90+ Years of Cincinnati in Song

Cincinnati is hardly the first American city to be celebrated in popular song.  Nevertheless, I find it curious how frequently — i.e., over 200 songs — Cincinnati (ranked #64 among US cities by population) has appeared in a popular song title in the past 95 years, to wit:   

Click on song titles below for (in most cases) access to streaming audio = 
Note the impressive 29-year consecutive run between the years 1959-1988.
[US artists unless otherwise indicated (in red*)]

Cincinnati Hornpipe”              William B. Houchens           1924

“Cincinnati Southern Blues”        Ivy Smith & Cow Cow Davenport 1927

“Cincinnati Daddy”                 Duke Ellington                1929

“Cincinnati Underworld Woman”      Bob Coleman                   1929

“Cincinnati Breakdown”             Blue Ridge Mt. Entertainers   1932

“I’m Going to Cincinnati”          Walter Coleman                1936

“Was You Ever in Cincinnati”       Freddie Fisher                1941

“C-I-N-C-I-N-N-A-T-I”              Teddy McRae Orchestra         1945

“Cincinnati Lou”                   Merle Travis                  1946

“Cincinnati Vout”                  Earl Warren                   1946

“Cincinnati”                       Martha Davis' Torrid Trio     1947

“Cincinnati Bound”                 Cowboy Jack Derrick           1950

“Cincinnati Hit Parade”            Bill Franklin & Skyline Boys  1950

“Cincinnati Dancing Pig”           Red Foley                     1950

“G'night Cinti, Hello Tennessee”   Shorty Long                   1951

“Cincinnati Rag”                   Buck Ryan                     1955

“Cincinnati Ding Dong”             Art Lund                      1957

“Cincinnati Ratamatati”            Cain & Abel                   1959

“High School USA (Cincinnati)”     Tommy Facenda                 1959

“Cincinnati Fireball”              Johnny Burnette               1960

“Cincinnati”                       Frank Slay Orchestra          1961

“Cincinnati Twist and Freeze”      Orlie & the Saints            1961

“Whole Town's Batty About 'nati”   Larry Vincent                 1961

“Cincinnati Ratamatati”            First Percussion Sextet       1961

“Cincinnati Rock”                  Cliff Nash                    1962

“Cincinnati Twist”                 Pat Field & Les Pumas [Fr.]   1962

“Cincinnati Blues”                 Boll Weevil Jass Band         1963

“Cincinnati Slow Drag”             Rev. Gary Davis               1964

"Cincinnati Flow Rag" Rev. Gary Davis 1964
Cincinnati, Ohio”                 Bill Anderson                1964 “Cincinnati Breakdown”             Charlie Moore & Bill Napier   1964 “Cincinnati Blues”     Jesse Fuller       1965

Cincinnati” Bob Braun 1965 “The Cincinnati Kid”               Ray Charles   1965 “The Cincinnati Kid”               Prince Buster [Ja.]          1966/7 “Cincinnati Ohio” Connie Smith 1967 “Cincinnati Woman”                 Freddy Cannon                 1967

Cincinnati” Van Trevor 1967 “I'm Leaving Cincinnati”        Larry Roberts                 1967

Walk Around Cincinatti [sic]” Dean Kay c. 1967 “Cincinnati Stranger”              Buddy Cagle                   1968 “Cincinnati Two-Step”              Dick Cary                     1968 “World War Two in Cincinnati”      The Shambles                  1968 “The Lights of Cincinnati”         Scott Walker                  1969 “Cincinnati Love Song”             The Two Dollar Question      1969 “Cincinnati Jail”                  Bobby Bare                   1969
Susie Cincinnati”                 The Beach Boys                1970 “The Cleanest Man in Cincinnati”   Claude Gray                   1970 “Cincinnati Man”     Mad Lydia     1970 “Cincinnati” Mirageman [Ital.] 1970

Cincinatti [sic] Cream” Brett Marvin/Thunderbolts [UK] '70

Cincinatti [sic] Woman”           Spode [UK]                    1971

Cincinnati”                       The New Seekers [UK]          1971

Cincinnati Woman” The Hubbubs [Austria] 1971
Cincinnati”                       Orville Stoeber               1971
Cincinnati Sidewalks” Shady Stevens 1972

Cincinnati Square” Chuck Robinson 197?

