Back Home Again in Indiana

"(Back Home Again in) Indiana" is a song composed by James F. Hanley with lyrics by Ballard MacDonald that was published in January 1917. Although it is not the state song of Indiana (which is "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away"), it is perhaps the best-known song that pays tribute to the Hoosier state.

"(Back Home Again in) Indiana"
1917 sheet music cover
PublishedJanuary 1917
Songwriter(s)Ballard MacDonald and James F. Hanley

An Indiana signatureEdit

The tune was introduced as a Tin Pan Alley pop song of the time. It contains a musical quotation from the already well known "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away", as well as repetition of words from the lyrics: candlelight, moonlight, fields, new-mown hay, sycamores, and the Wabash River.

Since 1946, "Back Home Again in Indiana" has been performed during pre-race ceremonies before the Indianapolis 500. During the song, thousands of multicolored balloons are released from an infield tent. The balloon release dates back to 1947, and has coincided with the song since about 1950. From 1972 to 2014, the song was performed most often by Jim Nabors. He admitted to having the song's lyrics written on his hand during his inaugural performance, and occasionally his versions altered several of the words. The vocals are supported by the Purdue All-American Marching Band. In 2014, Nabors performed the song for the final time after announcing his retirement earlier that year, saying: "You know, there's a time in life when you have to move on. I'll be 84 this year. I just figured it was time ... This is really the highlight of my year to come here. It's very sad for me, but nevertheless there's something inside of me that tells me when it's time to go."[1]

After Nabors retired, the honor of singing the song was done on a rotating basis (which had also been the case prior to Nabors becoming the regular singer) in 2015 and 2016. A cappella group Straight No Chaser performed in 2015 and the Spring 2014 winner of The Voice Josh Kaufman accompanied by the Indianapolis Children's Choir performed in 2016. The Speedway has returned to a standard singer starting in 2017, with Jim Cornelison doing it for five runnings as of the 2021 race.[2]

A jazz standardEdit

Columbia 78 by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, 1917

In 1917 it was one of the current pop tunes selected by Columbia Records to be recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, (ODJB), who released it as a 78 with "Darktown Strutters' Ball". This lively instrumental version by the ODJB was one of the earliest jazz records issued and sold well. The tune became a jazz standard. For years, Louis Armstrong and his All Stars would open every public performance with the number.

Its chord changes undergird the Charlie Parker composition "Donna Lee", one of jazz's best known contrafacts, a composition that lays a new melody over an existing harmonic structure. Lesser known contrafacts of "Indiana" include Fats Navarro's "Ice Freezes Red"[3] and Lennie Tristano's "Ju-Ju".[4]

In 1934, Joe Young, Jean Schwartz, and Joe Ager wrote "In a Little Red Barn (On a Farm Down in Indiana)", which not only incorporated all the same key words and phrases above, but whose chorus had the same harmonic structure as "Indiana". In this respect it was a contrafact of the latter.

Cover versionsEdit

Usage in moviesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Olson, Jeff (25 May 2014). "Jim Nabors performs at Indianapolis 500 one last time". USA TODAY. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  2. ^ Coggan, Devan (24 May 2015). "Watch Straight No Chaser step into Jim Nabors' shoes, sing to kick off the Indy 500". Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  3. ^ Navarro, Fats. "Ice Freezes Red" Archived 2013-12-24 at the Wayback Machine transcribed by Peter Kenagy. Page 12. 2012. Accessed December 22, 2013.
  4. ^ Friedenn, Marv. Sermon on the Flats: The Egalitarian Alternative to Fortune Worship. "Sermon on the Flats" Los Angeles, California, psst Press. Page 108. 2006.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Gioia, Ted (2012). The Jazz Standards. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 200–201. ISBN 978-0-19-993739-4.
  6. ^ "Don Byas, Slam Stewart June 9, 1945". Discography J-Disc. Columbia University in the City of New York. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  7. ^ "You have to watch Glen Campbell shred "Back Home Again in Indiana" on guitar". WTHR. 2017-08-11. Retrieved 2021-11-16.

External linksEdit