CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Singer John Denver never called West Virginia home, but his 1970s hit “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is one of the state’s official songs.
Forty-three years after it first hit the airwaves with the words “Almost Heaven, West Virginia,” the Legislature approved a resolution Friday designating it as one of four state songs.
The song has resonated with residents for decades. It’s played after every West Virginia University basketball and football game. Denver sang it in person at the dedication of Mountaineer Field in Morgantown in 1980.
The state song effort was started two years ago by the widow of “Gilligan’s Island” actor Bob Denver, who is no relation.
A Bluefield native, Dreama Denver said she got the idea after playing the song on her morning radio show in Princeton and a caller wanted to know if it was an official state song.
After doing some research, she learned it wasn’t. She contacted Raleigh County Delegate Marty Gearhart, who got the ball rolling at last year’s regular session. The resolution passed the House of Delegates in 2013 but never made it through the Senate.
This year, it did.
“My heart has been pounding all day,” Dreama Denver said.
She said she’s heard countless stories about the song from residents, including a man who recently told her, “This is not a song. It’s an anthem.”
“The entire world knows us with this song,” she said.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he was part of a state trade mission to Taiwan several years ago. A nightclub at a hotel where he was staying was playing waltzes, but as soon as Tomblin and other members of his party entered, John Denver’s song started playing.
“I’m very proud that ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ finds a new home among our beloved official state songs,” Tomblin said at a state Capitol ceremony.
West Virginia has three other official state songs: “West Virginia Hills,” ”This Is My West Virginia” and “West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home.”