By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Most Ohioans know that “Hang On Sloopy” is the state’s official rock song. The Ohio State University marching band plays it at every home game.
But what is the official country song? Ohio doesn’t have one.
Rep. Nick Barborak of Lisbon, D-5th, wants to change that. He has sponsored a bill to name “Ohio,” by Lisbon-based artist Zach Paxson, the state’s official country song.
The state and local government committee will have a hearing on H.B. 330 at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the state capitol, and Paxson will be there to perform the song.
Both the lawmaker and Paxson are graduates of David Anderson High School in Lisbon, although they didn’t know each other as youths. Barborak had heard “Ohio” before, but the idea to make it the state song came to him after he saw Paxson sing it.
“Last year, [Paxson] performed the song at a fundraiser at my daughter’s preschool,” Barborak said. “After seeing the reaction of the crowd, I talked to him about making it the state’s country song. He said that idea had come up in the past but nothing had ever been done. So I drafted a bill.”
Barborak sent a CD of the song to all state representatives and has heard nothing but positive feedback. To his knowledge, there are no other competing bills in the works.
State Reps. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, and Stephen Slesnick, a Canton Democrat, are co-sponsors of Barborak’s bill.
Paxson’s tune sings the praises of the state’s people, its cities and countryside. The chorus goes:
“So give me a cold one at the end of the day
and a ‘W’ for the Scarlet and Grey.
This still is the greatest place I’ve ever known:
Paxson is in Stone Mountain, Ga., this week where he is recording his next album, but he took a break to talk about “Ohio.”
He was inspired to write the song after seeing his first Ohio State football game in 2006.
“I had never been to an OSU game at that point in my life, and my cousin wanted to take a trip to Austin, Texas, to see them play [the University of Texas],” he said in a phone interview. “Ohio State won, and I was just blown away by the amount of Ohio fans who traveled down with the team. Half the stadium was scarlet and gray, and afterward the streets were flooded with them. It was one of the first times I stepped away from the state and witnessed Ohio pride, and I was like, ‘This is pretty special.’ I wrote the lyrics to the song on the plane flying back to Ohio.”
Whether his song attains the state designation or not, Paxson said it’s already a win.
“If it goes through, or if it does not, I am extremely honored,” he said. “The song is about Ohio. It’s not about Zach. I write, and then I share, and whatever the song does from there, it does.”
Paxson’s next area appearance will be March 19 at the East Liverpool Motor Lodge. He will also perform at the Hard Rock Cafe in Pittsburgh on April 19.
Barborak’s bill is not the only country music issue before state lawmakers.
In January, state Sen. Jim Hughes of Columbus introduced a bill to name superstar country-music group Rascal Flatts — which hails from Columbus — the state’s official country band.
In 1969, the state Legislature made “Beautiful Ohio” the official state song.