The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced on Tuesday, March 25, that 83-year-old Nabors will sing the song for the final time prior to the start of the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25.
“The first time that I ever sang at the Indy 500 in 1972, the warmth I got from the crowd immediately made me become a lifetime Hoosier; and I’ve always cherished it,” Nabors told his hometown newspaper in Honolulu.
“I’ll see you all in May; but I’ve come to the conclusion that my health doesn’t permit me to travel very much anymore,” he said. “So I’ll be retiring from singing ‘Back Home Again’ at the Indy 500 after this year … I’ve loved every minute of it.”
The Speedway also announced that the track will honor Nabors for his years of performance at this year’s Indy 500. Fans are encouraged to tell their Nabors stories at www.IMS.com/weallhaveastory.
"There are many special moments leading up to the start of the Indianapolis 500, but one of the most anticipated every year is when Jim Nabors sings ‘Back Home Again in Indiana,”’ J. Douglas Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president, said in a news release.
“This year will be even more special as Indianapolis 500 fans will cheer not only for what the song means but for what Jim Nabors has meant to the Indianapolis 500."
BIRTH OF A TRADITION
Nabors has performed the song at the famous Indy race a record 34 times, almost every year since 1972. He missed in May 2012 after undergoing heart valve surgery.
Although he wasn’t there in person for the 2012 race, Nabors’ voice was. Nabors recorded the song on video and it was played on video boards around the Indy track before the race.
Nabors gained fame in the early 1960s as the loveable country bumpkin Gomer Pyle on “The Andy Griffith Show.” Gomer proved so popular that he got his own spinoff show, “Gomer Pyle, USMC.”
The Indy tradition began in 1972 when a scheduled singer didn’t show up. Nabors was at Speedway to watch the race. When former Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hulman saw the actor/singer, he asked Nabors if he would sing “the song.”
At first, Nabors thought Hulman was referring to “The Star Spangled Banner.” Surprised to find the song Hulman had in mind was a jazz standard composed in 1917 by Ballard MacDonald and James Hanley, Nabors rose to the occasion by writing the lyrics on his hand and belting out “Back Home Again In Indiana.”
Although it is not the official Indiana state song – that honor goes to “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away” written by Paul Dresser – “Back Home Again in Indiana” has been sung at the Indy 500 since 1946. It is sung immediately before the command for drivers to start engines.
Born June 12, 1930, in Alabama about 20 miles from where Talladega Superspeedway is now located, Nabors has lived in Hawaii since the 1970s for health reasons. He has severe asthma.
“If I didn’t live in Hawaii, I would probably live in Indiana,” Nabors has said.
CHORUS FOR SONG
If you want to sing along with Nabors one last time, here is the chorus for “Back Home Again in Indiana”:
Back home again in Indiana, oh, it seems that I can see
That gleaming candlelight still burning bright
Through the sycamores for me
That new mown hay sends all its fragrance
From the fields I used to roam
Oh, I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash
Then I long for my Indiana home
For more information: Visit www.IndianapolisMotorSpeedway.com