“Take Me Home, Country Roads” Was Almost About Massachusetts
by John Denver”Take me home, country roads,“perhaps one of America’s most iconic and identifiable songs, was released by RCA Records on Denver’s Poems, prayers and promises album on April 6, 1971. The song would launch Denver’s career to unimaginable heights.
Denver, born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. in New Mexico in 1943, had already released four albums, three for RCA before Poems, prayers and promises. Among the albums was Rhymes and Reasons in 1969, which contained the classic Denver song “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, which helped propel Peter, Paul and Mary to stardom.
But “Take Me Home, Country Roads” has become John Denver’s signature song, and as with most traditions and institutions, there’s an inner story. Here is what I learned.
In December 1970, Denver, with a few albums under his belt, was a still-struggling folk musician looking for the big break. He was performing at The Cellar Door in Georgetown.
OMCP reporter Neal Augenstein spoke with the late musician Len Jaffe about how “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was born. According to Jaffe, one evening, when the show was over, he went to the apartment of Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert, two struggling singer-songwriters who asked Denver to help them finish a song they were writing but couldn’t do well. That song was “Take Me Home, Country Roads”.
Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert, known professionally as Fat City, found inspiration for the song while traveling the back roads of Maryland – not West Virginia. Danoff, a native of West Springfield, Massachusetts, briefly considered making the song a tribute to his home country, but according to multiple reports and interviews, he didn’t think it was right for him. West Virginia got the nod instead.
Danoff had never visited West Virginia before writing what would become one of four state anthems that since 2017 has been used to market the state to tourists around the world.
Denver died in a plane crash in 1997. He was one of the most successful musical artists of the 1970s and appeared on television and in films.
Danoff and Nivert were two of four members who made up the 1970s Starland Vocal Band which had a big hit with “Afternoon Delight”. As Fat City, Danoff and Nivert provided backup vocals on the original recording of “Take Me Home, Country Roads”.
Danoff and Nivert originally had Johnny Cash in mind when they were writing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and hoped to sell the song to Cash.
John Denver’s Sanctuary is in her beloved adopted home Aspen, Colorado.
As Paul Harvey said, “And now you know the rest of the story.”
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