There are a few more songs left from the Thunderhill concert for me to work up to specs for CD release, but this one, as always, was the last one of the set. This song has been the closer and, usually, the opener for any Thunderhill set since the band released their single of it in or around 1965. Often referred to by the title "West Virginia", it's been called the "true" national (sic) anthem of the state and apparently to this day is blasted at tailgate parties outside of every WVU home football game in Morgantown (and I can take a certain pride in that, since any and all CD or digital copies of it trace back to my digitizing of the Thunderhill catalog in the early '90s). So it's pretty well known for what it is now. What's less well known is what it was orginally.
It can't be any surprise at this point that the original is a song made popular by The Kingston Trio. What might be a little more surprising is that if you listen to the "original" version, you'll discover that it was not written about my home state of West Virginia, but rather my other home state of California! The two states have the same number of syllables in their names, so switching that over, along with a few other geographical tweaks in the lyrics, is a pretty simple thing.
It'd be interesting enough if it stopped there, but the origins of the song get even murkier. The California version of the tune was written by a fellow named Fred Geis, whom I've just learned passed away only two years ago. The Trio version was actually on its way to becoming a decent hit record when Geis was sued for lifting the tune to the song from another source, causing the single to be withdrawn and cast into obscurity (which ultimately made a lot more people think the Thunderhill guys had written it). Accounts vary as to what tune Geis had allegedly (and probably subconsciously) stolen; some say it was folk tune incorporated into an opera, and others have it as the title tune to the Broadway musical Milk and Honey, which is itself sort of hard to come by thee days (although you can hear Eddie Fisher, the massively popular '50s vocalist (and father of Carrie Fisher) doing a version of it here). That's a lot of controversial authorship right there. What's fairly certain is that Thunderhill have gotten the most mileage out of it for the past 45 years, and it's traveled far and wide throughout at least the northern part of West Virginia as a beloved anthem for most of that time.
Jim Broome ~ Lead vocal, rhythm guitar
Rich Frush ~ Drum, backing vocal
Rex Broome ~ Lead guitar, backing vocal
Tom Heckman ~ Bass, backing vocal
Jerry Marsh ~ Tambourine
The Honi Honi Chorus and Drunken Vocal Ensemble ~ Backing vocals
Recorded live at the Honi Honi, Deep Creek, MD, Summer 2010