Crown Point Community Library

Indiana Rocks!


When thinking of rock and roll, jazz, and musical talent, the Hoosier State is often not the place that comes to mind.  Indiana has its famous, and not so famous, musical inclinations, often without people realizing how influential it has been to the music world we know today.

Importance of Jazz in Indianapolis

There’s a section of Indiana Avenue in Indianapolis where the nights were filled with revelry and music in the 1930s and 1940s.  Numerous clubs along the Avenue, perhaps as many as 30, including the famed Madame Walker Theatre, entertained the community with the sound of jazz and were the soul of the night.  In addition to local favorites Wes Montgomery and Freddie Hubbard, world renowned jazz musicians, such as Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, toured the venues of the Indianapolis jazz scene.  Although many of the places are gone, the traditions are celebrated with a mural at 332 N. College honoring several of the musicians who played along the Avenue.

Musicians who called Indiana home

The Hoosier State has produced many singers, songwriters, and musical talent.  Early notables include Hoagy Carmichael who wrote and sang many classic favorites, including “Georgia on My Mind,” “Stardust,” and “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening.”  Cole Porter, whose home is a museum in Peru, composed Broadway musicals Kiss Me Kate and Anything Goes, among others, and his list of songs include “I’ve Got you under my Skin” and “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.”  George Hay was the founder of the Grand Ole Opry, where country music traditions still live on today.  Every winter, we hear the song “Jingle Bell Rock,” written by Bobby Helms of Bloomington, who sang and composed mostly country tunes in the 1950s and 1960s.  Famed violinist Joshua Bell called Bloomington home before he toured the world with orchestras and earned the title, “Classical Music Superstar.”  Rockers Axl Rose from Guns n’ Roses and David Lee Roth from Van Halen hail from Indiana, as does R&B artist “Babyface” Kenneth Edmonds; part of I65 in Indianapolis is named in his honor.  Seymour is home to rock and pop favorite John “Cougar” Mellencamp of “Jack and Diane” and “Pink Houses” fame.  Although Gary has been home to Crystal Taliefero, Khazad Doom, and Deniece Williams before they made their names in the music world, it is probably most known as the hometown of The Jackson 5, and especially Michael Jackson.

Gary didn’t only produce musicians by birth, but also musicians by record.  Vivian Carter and James C. Bracken founded an indie R&B, jazz, folk, gospel and urban blues label, Vee-Jay Records, in 1953. It was the first black-owned and female-owned label in the United States.  Vee-Jay recorded artists such as John Lee Hooker, The Dells, Little Richard, and Betty Everett; it was also the first U.S. record company to release music by The Beatles.  Although the company stopped recording in 1966, the historic label often issues re-releases from their extension catalog.

How that song we hear every Memorial Day weekend got its start

“Back Home in Indiana” was written in 1917 by James Hanley and Ballard McDonald.  While “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away” is the official state song (written in 1897 by Paul Dresser and adopted by the state legislature in 1913), many associate “Back Home in Indiana” as such since it is sung prior to the start of the Indianapolis 500.  It has been a staple of the pre-race ceremonies since 1946; Jim Nabors famously opened every Indy 500 with the song, from 1972-2014.  The original recording was performed by the Dixieland Jazz Band in 1917, and although mostly recorded as a jazz song, it has taken on many alterations over time.

Crown Point on the Radio

Harold Wendel, of Wendel’s Radio & Electric Service started WLBT (“Where Lovers Become Tied” – meant to pay homage to the Marriage Mill of Crown Point) in 1926 as the first local station in Crown Point.  It began as a general broadcasting station of public amusement, entertainment, information, and instruction.  The station, which broadcasted from 115 North Main Street as well as several locations around town, only survived a short time, ending in 1928.

WWJY began in 1972 on Main Street, then moved to Broadway. The original call letters were WFLM (“World’s Finest Listening Music”) but changed to reflect the programming and radio “joy” the station brought its listeners.  It was on the air for over 20 years until it was sold as to a Spanish language station in 1996.


Indiana Playlist

Whether the artist hails from Indiana or waxes poetic about the Hoosier State, enjoy a song celebrating what makes Indiana a place of its own.

