A Mississippi state representative says Speaker Philip Gunn’s efforts to push through a new state song were rushed and improper. Rep. Ronnie Crudup says he suggested creating a contest last session to choose a new state song but was summarily shot down.
“I proposed a new state song to the speaker of the House and to the governor a couple of years ago. You can look at my record. I’ve been pushing a contest to pick a state song. We have a new state flag. Sometimes a state song identifies a little bit more,” he said.
When the 2022 Legislative Session opened, Gunn started the session playing a song called “One Mississippi.” The song,written by Steve Azar at the request of former Governor Phil Bryant, was created to commemorate the state’s bicentennial anniversary. Speaker Gunn quickly filed a bill (HB 1487) that would replace the current state song of Mississippi – “Go, Mississippi” – with the more recent “One Mississippi.” Crudup says the bill was passed with almost no discussion. When he originally suggested his idea, he says, he got the impression that Gunn and others were afraid the issue could become controversial.
“I was told from the leadership that there wasn’t going to be any political capital used to pick a new state song. Lo and behold, the speaker had a guy come and sing a song to the legislature, and a couple weeks after, it was pushed through the tourism committee. It came to the floor and was voted on,” he stated. “I was opposed to it because it was not brought up to the public. It was explained to me that there was a contest but only three people participated. But no one heard that a contest even existed. It seems like we got set up.”
Crudup says he confronted the chair of the tourism committee about the bill. He says there are a lot of Republicans who too had problems with the way the bill played out. Crudup says, unfortunately, it’s par for the course in the legislature when a bill that the governor or the speaker of the House wants gets pushed through without discussion, even if another legislator presented the idea first.
“It’s kind of disheartening that there are ideas that you have and you’ll have others decide that they will do it themselves,” he said. “We have award-winning artists all over this state – Grammy Award-winning artists and songwriters. I’ve talked to a few of them and they said they would have liked the chance to submit a song.”
The former state song, “Go, Mississippi” was written by William Houston Davis and was adopted as the state song of Mississippi in 1962. Azar is currently a host on Super Talk radio, a decidedly right-leaning conservative radio station. Crudup says Azar’s ties to Bryant and others makes the process unfair.
“It’s not that I dislike the guy or the song. I think it’s a nice song. But I wouldn’t want it for the state song. Why not put it out to the public so we can come up with the best song,” he said.
Crudup says the song is a done deal but he doesn’t see this as the end of the issue. He hopes other Mississippi artists create songs dedicated to the state. One of those, he says, could resonate more.
“Even some of the best songs across the country that we sometimes think are state songs are not state songs. They can actually push forward to create a momentum for something better,” he said. “Sometimes people think ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ is the Alabama state song but it’s not. I hope this wakes up other artists.”