Jim Nabors sang “Back Home Again In Indiana” for the last time at this year’s Indianapolis 500, the same song he has sung before the start of the Indianapolis 500 since 1972.
Jim stopped in at the Economacki Press Room at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a last visit with the journalists. The room was as packed as it is during the winner’s press conference after the race is over. I think most of us were there just to be with him, rather than get press footage.
“I’m from Alabama,” he told us. “But after I sang that and got to know the city, I became a Hoosier through and through.”
Jim told us about the first time he sang the song. He was at the race as a guest of his mentor, Bill Harrah. Someone with the race organization had asked if he would mind singing before the start of the race.
Except he thought he was going to sing the Star Spangled Banner.
Jim said that while he was talking with the director of the Purdue University band, he asked “what key are you doing this in?”
“Uh, we only have one key,” said the director.
“But the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ has two keys,” said Jim.
“You’re not singing the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ You’re singing ‘Back Home Again In Indiana. Do you know it?”
When you’re from one state, you tend not to know the songs from other states. So, no, he didn’t know it. And with three minutes before he was supposed to start, he was writing the lyrics on his hand.
“No practice, no rehearsal, just as soon as I was done, they said, ‘GO!’”
With that one song, it became his song, and that made it all the more Indiana’s song. The only time I hear it is when Jim Nabors sings it at the start of every Indianapolis 500. In 2015, they’re going to need a replacement, but it’s not going to be the same.