A gem in the rock

Dayton immortalized in song

By Tim Anderl

Photo: JT Woodruff, Ghost Coastal

The best songs are ones that hit home and leave their mark on the human psyche. They capture what it is like to live, love, face chaos, change, discover our humanity or mortality and uncover epiphanies amidst the noise of daily life. Sometimes the songs that become embedded in our hearts, minds and throats are the ones that best capture our unique condition. For better or worse, living in Dayton is part of that condition and embedded in our characters because, simply, it is our home.

Not only have our homegrown troubadours regularly captured the city in song, but a host of widely-recognized musicians from a variety of genres have been inspired to give Dayton a nod. Some of those better known songs are “Dayton, Ohio 1903” by Randy Newman, and “Dayton, Ohio 19 Something and 5” by Guided by Voices. With some help from the local music community and Dayton ex-patriots, Dayton City Paper collected some of the lesser known and more obscure of those songs.

“Alive In A Dying City” by Auburndale (from Alive In A Dying City,2010)

“I wrote that song shortly after the Forbes report of America’s 10 dying cities,” Brian Whitten, Auburndale’s former vocalist said. “The song is simply about feeling connected to our city, the love that we have for our city and the hope that it comes back to life.”

“Dayton, OH” by JT Woodruff (from Ghost Coastal, 2012)

“It’s about a crumbling relationship in Dayton, being told from a man’s point of view while drinking in a bar on Burkhardt,” Woodruff said.

“Inadvertent Christmas Song,” “The Ballad of John Graci,” “Telford to North Main” by Swearing At Motorists (from Number Seven Uptown, 2000; a 7” included in issue 6 of Rebound Magazine, 1998; More Songs From The Mellow Struggle, 2000)

“‘The Ballad of John Graci’ is named after the owner of Flying Pizza and mentions several Dayton landmarks,” Dave Doughman of Swearing At Motorists said. “The reference in ‘Telford to North Main’ is obvious. I’m sure there are more, but after 20 years of releasing records, I’ve lost track of a few tunes.”

“In Ohio On Some Steps” by Limbeck (from Hi, Everything’s Great, 2003)

“I had become friends with Limbeck from doing a few shows together with my old band in Southern California with them on my first couple of times out that way,” The Story Changes guitarist/vocalist Mark McMillon said. “They reached out in need of a date in our area on tour in April of 2002. By mere coincidence, our friends Park were looking for the exact date while cutting through on their tour. It ended up being one of my favorite shows that I have been a part of.

“The show was held at the now long defunct Jags and the touring bands crashed with us at our house on Edgar and Rob from Limbeck ended up writing the song ‘In Ohio On Some Steps’ about the evening while sitting on the steps out front of our house in the early hours of the following morning.”

“Mr. Tanner” by Harry Chapin (from Short Stories, 1974)

“It is the story of a dry cleaner from Dayton, Ohio, trying his dream at becoming a singer,” Jeff VerStreate, a former Dayton resident said.

In the song, Martin Tanner’s friends try to talk him into becoming a singer because of his beautiful voice, until he finally agrees and uses most of his savings to travel to New York City and sing in a show. He holds a concert only to get panned by critics. He returns home and never sings publicly again, only to himself when he sorts through the clothes at night.

“Seven” by Interstate Ten (from The Interstate Ten, 1997)

“They were a band from San Diego around the late ’90s,” Tim Krug of Oh Condor and Hexadiode said about the group. “I think one of the dudes went on to be in Camera Obscura, the Three One G band, not that boring Scottish folk group.”

“Seven” imagines being a teen in our fair city decades ago with the following lyrics, “Wanted to live in Dayton in 1977/It seems like to Hell to me/We can go to the movies/Or roll around on the floor/Just a little bit more.”

According to the liner notes, they may have also gotten funding for the record from a former Dayton resident: “Additional operational funding by Robert Stanley Dyrdek.”

“State Lines” by The Story Changes (from Static and Trembling, 2013)

“I wrote this song during the last week of a fun, but extremely long stretch of touring in late 2012,” The Story Changes guitarist/vocalist Mark McMillon said. “I feel very fortunate to see the world playing music with my friends, but being away from home so much tends to show you clearly everything you love about where you are from. Dayton will always be home.

“‘State Lines’ is a reflection of how much I love touring, but even more so coming home to Dayton and my family and friends.”

Honorable mentions:

“924” by Fifteen (from There’s No Place Like Home EP, 1996)

“Everything fades away and moves on/But I’ll still be here/In a field in Dayton, Ohio…” the band sings, perhaps referencing the times they performed at Brookwood Hall in the ‘90s.

“I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash (from The Legend of Johnny Cash, 1996)

“I’ve Been Everywhere” was actually written by Australian country singer Geoff Mack in 1959 and made popular by Lucky Starr in 1962. The song (as originally written) listed Australian towns. It was later adapted by Canadian Hank Snow with mentions of North American towns.

Tim Anderl is the web editor and a contributing writer at Ghettoblaster Magazine and maintains his own music blog at youindie.com. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@DaytonCityPaper.com.


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