CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby said locking down the rights to use John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads” was one one of her top priorities in the position.
“It’s something I’ve been working on since I took over in January,” Ruby told MetroNews. “It just seemed like a black hole in our marketing strategy. When there’s a song that millions of people already love and associate with your state, it’s an obvious way to promote the tourism industry.”
It’s not the first time the song has been used by the state Division of Tourism. The state held the rights once before during the Governor Cecil Underwood Administration, but afterward allowed them to lapse. It took several months to negotiate and lock down the rights again with all of the various rights holders to the song. Ultimately, West Virginia is now licensed to use what Ruby called the “John Denver Master Track”, meaning the original recording of the song by John Denver.
“We got a really great deal on the song, truthfully, I think the Denver estate was excited we were going to be using it again,” Ruby said. “We ended up paying about $95,000 for the Denver Master.”
As a comparison, the state of Alabama’s Tourism Department paid $75,000 for the use of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” in 2014.
Denver’s “Country Roads” was a hit soon after it was released. He co-wrote the song in 1971 with friends Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert. He performed it live at the opening of Mountaineer Field in 1980. Under the rights agreement with the Denver estate, West Virginia has a one year contract to use the song–which is standard for any state contract and an option to renew the rights for two more years.
“You can expect to start seeing pieces of it in everything we do,” Ruby said. “Everything from print and digital ads to even the hold music at the tourism department has been switched over.”
Anybody from West Virginia has had the experience of being somewhere and Country Roads starts playing or running into somebody and they refer to the song upon learning you’re from West Virginia.
“When you look at how destinations are starting to market themselves, they’re all operating on emotional appeal and this song has it,” Ruby explained. “It not only talks about our beauty, our uniqueness, and our simplicity–it has all those things. We are Almost Heaven and this song lets the world know.”