Cincinnati Flow Rag II”           Roy Bookbinder                1972 “Girl from Cincinnati”             Bobbie Gentry                 1972 “Anybody Goin’ North to Cinti” Lester Flatt                 1972 “Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati”    Rose & the Arrangement/Possum 1973

“(Tis a Sin to Sin in) Cincinnati” Rusty Draper 1974

I Went to Cincinnati” Joe Wise 1974 “Cincinnati Sammy”                 Hoagy Pogey [UK]              1974 “Cincinnati Floor”                 Brown’s Home Brew             1974 “Cincinnati” Janet Ellig 1975

Cincinnati Song” Vince Bell 1975 “Cincinatti [sic] Boogie” Emmett Brooks & James Barnes 1975

Apt. #4, 6th St. & Cincinnati”    Joe Stampley                  1976 “Benji's Cincinnati” The Sands of Time 1976
Cincinnati” Infinity 1976
Cincinnati”                       Roy St. John [UK]             1976 “Cincinnati” Blue Max 1976

Cincinnati” [last track] R Ducros/L Simoncini [Ital.] 1977 “Lacksadaisical Cincinnati”        Ogden Wahalia Blues Ensemble 1977 “Cincinnati Fatback”               Roogalator [US/UK]            1977

Cincinnati Growl”                 Roy Ayers Ubiquity            1977 “Cincinnati and Me”                Larry Kinley                  1977

"Cincinatti [sic] Sleeve" Changes 1977 “Cincinnati Cindy”                 Ray Campi                     1977 “Cincinnati Train”                 Cathy & Coins [Germ.]         1977

Cincinnati Capers” Cal Collins 1978 “WKRP in Cincinnati”               Tom Wells & Hugh Wilson       1978 “Cincinnati Stomp”                 Big Joe Duskin                1978 “Cincinnati Stomp” Teacher's Pet 1979 “Cincinnati Star” Ed Williams 1979 “Cincinnati Dice Man” [last track] Them [UK] 1979

"Cincinnati" Charlie Spivak Orchestra 1979 “The Cincinnati Cowboy” Ernie Vaughn 1980 “Cincinnati Baseball Saga” Rusty Ferguson 1980 “Twenty-Two in Cincinnati”         Martha & the Muffins [Can.]  1981 “Cincinnati Milacron”     Pentaject Corporation      1981 “In Cincinnati”                    Hudson & Bauer Singers        1982

Fatty From Cincinnati” Wonderland Chorus & Orch. c. 1982

Cincinnati Shout” Ted Des Plantes 1983 “Living in Sincinnati” Gary Platt & Pork All-Stars 1983 “South of Cincinnati”              Dwight Yoakam                1984 “Cincinnati Blues” Ray Pennington/Buddy Emmons 1984 “Cincinnati Slick” John Bunch 1984 “Back in Cincinnati” [last track] Steve Beresford [UK] 1985

Cincinnati Jail”                  Lonnie Mack                   1986 “Cincinnati” Cincinnati [Ital.] 1986 “Goin' to Cincinnati” Steve Tracy & King Snakes 1987 “Monday in Cincinnati” Pascal Charpentier [Belg.] 1987 “Cincinnati”                       Holidaymakers [UK]            1988

"Cincinnati Blues" Cliff Barnes & the Fear [Ger] 1990

Cincinnati 1830-1850” Paul DeMarinis 1991
Cinncinati [sic] Kid” Salmonella Dub [NZ] 1994

Philadelphia/Cincinnati” Banned From Atlantis [Can.] 1994
Cincinnati” Mood 1994

Cincinnati G's Roll” Convicted Felons 1995
Cincinnati Motel”                 Neal Casal                    1995 “Cincinnati Shuffle”               Sonny Moorman & The Dogs      1996 “Hardrockin’ Cincinnati”           Bran Van 3000 [Can.]          1997 “Cincinnati”     M.O.T.O.      1997

