When most people think of Kansas, they likely think of Dorothy and her little dog Toto in The Wizard of Oz. However, there’s much more to the Sunflower State than just that classic film.
Kansas is home to a rich musical history with dozens of iconic songs about the state. Whether you’re a fan of folk, country, or rock music, there’s sure to be a song about Kansas that appeals to you.
So put on your cowboy boots, and let’s explore some of the best songs about Kansas that have been written over the years!
1. “Witchita Lineman” by Glen Campbell
Released in 1968, “Wichita Lineman” was a hit song for Glen Campbell. The lyrics, written by Jimmy Webb, tell the story of a man who works as a lineman in Wichita, Kansas.
While the song is ostensibly about the working life of a lineman, it is also about the universal human experience of having thoughts and dreams that extend beyond our everyday reality.
For many people, the song resonates because it speaks to the idea that we are all more than our jobs or our outward circumstances. We all have inner lives that are complex and rich, and “Wichita Lineman” reminds us of that.
Related: Check out our post of the best songs about Kansas City here.
2. Wichita Skyline
Shawn Colvin’s song “Wichita Skyline” is about a young woman leaving her small town and heading into the wide-open world.
The song paints a picture of the endless possibilities that await her and the sense of excited anticipation. The Wichita skyline itself is symbolic of the infinite horizon that awaits her.
The lyrics express a yearning for adventure and discovery. It’s a song about taking risks, following your dreams and ultimately finding your balance.
Shawn Colvin’s song “Wichita Skyline” is an ode to the wanderlust spirit. However, Colvin’s hit “Sunny Came Home” brought her the recognition she deserved.
3. “You’re Not in Kansas Anymore” by Jo Dee Messina
“You’re Not in Kansas Anymore” is a song written by Tim Nichols and Zack Turner and recorded by American country music artist Jo Dee Messina.
The single, released in July 1996, charted as a second entry on Jo Dee Messina’s album. The song reached number 7 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.
Billboard magazine reviewed the song favorably, calling the production “right on the mark” and saying it provides a “strong framework for Messina’s personality-packed vocals.” The hook is “catchy,” and Messina’s delivery is “energetic.”
The song exemplifies the popular meaning, ‘you’re not in Kansas anymore,’ and talks about a man’s expectations about life in California and comparing the two.
4. “On The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” by Judy Garland
Judy Garland’s “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” quickly rose to popularity, spending several weeks atop the charts in mid-1945.
The following year, it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The tune is featured in the Judy Garland film ‘The Harvey Girls’ and referred to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway—a fallen flag railroad victim of Merger Mania in the 1960s.
In mid-1945, versions by Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, and Tommy Dorsey charted concurrently on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Judy Garland’s recording of “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
5. “Home on the Range” by Roy Rogers
Roy Rogers was one of the most popular cowboy singing stars. His group, ‘Sons of the Pioneers,’ are one of the earliest Western singing groups.
Though Rogers started with uncredited roles in films by fellow cowboy Gene Autry, he found his star ranking eventually.
One of his most famous songs became “Home on the Range.” Folk-song collector Alan Lomax noted records of it appearing as early as 1911. For 20 years, it attracted practically no attention.
Though it never hit the country charts, many country and western artists recorded the song and it’s even the official state song of Kansas!s
6. “Kansas Rain” by John Stewart
Kansas Rain song is a popular folk song written by John Stewart. John Stewart is a notable band member of the Kingston Trio (1961-1968), a folksy group that emerged from the relatively crowded San Francisco folk music culture in 1957.
Although you might not know his name, you might recognize his hit “`,” later covered by the Monkees, Atomic Kitten, Boyzone, and U2. Stewart had a faithful following but never reached commercial success.
But his song Kansas Rain speaks of an underlying current in the state of affairs and world politics, greed, and how money became a new religion.
It speaks to his political involvement and campaigning with Robert. F. Kennedy in 1968.
7. “Ringing in the Year” by Turnpike Troubadours
Turnpike Troubadours is an American country music band from Tahlequah, Oklahoma, founded in 2005. They started their imprint, Bossier City Records, in 2007 and have released five studio albums.
Their self-titled 2015 album peaked at number 17 on the Billboard 200. Fans compare them to The Highwaymen and The Eagles and praise them for their songwriting and live performances.
They have toured extensively and are active in charitable causes.
“Ringing in the Year” is a classic country song about heartache and the loneliness that only booze can conquer.
8. “Belexes” by Kansas
Kansas is an American progressive rock band known for their hit singles “Carry on Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind.”
A variety of artists has influenced the band over the years. One of the most notable influences is evident in the song “Belexes.” The song has strong roots in the pseudo-Asian sound of Giacomo Puccini’s (think opera) Turandot.
It features a complex, multi-layered arrangement so legendary in Kansas’s music style. Kansas’ ability to fuse different musical sounds and styles and create something unique and innovative.
The song lingers in the realms of high dimensional and poetic imagery. And yes, Kansas is from Kansas.
9. “One’s On The Way” by Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn’s “One’s On The Way” is a song about a woman in Topeka who has many kids and is pregnant with another.
Shel Silverstein, a Jewish writer from Chicago famous for his children’s books, gets credit for the hit. The lyrics describe a mother and a mundane homemaker. He is making her life seem boring, almost unworthy.
Lynn’s recording in 1971, became one of her biggest hits, probably in part because it resonated with working-class women across America.
10. Sunflower by Russ Morgan
Next up we have a tune by Russ Morgan who you might know as the composer of “You’re Nobody till Somebody Loves You.”
But, his song “Sunflower” is a mid-tempo tune backed by female vocals and The Skylarks. The muse of the song symbolizes the sunflower (woman) from the Sunflower State of Kansas.
“Sunflower” appeared on The Billboard Best-Selling Popular Retail Records for many years and was covered by many music legends like Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra.
Summing Up Our List Of Kansas Songs
References to Kansas State and Wichita pop up in some of the most iconic songs.
Why are famous musicians drawn to write about these seemingly uneventful places? There’s no one answer.
Places make us feel something intrinsic. They stir up a sense of nostalgia or longing for a simpler time, or maybe they reflect our values and remind us of what we stand for.