If you search for "Louisville" in iTunes, you'll see a lot of songs with that title. Looking through the list of bands, I noticed that none of them are from here. That made me wonder why someone would write a song about the city. So I decided to talk with a few of them and find out. Here are their stories:
The band: a "country/folk rock/powerpop" band from Maine.
Lines that mention Louisville: "...and it was 6 o' clock in the morning, he was 26 years old, spending his birthday in Louisville, Ky. or so the letter told. I said to myself, 'Hey, man whatcha lookin' for, out there are all alone? And what the hell are you doing in Louisville?'"
"Everyone in Louisville seems nice enough for strangers, but strange enough to be alright."
The story: Oddly enough, the band has never been to Louisville. Andy, one of the guys in the band, told me the song is based on a 27 (yes, 27!) page letter that a friend wrote him while visiting here. He says the friend would get really obsessed with certain things at times.
One obsession was with UPS (yes, the United Parcel Service) while he was working there. He was so into the company that he decided to take a vacation, on his birthday, to visit the hub here.
The letter mentioned a lady named Melissa at the UPS visitor's center, a restaurant called Sparky's, and a "soul power" radio station. All of those are in the song. I'm not sure Sparky's or the soul power station ever existed, but they make for a good song anyway.
The band: Donal is a country/folk singer/songwriter from Nashville.
Line that mentions Louisville: "...if I die behind the wheel, with one card left to play, I'll think of you until Kentucky Derby day, come on Louisville...
The story: The inspiration for the song was the roadside memorials for people who've died in crashes on I-65. (He travels the stretch between Louisville and Nashville pretty regularly.) Donal says that they're reminders of how fragile life is, but adds that the song is more about lost love than actual deaths. It's a frequent request for him this time of year.
The band: an indie rock band from Brooklyn
Line that mentions Louisville: "all I wanted was going home, all they gave me was Louisville. I never wanted love or conquered Rome, just your voice and a sleeping pill..."
The story: Alex, from the band explained that the song was about a stop in Louisville after they'd been on tour nonstop for a few months. They were tired and on their way home, somebody from their record label said they had to go to a radio conference here and "schmooze."
He doesn't remember which hotel he was in, but he and a band mate played some songs, and that was that. Alex was also going through a breakup, which never makes for a good time. He says he'd like to come back here and play sometime. Hopefully there will be less exhaustion and heartbreak.
The band: a power pop/alt-country band from Rochester N.Y.
Line that mentions Louisville: "we turned the music down, we're gettin' out of this town. Not going back to Louisville..."
The story: This is probably the first and only song ever written about the chicken place, Indi's. Nick, the singer, told me that the song is about their stop there on the way home from Nashville. Since that was his first and only trip to Louisville, he doesn't remember which Indi's it was.
He says they pulled into the parking lot and there was a crowd standing outside, smoking. The crowd stared down the guys in the car. "It was like showing up at a party and everyone's staring at you like, 'Who the hell are you?'" says Nick. His friend was wearing a cowboy hat he'd gotten in Nashville. Someone called him a "honky." They left. So, not the best experience of the city, but it is one of their most-downloaded songs on iTunes. (For the record, Nick says he would come back here.)
Want more songs about Louisville?
There's an article on examiner.com that's full of little stories about songs that, legend has it, are about stuff in Louisville. The article's a few years old and as it says, the stories might just be urban legends. But it's worth a read.
Photo: Flickr user peacemel