"Hooray for the Cincinnati Reds" Erich Kunzel & the Cinti Pops 1998 “Cincinnati Streets”     Rachel Portman [Beloved] 1998 “Cincinnati Shuffle” Christian Bleiming [Germ.] 1998

Cincinnati, Here We Come” T. Crookham & Accidentals 1998 “Racing Cincinnati”                Chamberlain                   1998 “C'mon Cincinnati”                 Delakota [UK]                 1998 “C'mon Cinti” (Fatboy Slim Mix)”  Delakota [UK]                1999

Cincinatti's [sic] Burning” Shylow [UK] 1999 “Cincinnati Pink”                  Polarity/1                    2000

Cincinnatti [sic] Baby” Axel Z/Joe Duskin/J McShann 2000 “Cincinnati”                       David Childers                2001

North of Cincinatti [sic]” More Plastic [Can.] 2001 “Cincinnati Town”                  Fred Leonard                  2002

Cincinnati Red” Viva 2002 “Hard Times in Cincinnati”      Jake Speed & the Freddies     2002 “Cincinnati”                       Marianne Kesler               2002 “Cincinnati”                       Crime in Choir                2002 “Cincinnati”                       The Distillers               2003 “Cincinnati” Ozark Henry [Belg.] 2003 “Cincinnati Riot Blues”            Ghost Exits                   2003

Cincinnati on Replay” Lefty's Deceiver 2003

Cincinnati at Night” Jim Hurst & Missy Raines 2003 “Weekend in Cincinnati”            The Bobs                      2003

The Black Brigade of Cincinnati” J. Rawls 2003 “C-I-N-C-I-N-N-A-T-I” NSPCrew 2003

Cincinnati Traveler” Hem 2004 “Leaving Cincinnati”     Jake Speed & the Freddies    2004 “I Come from Cincinnati”           End.user                     2004 “Cincinnati (Village Queen)”       Glass Harp                    2005

Cincinatti [sic] Road” Ricochet [Germ.] 2005 “Cincinnati”                       Trey Anastasio               2006 “Love in Cincinnati”               Prairie Home Companion       2006

Three Cheers Cincinnati” Screaming Mimes 2006 “All Roads Lead to Cincinnati”     Jake Speed & The Freddies    2007

Cincinnati” Manishevitz 2007

Cincinatti [sic]” Sly [Fr.] 2008 “Oh, Cincinnati”                   The Seedy Seeds              2008 “Chance Encounter (In Cincinnati)” The Minor Leagues 2009

Cincinnati Summer” Kings of Tragedy 2009

Cincinnati Bears” PNS & Zavala 2009

El Chico De Cincinnatti [sic]” Anne Arbor [Sp.] 2009

Cincinnati”                       Tila Tequila                 2009 “Cincinnati”     Sok     2009 “Cincinnati”     Jangatha     2009 “Cincinnati”     Literature     2010 “Cincinnati” Julie Newmark 2010 “Cincinnati” Nick Jaina 2010 “Cincinnati” L.A. Love [Germ.] 2010 “Left Cincinnati”     Joe Frawley     2010 “Cincinnati Express” Ran Blake 2010

Cincinnati Shakedown” The Unsettlers [Can.] 2010 “Cincinnati Harmony”               The Dopamines                2010 “Cincinnati Dream”      Gregory Attonito     2011 “Cincinnati Love” Chris Collier 2011

