You may have noticed that my book titles are borrowed from the lyrics of John Denver’s famous song about West Virginia “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” What you may not know—I didn’t!—is that there was originally one more verse that the lyricist Taffy Nivert Danoff and John Denver decided to delete before they recorded it.
Before I tell you what it was, I wanted to fill you in on some other background information about my favorite song. Taffy and her then husband Bill were actually in Virginia when the first image of the song struck them. Bill was looking at the spectacular sunset over the distant blue mountains and asked, “What’s over there?” Their guide said, “That’s West Virginia.”
As the couple drove up to Maryland for a family gathering, Bill started strumming his guitar and repeating, “Country roads, country roads.” They drove through West Virginia’s eastern panhandle and found the Shenandoah River. You can start to see how the words began to come together.
Some folks quibble about the Blue Ridge Mountains in the song when, in fact, West Virginia’s mountains are the Appalachians. However, being a former poet myself, I can understand why they chose the shorter moniker to fit their tune. I also discovered that, geologically speaking, the Appalachians are part of the Blue Ridge range anyway.
Taffy and Bill originally wanted to sell the song to Johnny Cash. As it happened, they were performing at the same venue as John Denver one night and he asked to hear any songs they’d written. When he listened to “Country Roads”, he flipped and said, “That’s a hit song! I want it for my next album.”
The rest is history since it reached No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart as a million seller. It’s arguably one of the most recognized songs in the world, and obviously, us West Virginians feel mighty proud of it, agreeing with the label “Almost Heaven”.
So what’s the missing verse? Here you go:
“In the foothills, hiding from the clouds…
Pink and purple, West Virginia farmhouse.
Naked ladies, men who looked like Christ…
And a dog named Pancho, nibbling on the rice.”
Evidently, they were thinking about the hippies who had settled in remote locations in West Virginia in the 60s and 70s.
I think they made the right call on leaving that part out, don’t you?