Songs About Cincinnati

July 16, 2018 5 Comments

Steve Carlisle Sings WKRP in Cincinnati

UPDATED

Thanks to readers Tom Sneed, Bill Follick, and Barbara Grothuas, the list has been expanded. Plus, a new song that namechecks the Queen City came out in 2020. Songs added to the list have asterisks.

 

Cincinnati, of course, has produced quite a number of musical artists over the years, ranging from Rosemary Clooney to Walk the Moon. But did you know there are over a dozen songs that are about or mention Cincinnati? Here is a chronological list.

“Cincinnati Southern Blues,”  1927, Ivy Smith & Cow Cow Davenport. Charles Edward “Cow Cow” Davenport was a pianist from Anniston, Alabama and is credited with inventing boogie-woogie. In 1927, he teamed with vaudeville crooner Ivy Smith to record this tune.

“Cincinnati Lou,” 1946, Merle Travis. A country and western singer/songwriter from Rosewood, Kentucky, Merle Travis’ most famous tune is probably “Sixteen Tons,” made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford. Travis’ first single was “Cincinnati Lou,” released in 1946, climbed to #2 on the country chart. He went on to have several more hits.

“Cincinnati,” Martha Davis, 1948. This song, written by Jay Livingston, was recorded by singer and pianist Martha Davis.Not to be confused with the lead singer of new wave band The Motels, this Martha Davis was born in Wichita, Kansas and raised in Chicago. This song did not chart, but it has been covered several times over the years.

 

Martha Davis sang about "Cincinnati," while Red Foley crooned about a 'Cincinnati Dancing Pig."

“Cincinnati Dancing Pig,” 1950, Red Foley. “Cincinnati’s dancing pig, he’s the barnyard Mr. Big,” are the opening lines to this tune that in 1950 went to  #2 on the country chart and #7 on the pop music chart, then known as the Hit Parade. It was written and performed by Blue Lick, Kentucky’s Red Foley.

“Cincinnati Fireball,” 1960, Johnny Burnette. This song, written by J. Leslie McFarland and Aaron Schroeder, was the B-side to Johnny Burnette’s #11 hit “Dreamin.” His biggest hit, “You’re Sixteen,” followed right after, reaching  #8. Tragically, Burnette was killed in a boating accident in 1964 at the age of 30.

*"The Cincinnati Kid," 1965, Ray Charles. This was the theme song to the Steve McQueen film of the same name. While it failed to crack the Hot 100, it did make it #19 on the Adult Contemporary chart.  

              

Johnny Burnette and Connie Smith both released songs about Cincinnati.

“Cincinnati, Ohio,” 1967,  Connie Smith. One of the best known Cincinnati songs, this tune was written by country music legend Bill Anderson. He wrote it for the just-as-legendary Connie Smith took it to #4 on the country chart.

*“Lights of Cincinnati,” 1969, Scott Walker. Not sure how this one got by in the original post. It was sung by Hamilton native Scott Walker but written by the British songwriting duo Tony Macaulay and Geoff Stephens. While the song failed to chart here in the U.S., it went to #13 in the U.K. and #20 in Ireland. Walker lived and worked in England for most of his career. He passed away in 2019.

*“The Cockroach that Ate Cincinnati,” 1973, Rose & the Arrangement. This novelty song from 1985 was a popular tune on the Dr. Demento radio show. It was covered in 1985 by punk outfit the Misfits and also inspired a 1996 Canadian film of the same name.

“Susie Cincinnati,” The Beach Boys, 1976. In the mid-70s, there was a bit of a Beach Boys resurgence thanks to the release in 1974 of a greatest hits package called Endless Summer. Two years later the group released a studio album called 15 Big Ones, which produced the hit singles “Rock and Roll Music,” a cover of the Chuck Berry song, and “It’s O.K..” Also featured on the album was this song written by one the band’s guitarist and co-founding member, Lima, Ohio native Al Jardine.

“WKRP in Cincinnati Main Theme,” 1978, Steve Carlisle.  Probably the best-known tune on the list, the theme for the hit TV series WKRP in Cincinnati was released as single in 1981 and reached #65 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was co-written by Tom Wells and the show's creator Hugh Wilson


 

Steve Carlisle's single for the WKRP in Cincinnati Theme, and Jimmy Buffets "Fins" were released two years apart. 

“Fins,” 1979, Jimmy Buffett. While Cincinnati isn’t in the title, this track does open with the line “she came down from Cincinnati.” The song reached #35 on the Hot 100, Buffett’s last appearance in the Top 40. That, however, is not indicative of his continued popularity, particularly here in the Tristate.

“C-I-N-C-I-N-N-A-T-I,” 1986, Babes in Toyland movie soundtrack. This 1986 TV movie was loosely based on the 1903 Victor Herbert operetta of the same name. There were also film versions made in 1934 and 1961. The 1986 version, starring Keanu Reeves and Drew Barrymore, uses only two songs from the original with all-new songs composed by Leslie Bricusse. This is the first song in the movie.

*“South of Cincinnati, 1986, Dwight Yoakam. From Pikeville, KY via Columbus, OH, comes Dwight Yoakam. This track  is from his 1986 debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. It very much encapsulates Yoakam’s twangy Bakersfield-inspired sound while giving a nod to the region he grew up in.