Cincinnati” Derek Reese 2011

Cincinnati Agony”      Not Yet!      2012 “Sleepless in Cincinnati” Momentum 2012
Clouds Over Cincinatti [sic]” Cabin Fire 2012
Cincinnati”     Eric Stein      2012 “Cincinnati”     Quixote     2012 “Cincinnati” 2 Mello 2012 “Cincinnati”     German Brigante [Germ.] 2013 “Cincinnati” Vegan Death 2013 “Cincinnati” Ibiza Vibes [Fr.] 2013
Cincinnati” Nick Danger+Skytone/DCR [Can] 2013
Iron (Cincinnati)” Dain Saint 2013
Vuelo Cincinnati-Singapur” Manolo Kabezabolo [Sp.] 2014 “Cincinnati” Dani Flaco [Sp.] 2014 “Cincinnati”     Holy Holy [Australia] 2014 “Goodnight Cincinnati” Up-C Down-C Left-C Right-C ABC+Start [UK] 2015 “Martha (Cincinnati, 1914)”     The Corner Laughers     2015 “Cincinnati Fire Kites”     Scope & Figure      2015 “Cincinnati Chapter of the ...” Doleful Lions 2015 “Cincinnati Shuffle” James Reed 2015
Dallas to Cincinnati”      Mr. Hokum      2015
Cincinnati Transfer”     Old Brown Shoes [Austria] 2015

Cincinnati”      Zutroi [Sp.] 2015

Cincinnati” Zerostailaz [Sp.] 2016

One More Day in Cincinnati” The Creekdraggers 2016 “John from Cincinnati”     Connections      2016 “Cincinnati Shuffle” Big Z 2016 “Cincinnati Moon” Rumpke Mountain Boys 2016 “Cin Cin City” & “Cinti Sunrise” Carter Burwell [Anomalisa] 2016 “Cincinnati” Blake Neely [Buck Howard] 2016 “Cincinnati” Justin Hurwitz [La La Land] 2016 “Cincinnati” & “Cincinnati Waltz” Justin Hurwitz [Madeline] 2017 “Cincinnati” Golden Boys 2017 “Cincinnati” Big Nothing 2017 “Cincinnati, Ohio” Micah Schnabel 2017 “Cincinnati Sunday” D-Sisive [Can.] 2017 “Cincinnati Juggernaut” Hobosexual 2017 “Cincinnati Shuffle” The Thrill 2017 “Cincinnati Cola” My Name Is Ian [UK] 2017 “Cincinatti [sic] Blooms” The Sexual Objects [UK] 2017

Cincinnati Bowtie” Sheri Vari [Port.] 2018 “Songbird of Cincinnati” Hat Check Girl 2018 “From Cinti to Rosarito (Mexico)” Mil Beats & Main Flow [Eur.] 2018 “Goodbye Cincinnati” Ramin Djawadi [Jack Ryan] 2018 “Screw Cincinnati” Bob Rea 2018 “Cincinnati” Machine Moon 2019 “Cincinnati Chili Child” Pataphysics 2019

"Greater Cincinnati" Kinky Friedman 2019

"Stuck in Cincinnati" Jerry Adler 2020

"Ghost of Cincinnati" Big Red Machine 2021

[*Note:  Film soundtracks also indicated in red above]

Freddy Cannon (in 1967, backed by Strawberry Alarm Clock) – “Cincinnati Woman

Note:  produced by Frank Slay, who conducted & co-wrote 1961 B-Side, “Cincinnati”

Prince Buster single release for Spain (B-side mis-titled as “Cincinnati Kids“)

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Notable Album Covers

Title track produced by Shad O’Shea at Counterpart Creative Studios – 1979

2015 double album, Cincinnati, by Dutch blues group, King of the World
(Album features vocal work from Cincinnati’s Cheryl Renée)

1974 LP by one-time Mercury and Monument recording artist

Note:  Original cover design enhanced for extra emphasis 

 

Also Worthy of Mention

2016 single track of electronic “glitch” by Spain’s Zerostailaz

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Nick Keeling’s 2015 song cycle that utilizes piano and found sounds

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Modernist pavillion at Cincinnati’s Bellevue Park overlooking downtown

Actual game broadcasts by Joe Nuxhall & Marty Brennaman;
Recorded and mixed at Shad O’Shea‘s Counterpart Creative Studios.

