It’s trivia time in Tennessee. What is the official state song of Tennessee? Fans of the UTC Mocs and the Tennessee Volunteers and others may quickly say, “Rocky Top,” used by both schools over their respective histories as a spirit song at athletic events.
Yes, “Rocky Top” is a correct answer. According to the Tennessee Blue Book at http://www.tn.gov/sos/bluebook/ the Boudleaux and Felice Bryant tune that was a hit for the Osborne Brothers in 1968 became a state song in 1982.
However, Tennessee, a state known for a variety of music – folk, gospel, country, rock, soul, and blues – has several state songs. The complete list of song names and the dates adopted is as follows. Complete lyrics for each are found in the aforementioned Blue Book, the official reference for all things Tennessee.
- My Homeland, Tennessee (1925)
- When It’s Iris Time in Tennessee (1935)
- My Tennessee (1955)
- Tennessee Waltz (1965)
- Rocky Top (1982)
- Tennessee (1992)
- The Pride of Tennessee (1996)
I recently was in the audience for a recital at Cadek Conservatory of the harp students of Betty Spencer. One of the numbers on the program was our first state song, “My Homeland, Tennessee.” Ms. Spencer introduced the tune by saying that a former Cadek professor was the composer. A copy of the lyrics was included in the recital program, so that the audience could match the words to the melody being played by the students and teacher.
Roy Lamont Smith was the composer who set the words of a poem by Neil Grayson Taylor to his music. According to his obituary in the February 8, 1946 Chattanooga Times, Mr. Smith was a native of Fremont, Nebraska. His father was the town’s first merchant. All members of the Smith family were musicians, and Roy began playing keyboards at age four.
As a young adult, Mr. Smith studied piano and organ in Chicago and Europe. He eventually settled in Chattanooga in 1897, and began teaching at the Normal school in North Chattanooga. A few years later, in 1904, Mr. Smith was associated with Prof. Joseph O. Cadek in founding the Cadek Conservatory.
Mr. Smith spent the next thirty-years in Chattanooga, teaching at Cadek and serving as organist at several churches. On several occasions, he performed in concerts on the University of Chattanooga campus. The April 25, 1940 Chattanooga Times covered his performance to an overflow audience at the Patten Memorial chapel. A trio performed one of Roy Lamont Smith’s popular tunes, “Moon Shadows.”
Roy Lamont Smith retired in 1942, and moved to San Diego to live with his niece. After his passing, Alfred Mynders in a “Looking Backward” column in the Chattanooga Times wrote, “Roy Lamont Smith was a delightful person to know, a great composer, a patient teacher, whose patience and kindness lingered as a warm spot in the heart of every person he ever taught here.”
Thanks to Betty Spencer for including Tennessee’s first state song as part of her student recital, and for mentioning former Chattanooga Roy Lamont Smith’s connection to the song.
If you have additional information on Roy Lamont Smith, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Roy Lamont Smith was on staff, Cadek Conservatory was at 411 Walnut Street. The building was razed in 1961 for a parking lot for the new Provident offices.