Atlanta mix-tape

I'd always wanted to see a list of songs that talk about Atlanta and Creative Loafing did the legwork! In their 30 April 2003 edition, this list appeared.

Welcome to Atlanta - A hometown mix-tape

Chronologically, the best songs to feature our city:

1. "Marching Through Georgia" (aka "Fifty Thousand Strong"), Henry Clay Work. This 1865 ode to the success of Gen. Sherman's daring Decatur-to-Savannah expedition became a popular post-war anthem for the victorious Union army ("So we sang the chorus from Atlanta to the sea!"), much to the chagrin of the plantation owners. (on Songs of the Civil War)

2. "Atlanta Blues," W.C. Handy (words by Dave Elman). From 1924, a later work by the "father of the blues," this one continues in the tradition of "St. Louis Blues" and a handful of other geographical titles Handy released. Also popularly known as "Make Me One Pallet on Your Floor," the tune was recorded by everyone from Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet to Eartha Kitt. (on W.C. Handy Preservation Band's Handy's Beale Street -- Where the Blues Began)

3. "Atlanta Gal," Charles Fulcher & His Orchestra. When the famed Okeh label came South in 1929 to make some field recordings, it found the hot-jazz ensemble of Augusta's Charles Fulcher. His tribute to Atlanta womanhood: "She lives upstairs in a great big flat/Does she work? Don't ask me that/That gal, that Atlanta gal." (on Jazz From Atlanta 1923-29)

4. "Dying Crapshooter's Blues," Blind Willie McTell. Blues legend McTell wrote this darkly humorous ballad about the deathbed request of gambler Jesse Williams, shot on Courtland Street in 1929, who requested his funeral procession include "22 womens [sic] out of the Hamilton Hotel, 26 off o' South Bell/29 women outa North Atlanta, to know that Little Jesse didn't pass out so swell." McTell's other classic Atlanta blues include "Atlanta Strut" and "Three Women Blues." (on Deep River of Song: Georgia)

5. "Atlanta Bound," Gene Autry. For the cowboy crooner, Atlanta is the place to seek revenge against the man who stole his gal, and the place he'll pay for his crime. (on Blues Singer 1929-1931)

6. "Atlanta Moan," Barbecue Bob. Discovered by a field recording scout while working at Tidwell's Barbecue in Buckhead, Robert Hicks was a leading purveyor of Newton County-style slide-guitar blues. Though his recording career was short-lived, he left behind an impressive repertoire, including the favorite, "Atlanta Moan," with its boast: "Nobody knows Atlanta like I do." (on Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 3 [1929-1930])

7. "Georgia on My Mind," Hoagy Carmichael (lyrics by Stuart Gorrell). The Indiana songwriter composed and recorded this song, which seems to be about a woman (not a state), in 1930. Nevertheless, the estimable minds under the Gold Dome took it upon themselves to make this our official state song. At least we can say Georgia native Ray Charles now has claim to the tune's definitive version. (on Stardust, and Much More) [Gorrell's son chimes in with: "it probably was, indeed, about the state. Hoagy's sister was named Georgia, however." and also that "dad was a banker, not a songwriter, and although born in Indiana, he lived in NYC when it was written in 1930." - added Jan 2004]

8. "Hot 'Lanta," Allman Brothers Band. Even if it's an instrumental, this 1971 live track still shows how influential the city was on the Brothers' formative years. (on Live at the Fillmore East)

9. "Oh, Atlanta," Little Feat. Bill Payne, keyboardist for this California combo, wrote this pleasant 1974 rocker about a man longing to visit his redheaded sweetheart ("Well you can drop me off on Peachtree/I got to feel that Georgia sun ... Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Atlanta, got to get back to you!") which became such a signature hit that the band often opened their concerts with it. (on Feats Don't Fail Me Now)