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Related Trivia and Observations

  • “Cincinnati Jail” is a song title shared by two Ohio Valley greats — Ironton, Ohio’s Bobby Bare (1969) and West Harrison, Indiana’s Lonnie Mack (1986).
  • “Cincinnati Stomp” by blues & boogie pianist Big Joe Duskin was released in 1978, while the following year, Akron “punks” Teacher’s Pet recorded their own song of the same name that made reference to The Who concert tragedy of December 3, 1979 (but did not see release until nearly 30 years later in 2008).
  • Amusing to note back-to-back releases out of the UK in 1970-71 with the city’s name misspelled:  “Cincinatti Cream” by Brett Marvin & the Thunderbolts (1970) and “Cincinatti Woman” by Spode (1971).  
  • Intriguing to note that Spain had a three-year consecutive run of Cincinnati songs between the years 2014-2016.
  • 1970’s “Cincinnati” by “Mirageman” — stage name of Italian pianist and composer, Giovanni Fenati
  • 1985’s “Back in Cincinnati” is the final track of an LP-length tribute to Doris Day (Cincinnatian by birth) from British composer/arranger, Steve Beresford.
  • “South of Cincinnati” by Dwight Yoakam (who was born in Pikeville, KY, southeast of Cincinnati) was initially included as part of a 6-track EP in 1984 on Oak Records, two years prior to Yoakam’s major-label debut (bearing the same title and cover art) on Reprise Nashville.
  • Johnny Burnette‘s “Cincinnati Fireball” from 1960 is a rockabilly classic that retains a strong fanbase in Europe and Oceania.
  • Prince Buster recorded his tip of the hat to “The Cincinnati Kid” (i.e., James Brown) in 1965 in the prevailing ska idiom before rearranging the song the following year as a rocksteady funk showpiece that stands apart from the other Jamaican recordings of 1966 (or possibly 1967 – it’s unclear).
  • 1959’s “High School USA (Cincinnati)” is one of two “franchise” concepts [1961’s “Cincinnati Twist and Freeze” being the other] where the artist made/marketed versions of the song for various US metropolitan regions, Cincinnati included, in this case with spoken-word breaks that specify the names of public and parochial high schools in Cincinnati and beyond — all the way to Columbus, in fact.
  • In 2016, Cincinnati found its way into song titles for two film soundtracks (Anomalisa and The Great Buck Howard), as well as the film score for Oscar winner, La La Land, whose composer, Justin Hurwitz, would then include two additional Cincinnati-themed songs for the soundtrack of Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench in 2017.
  • 1977 — with eight Cincinnati songs — is a high-water mark for the pre-digital era, while 2017 proves to be the year to beat with nine songs that name the city.

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Zero to 180’s Top Ten Cincinnati Songs: 

Dec. 2020 Cincinnati Magazine Sidebar Excerpts + Enhanced Historical Info!

#1:  “Cincinnati Hit Parade” from 1950, the oldest entry on this Top Ten list, is a truck driving tale by Bill Franklin, with backing from The Skyline Boys, that bears the unmistakable influence of Hank Williams with regard not only to the vocal but also the prominent steel guitar:

AUDIO LINK

According to Discogs, Franklin started in radio in 1934 at the age of six, performing as The Franklin Brothers, along with his brothers Delmas and Clyde.  Franklin later became a member of the Skyline Boys, singing with the quartet and performing solo work, playing both mandolin and guitar.  “Cincinnati Hit Parade” appears to be among the earliest in a brief recording career that also includes exactly one King single:  1958’s “That Moon’s No Stopping Place for Me” b/w “One Minute.”   Franklin’s interest in space exploration would show up again four years later on a 1962 single release for Loyal “God and Glenn” b/w “Space Flight.”

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#2:  Jesse Fuller is a blues singer/songwriter and “one-man band” who is most famous for his “San Francisco Bay Blues,” which has been covered by The Weavers, Peter, Paul & Mary, Glenn Yarborough, Tom Rush, Janis Joplin, Richie Havens, Mungo Jerry, Phoebe Snow, and Eva Cassidy among others.  Elijah Wald notes in his appreciation for Acoustic Guitar that Cincinnati was the first destination for Fuller (born 1896) after leaving his hometown of Jonesboro, Georgia.  Writes Wald —

[Fuller] put together a rack that could hold a harmonica, a kazoo and a microphone, and invented the fotdella, a six-string bass with a modified piano action that drove felt hammers against the strings.  The fotdella, which he played with his shoeless right foot, was a visual novelty and gave his music a solid bottom, and he completed the rhythm section by using his left foot to keep time with either a sock cymbal or another homemade contraption that scraped a rubber arm across a washboard.