*“Cincinnati Jail,” 1987,- Lonnie Mack. Another hometown boy, singer/songwriter Lonnie McIntosh, better known as Lonnie Mack, hailed from West Harrison, IN. This bluesy rocker is from his 1986 album Second Sight.

“Cincinnati Motel,” 1995, Neal Casal. Best known as a member of Ryan Adam’s band, Neal Casal hails from New Jersey. This track appeared on his debut album Fade Away Diamond Time.

“Cincinnati,”  1999, Marie Christine Broadway soundtrack. Written by Michael John LaChiusa, Marie Christine is a musical loosely based on the Greek play Medea. This tune is the second song in Act II.

*“Hard Times in Cincinnati” - Jake Speed & the Freddies, 2002. Still another hometown group, this folk band has been knocking about the Queen City since the turn of the century. Jake Speed,a former pop/punk rocker, formed the band shortly after doing a deep dive on the catalog of Woody Guthrie. They also have “Cincinnati Lou,” and “Leaving Cincinnati” in their canon.

“Cincinnati,” 2003, The Distillers. This song was apparently inspired by the 2001 riots in Over-the-Rhine. The Distillers are a band from Los Angeles formed by Australian Brody Dalle who also serves as lead singer and rhythm guitarist.

“Sleepless in Cincinnati,” 2005, Close to Home. This aptly named band hails from Cincinnati and is a post-hardcore, some might also say screamo, band. This track came out around 2005.

"Cincinnati Hat," 2008, Showtime a.k.a Don Won. This hip hop track comes from a local artist and has been known to turn up in dance recitals. Showtime a.k.a. Don Won is really Dante Griffin from Avondale. 

*“Oh, Cincinnati,” 2009, The Seedy Seeds. More hometown love for Cincinnati, this time by a trio called the Seedy Seeds. A twangy, AAA-kind of tune, with nods to Findlay Market and the abandoned subway, it can be found, along with the rest of their music, on their Bandcamp page.


“Cincinnati Clocks,” 2011, Ourselves the Elves. This tune comes from a Filipino band that sounds like a cross between an American folk act and your standard alternative rock band, at least on this number. It’s unclear what Cincinnati clocks are exactly.

“Cincinnati,” 2014, A Summer Better Than Yours. This song opens with the line “it’s cold in Cincinnati again,” which is somewhat ironic considering the band’s name, A Summer Better Than Yours. This group hails from Lincoln, Nebraska.

“Cincinnati,” 2014,  Holy Holy. This Australian outfit shouldn't be confused with the English supergroup with the same name that is actually a David Bowie tribute band. This track comes from an EP called The Pacific EP and does not, in fact, mention Cincinnati.

“Cincinnati," 2014, Rasmus Fjeldsted. This song, blending organ and piano mentions Louisville and comes from a Danish artist. You can be his friend on Facebook.

"I'm So Cincinnati," SHOWTIME. Another local creation, this one comes from an area rapper. Parental discretion advised on this track that has well over 250K views on YouTube.

“Cincinnati,” 2017, Big Nothing. It’s the official theme song of The Cincy Shirts Podcast. When the show was being readied for relaunch early in 2018, we came across this Philadelphia band’s track. It was perfect. We asked the band if we could use it, and they said “yes.” You can find them on Facebook and this song, as well as their other tracks, in iTunes, Spotify, and so on.

 

Big Nothing, left, from Philadelphia, have a song called "Cincinnati," as does Canadian Jesse Maranger.

“Cincinnati,” 2017, Jesse Maranger.  Performed just with guitar, voice, and a bit of soft trumpet, this tune is quite mellow indeed. Maranger is a singer/songwriter from Waterloo, Ontario. His album is titled Dreamist.

“Elevate,” 2018, Drake. Another tune that doesn’t mention Cincinnati in the title but does in the lyrics. In this case, the line is “I was pumpin' gas on road trips to go from Cincinnati on to Dayton.”

*“The Birthday Party,” 2020. And the Cincy songs keep coming! Manchester’s The 1975 surely love the Queen City having headlined two shows within 3 weeks in 2019. Perhaps that explains the reference to our town in this track as lead singer Matt Healey croons: “In a boring conversation with a girl called Mel/ 'Bout her friend in Cincinnati called Matty as well.”


You can here most of these songs on our Spotify playlist.




5 Responses

Chrissy
Chrissy

May 13, 2020

List is missing carrie Underwood jesus take the wheel and big and rich’s coming to your city

Orlando Phillips
Orlando Phillips

May 12, 2020

Bluegrass legend Jimmy Martin’s Freeborn Man. First line is I have a gal in Cincinnati.

Tom Sneed
Tom Sneed

July 23, 2019

I was going to mention what Bill said. I had the 45. The b-side was a song called Chula Vista. I have lived in both cities

Bill Follick
Bill Follick

July 22, 2019

Also forgot The Cockroach that ate Cincinnati

Barbara Grothaus
Barbara Grothaus

July 21, 2019

You missed Lights of Cincinnati recorded byScott Walker(of the Walker Brothers)

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