas plays there. To me the song seems incongruous with athletics, but I respect that they love a song written about their state.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My wife is from West Virginia and there is no missing the song.

      Every time we are driving there it is played at least once.
      I can see WVU playing that.

      I think the first John Denver song I remember was either Thank God I’m a Country Boy… or Rocky Mountain High.

      Like

  2. This song was unfortunately screwed up by too many idiots, but this does not detract from the original. I only rate THIS version here. Good lyrics, catchy melody and I like John Denver’s voice (who, by the way, made a lot of nice songs).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like him and most of his singles, this one included. He was the real crossover success of the 70s, being both country and pop. However, while the public liked it, I think critics fell into the “power pop trap” we’ve discussed (where music falls through the crack if its too hard for pop but not rocky enough for ‘rock’) … country critics thought him a sellout, rock critics found him a country rube.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes he couldn’t win…but with this single and Rocky Moutain High…he really did well.

      Off Topic Dave… You might have blogged about them before but a blogger featured an album from a Canadain band called “Lighthouse” from Toronto. Did you blog about them or know of them? They used horns and were similiar to Chicago kinda.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I might have put one up at some time about them, but yes, I’m very familiar with them – they were huge in Canada in the early-70s. Like you say, their early work was similar to chicago, with that horn section… check out “One fine Morning” for instance.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. One Fine Morning is the one I listened to…really good stuff. Thanks Dave…I think you might have posted something about them at one time.

        Like

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