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Fuller would not call Cincinnati home for long, and his “Cincinnati Blues” appears to recount the time he decided to leave the city behind.  Fuller’s aching vocal and plaintive Piedmont-style fingerpicking, not to mention sublime slide work — on this live performance from a 2006 box set by Smithsonian’s Folkways [Friends of Old Time Music:  The Folk Arrival 1961-1965] — make for compelling listening:

AUDIO LINK

Cincinnati Blues” was included on 1965 Prestige LP Jesse Fuller’s Favorites, although the year before Folk Art Recordings appears to have reissued Fuller’s 1956 EP Frisco Bound and added four additional tracks, including “Cincinnati Blues” – LP retitled as God Made the Blues Volume Two.  

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#3American clear-channel radio stations and imported US vinyl had a direct impact on the development of Jamaican popular music, and how interesting to discover that the King Records influence goes back to the 1950s, as revealed in this excerpt from Young, Gifted & Black – The Story of Trojan Records.

In the mid-1960s, one of Jamaica’s leading lights, Prince Buster, slyly called out praise to King Records’ most famous artist (guess who?) in this far-sighted fusion of rocksteady and funk – “Cincinnati Kid” – that draws a direct line between Kingston, JA and Cincinnati, OH, while also making a winking reference to Lalo Schifrin’s film soundtrack of the same name:

AUDIO LINK

Important to point out, however, that the initial release of “Cincinnati Kid” (in 1965 or 1966 – unclear) on Prince Buster’s Voice of the People label was in a fairly standard ska arrangement:

AUDIO LINK

To be fair, the city’s name is not an easy one to spell

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It’s also unclear when the new Clavinet-driven funk arrangement was first issued – note that this “live” version from 1967’s Prince Buster on Tour LP is the same studio recording albeit with dubbed crowd sounds:

AUDIO LINK

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“Cincinnati Kid” also appears on 1969’s Queen of the Outlaws LP, as well as Soul Jazz’s 300% Dynamite reggae compilation from 1999.  Original 45 releases can easily command three figures at auction — in fact, one pre-release/white label 45 from “Steve Barrow‘s personal collection” (!) went for £770 in 2014.

#41971’s “Cincinnati Woman” by The Hubbubs is catchy AM radio power pop with fuzztone guitar, “go-go” horns and Laugh-In production sound and yet – surprise – German lyrics!  Fortunately, the song title (in English) begins each chorus and will have you singing along in no time:

AUDIO LINK

“Cincinnati Woman” was released as an A-side in Austria and subsequently included on 1972 Fontana LP Nachts in Chicago.  The Hubbubs would later sign with EMI/Columbia, for whom they would record a handful of albums in the 1980s for the Austrian market.

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#5One of the more amusing observations when one scans the list above of 200+ songs from 1924-2019 that contain “Cincinnati” in the title:

  • In the years 1970-71, there were back-to-back releases out of the UK with the city’s name misspelled:  “Cincinatti Cream” by Brett Marvin & the Thunderbolts (1970) and “Cincinatti Woman” by Spode (1971). 

Today’s featured song – Spode’s “Cincinatti Woman” – is distinctive for its “throwback” sound:  galloping guitar lines, evocative of early ‘60s Hank Marvin of The Shadows, set against a lonely Moody Blues-style backing vocal that conjures up the mysterious charm of that elusive lass from the heart of the Ohio Valley, thousands of miles away:

AUDIO LINK

1971’s “Cincinatti Woman” [not to be confused with The Hubbubs’ release of the same year in Austria with the (near) identical title] was a B-side when released by Decca in the UK, France, Belgium, Spain & Turkey.   Discogs informs us that Spode is an “alias of the band Cats Eyes [UK band from Evesham], only for recording 1971” and that “live concerts at the time were still played as Cats Eyes.”