10. "Atlanta Song," David Allan Coe. Never one to shy away from being offensive, Coe offered this 1974 gem about going to a strip club, purchasing a hooker, spending a wild night with her, then waking up to find "a look of satisfaction" on her face (of course) and wondering "if she ever felt ashamed of what we'd done." (on The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy/ Once Upon a Time)

11. "Atlanta," Pretty Things. The best British Invasion band that never quite made it across the pond (and the first to record a rock opera), the Pretty Things eventually discovered our city in the early '70s and paid tribute in this 1974 release. It namedrops Southern rock club Richard's and admits Atlanta is "the kind of place that I could call home." (on Silk Torpedo)

12. "Doraville," Atlanta Rhythm Section. Not quite Atlanta, but according to ARS' 1974 hit, even better: "Doraville, touch of country in the city/Doraville, it ain't much, but it's home." (on Third Annual Pipe Dream)

13. "Oh, Atlanta," Bad Company. These hard-rockin' British bad boys aim for Lynyrd Skynyrd territory in 1979 and come up short, but the song extols the city's party vibe and was even a minor bluegrass hit as a surprise cover by Alison Krause. (on Bad Company's Desolation Angels, Krause's Now That I've Found You: A Collection)

14. "Atlanta -- That's Where I Stay," MC Shy D. Before area artists landed the ATL on the hip-hop map, Bronx-born rapper MC Shy D recorded this 1988 rap track. He did, in fact, stay to record with DJ Smurf in the mid-'90s. (on Comin' Correct In 88)

15. "Love Shack," the B-52's. Though long since relocated to New York, the B's revisited a favorite old Atlanta-area haunt in this 1989 song that scored the group its biggest hit ever and forever expanded the repertoire of wedding bands. (on Cosmic Thing)

16. "Dunkey Kong," Kilo. Not the only song to immortalize the famed Bankhead Bounce bass-music dance craze, circa 1995, but it's probably the best. The chorus says it all: "Well this my pinky, this my thumb/Bankhead bounce, Dunkey Kong." (on Get This Party Started)

17. "I'm On My Way to Atlanta," Freddy King. First recorded by the blues guitarist in 1994, the song contains what's certainly among the best Atlanta lyrical references ever: "If you don't love me baby, you don't have to shake my Peachtree Street" (on Very Best of Freddy King 2)

18. "Open the Door, Magnapop. A snapshot of the Atlanta music scene of the '90s, warts (and drugs) and all, courtesy of one of the era's brightest alt-rock bands. A minor college-radio hit circa 1996. (on Rubbing Doesn't Help)

19. "Atlanta Kaira," Taj Mahal & Toumani Diabate. The great musical explorer Taj Mahal reunited his Southern-styled folk-blues guitar with its ancestral roots, in the hands of Malian kora player Toumani Diabate. Recorded in Athens in 1998. (on Kulanjan)

20. "Atlanta," Stone Temple Pilots. Although the ATL isn't mentioned anywhere except in the title, this swelling 1999 ballad was recorded here by Brendan O'Brien. This typically obtuse STP breakup song lent credibility by its grandiose sense of guileless self-absorption, and clearly evoked the city to the band. (on No. 4)

21. "85," Youngbloodz featuring Big Boi. The chorus sounds like a sweet message from father to son: "I know you're waitin' for daddy, it won't be long shawty/Be patient cause I'm comin' to you/Ridin dirty on 85, slow, takin' it easy/I don't want nothin' to keep me from you." The verses reveal what's actually meant by "daddy." Still, this 1999 local favorite is among the catchier jams dedicated to the great Atlanta highway. (on Against Da Grain)

22. "Why Georgia," John Mayer. On this 2001 album track, the twentysomething Connecticut yankee ponders the question so many local transplants have wondered themselves. (on Room For Squares)

23. "Welcome to Atlanta," Jermaine Dupri featuring Ludacris. Perhaps the most literal song about Atlanta ever recorded, JD and Luda take turns namedropping local hotspots on this early 2002 top 20 single. (on Instructions) | atlanta | pkd | fusion | recipes | email