Indiana Rocks!: The Crown Point Community Library Indiana Room Hoosier State Playlist

  • Back Home Again in Indiana: written by Ballard McDonald and James F. Hanley (1917) Often known as sung by Jim Nabors at the Indianapolis 500 (other artists include Johnny Mercer, Rosemary Clooney, and many others)
  • Back to Indiana: The Elms (2009)
  • Can’t Get Indiana off my Mind: Hoagy Carmichael (1940)
  • Change the World: Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds (1997)
  • Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye: Cole Porter (1944)
  • Comes Indiana Through the Smoke: Okkervil River (2016)
  • Fast Times at Drop-out High: The Ataris (2001)
  • First Family: Rich Mullins (1989)
  • First Snow in Kokomo: Aretha Franklin (1972)
  • Goin’ Back to Indiana: The Jackson 5 (1971)
  • Henrietta, Indiana: Josh Ritter (2015)
  • Honest to Goodness Indiana: Jon McLaughlin (2014)
  • If It Wasn’t for the Wabash River: Johnny Cash (1977)
  • Indiana: Melissa Etheredge (2010)
  • Indiana: The Samples (1996)
  • Indiana Wants Me: Dean Taylor (1970)
  • Indianapolis: Menudo (1983)
  • Indianapolis: The Bottle Rockets (1997)
  • Indianapolis, Indeed: Sandi Patty (1988)
  • I’ve Got you Under my Skin: Cole Porter(1936)
  • Jump: Van Halen (1984)
  • Lack of Water: The Why Store (1996)
  • Let’s Hear it for the Boys: Deniece Williams (1984)
  • Mary Jane’s Last Dance: Tom Petty (1993)
  • Michigan City, Howdy Do: Johnny Cash (1976)
  • No Rain: Blind Melon (1992)
  • Nothin’ But Cowboy Boots: Blue Country (2004)
  • On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away: written by Paul Dresser (1897)
  • Pizza King: Wussy (2011)
  • Small Town: John Mellencamp (1985)
  • Stardust: Hoagy Carmichael (1927/1929)
  • Sweet Child O’ Mine: Guns N’ Roses (1987)
  • Up in Indiana: Lyle Lovett (2007)

Indiana Singer/Songwriters

  • Adam Lambert, singer, runner-up American Idol
  • Axl Rose, Guns N’Roses bad boy fueled by anti-Indiana sentiments
  • Bill Gaither, gospel singer and songwriter
  • Bill Monroe, father of bluegrass who worked and played in Indiana
  • Bob Flanigan, head of the class for Four Freshmen harmonies
  • Crystal Gayle, ‘Brown Eyes’singer who became a crossover queen
  • Charlie Fuqua, responsible for signature riffs on Ink Spots hits
  • Cole Porter, Broadway genius who crafted enduring classics
  • Dale Lawrence, boundary pusher with Gizmos and Boatmen
  • David Lee Roth, frontman of Van Halen
  • Florence Henderson, singer and actress who often performed at Indy 500 pre-ceremony shows
  • Freddie Hubbard, trumpet great who played with Coltrane and Hancock
  • George Dewey Hay, founder of WSM’s Grand Ole Opry
  • Hoagy Carmichael, composer of iconic ‘Stardust’and ‘Georgia’ tunes
  • Izzy Stradlin, guitarist who performed with many bands and formed Guns N’ Roses
  • Janet Jackson, pop superstar who maintained ‘Control’
  • J. Johnson, the unlimited innovator of jazz trombone
  • John Hiatt, your favorite songwriter’s favorite songwriter
  • John Mellencamp, ‘Small Town’rock star who explores music’s roots
  • Jon McLaughlin, singer and songwriter
  • Joshua Bell, violin sensation and Indiana Living Legend
  • Kenny Aronoff, in-demand drummer with star-studded discography
  • Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds, R&B heavyweight and 11-time Grammy winner
  • Michael Jackson, ‘King of Pop’for joyful dance hits and empathetic ballads
  • Paul Mahern, Zero Boys trailblazer and production wizard
  • The Rev. Josh Peyton, modern guitar hero of timeless country blues
  • Rusty Redenbacher, inventive voice of Mudkids and Birdmen
  • Scrapper Blackwell, collaborative and influential blues master
  • Shannon Hoon, Blind Melon singer and MTV fixture in the ’90s
  • Steve Wariner, one of Music City’s few ‘Certified Guitar Players’
  • The Jackson 5, family musical group with hits ‘ABC’ and others
  • Wes Montgomery, guitarist whose picking transformed jazz
  • Yank Rachell, mandolin ace and patriarch of Indianapolis blues

This is a small sample of the songs about or include the Hoosier State and the singers and songwriters who once called Indiana home.  A quick online search will generate many more lyrics and singer/songwriters involving Indiana.


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