45 – France (left)                                                 45 – Spain (right)

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#6Cincinnati Square” by Chuck Robinson is a groovy early 1970s “psych-jazz-funk” celebration of that super hip and happening gathering spot – “Cincinnati Square”— that, uh, doesn’t actually exist.   However, let’s give the singer the benefit of the doubt and assume he meant Fountain Square (in the heart of downtown), so as not to bring the party down any further:

AUDIO LINK

Like a necklace you wear, “Cincinnati Square” is the B-side of the sole (and rather obscure) release by tiny indie label, Borfork, about which scant information is available.

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#7Former King Records producer, songwriter, and talent scout, Ray Pennington (who left us this past October), wrangled pioneering country-jazz steel guitarist, Buddy Emmons, on a western swing number – “Cincinnati Blues” — that declares Cincinnati to be the most effective restorative treatment in buoying the singer’s ailing spirits:

AUDIO LINK

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Released as a 45 on Step One Records in 1985, “Cincinnati Blues” was also the closing track of 1984 double-LP Swingin’ From the 40’s Thru the 80s, with backing from The Swing Shift Band.  Step One is a Nashville indie label that was founded the same year as this single’s release.  According to Discogs:

The label was founded by singer-songwriter and producer Ray Pennington with Curtis Potter, the former of whom had produced for Waylon Jennings.  At the time of the label’s foundation, it was one of the few independent country music labels to have significant chart success, most notably in 1991, when the label released Clinton Gregory’s “(If It Weren’t for Country Music) I’d Go Crazy“, the only independently-released single on the Billboard country charts at the time of its release. The label lasted into the mid 1990s, having Top 40 success again in 1996 with Western Flyer’s “What Will You Do With M-E?“. Other artists signed to the label included The Geezinslaws, Ray Price, Faron Young, and Pennington himself.

Randy McNutt added this wonderful tribute on Facebook:

Ray Pennington was one of the best writers in Nashville.  King Records founder Syd Nathan loved him.  Ray once told me, during a session in the 1980s, that he would be “still be working for The Man today if he was alive.”  Ray was an easy-going guy who wrote many country hits.  At King, he was a hit songwriter too.  But in Nashville, he blossomed.  As a singer, he recorded for Monument and other labels.  As an A&R man at RCA, he produced a lot of big acts, including Willie Nelson, Kenny Price, and Waylon Jennings.  He produced and wrote Jennings’ “I’m a Ramblin’ Man.”  Ray wrote it back in his early years in Cincinnati, when he performed under his own name and also as Ray Starr.  He did rockabilly, country, and R&B.  He intended for the song it to be done in a R&B style.  I wonder if Jennings appreciated it.  “Jennings and Nelson hated Ray,” producer Carl Edmondson told me.  Ray cut one of Carl’s songs, “I Break Easy.”  Perhaps Jennings and Nelson saw themselves as the Outlaws and Ray as the traditionalist.  I can’t see why anyone would have disliked him. He had a lot of friends in Cincinnati and Nashville.  He did not play the role.  I am including here a recording I co-produced with Ray back in 1980.  We used Ray’s usual studio band, which included the talented guitarist and songwriter Dave Kirby and drummer D.J. Fontana.  We recorded a song written by the great Norro Wilson, who was hot then.  The band listened to a demo of “Mama McCluskie,” then knocked it out perfectly on the first take.  I gave the players no lead sheets.  They didn’t need any.  I told Ray that it sounded perfect to me.  He said, “We’ll do a couple of more takes just to get our money’s worth.”  We ended up using the first.  Ray will be missed.  RIP, Mr. Ramblin’ Man.

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#8Tuneful, jangly guitars come to the fore on this fetching, uptempo indie-pop number “Cincinnati” by a Scottish band, Holidaymakers, who recorded a couple singles in the UK in the late 1980s for Newcastle-based indie label, Woosh — and then nothing more.  Released in 1988 – the bicentennial year, coincidentally, of the city that began life as ‘Losantiville‘ (until General Arthur St. Clair intervened) – “Cincinnati” was the second of three releases for Holidaymakers:

AUDIO LINK

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#9Findlay Market and (if I’m not mistaken) the city’s abandoned subway get a shout-out in a song – “Oh, Cincinnati” by The Seedy Seeds from 2008 – that sure sounds, to my ears, like an obvious (though unlikely) local radio hit, with wistful banjo lines tempered by a modern pop sensibility that somehow manages to convey a hopefulness throughout:

AUDIO LINK

Instruments and vocals by Margaret Darling and Mike Ingram (with assistance from friends and family), “Oh, Cincinnati” can be found on The Seedy Seeds’ debut CD release Count the Days — available through Bandcamp:

BANDCAMP LINK

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#10Zavala (given name, Alex) – of Seattle “alternative” hip hop duo Dark Time Sunshine – stepped out on his own in 2009 on a split LP with PNS (Juvenal Robles) entitled Canciones Modernas.  The irresistible groove of Zavala’s hip hop/funk instrumental with the odd title – “Cincinnati Bears” – makes an ideal backdrop for a scenic Cincinnati drive:

AUDIO LINK

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Zavala’s 2017 work Fantasmas is considered the producer’s first proper solo album.  Dark Time Sunshine’s latest effort Lore will be released February 4, 2021.

LINK to Dark Time Sunshine’s Bandcamp site

 ALSO WORTH NOTING —

Another notable hip hop number is 1994’s “Cincinnati” by Mood (produced by Hi-Tek), the kick-off track on a 4-song cassette demo that was “pushed out to radio and stores,” according to Discogs [Butch Gibson informs me the group was previously known as Three Below Zero].  “Cincinnati” was also used as the closing track on the Cincinnati group’s 1997 debut album, Doom, on which Talib Kweli guests on five of the tracks:

AUDIO LINK

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Spotlight:  Dean Kay and His Elusive Cincinnati Song from 1967

According to the text that accompanies this streaming audio clip of Dean Kay singing his original composition “Sittin’ in a Drum”:

Taken from US test pressing single-side Acetate LP (Harmony Recorders) [entitled] Dean Kay – Who Is Dean Kay … Ultra-scarce test pressing/acetate of Dean Kay. Songs written/copyrighted by Dean Kay Thomson and Hal Blair around 1967-68. Songs are most likely unpublished, making this record even more interesting.

Walking Around Cincinatti [sic]” is the second of five songs that can be found on a disc, of which only one copy exists!  Fascinatingly, Dean Kay himself chimed in one year ago with this comment attached to the YouTube streaming audio clip:

Hi … I’m Dean Kay.  This IS interesting to me.  I don’t think I have a copy of this track or the other tracks on the Acetate.  This is a true one-off.  I hand made the sleeve and gave it to the producer, Bob Ross, alone with the Acetate, as a joke.  I’m assuming that the album was among the items in Bob’s estate and was probably donated, thrown away or sold after he passed.  The tracks were produced in Hollywood probably in 1967-68 (as suggested above) with the idea of pitching them around to try to land a record deal … Didn’t happen.  I started seeing the sleeve on the net a year or so ago.  This is the first time any of the tracks have been uploaded.  Kind of fun to hear this 50 years after the fact.  Of interest, perhaps, is that the lyricist, Hal Blair, wrote 13 songs recorded by Elvis in addition to many big hit records … you can read about him on my website. http://www.deankay.com/clients.html#halBlair  You might find other interesting things on my website http://www.deankay.com/ as well.

The homemade artwork is priceless:

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.https://www.discogs.com/artist/39908-Talib-Kweli

Notable Cincinnati-Themed Ensembles

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 Cincinnati song zzz

 

1958 advertisement for Canadian beer brand

Sing a Song of Cincinnati” by Steven Rosen
Cincinnati Magazine – December 2020

 

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