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Could this be Florida's new song?

Published Mar. 7, 2007|Updated Mar. 7, 2007

It was meant for Ray Charles, but now an obscure tune by a little-known Tallahassee blues musician is being touted as a potential replacement for Florida's official state song.

Even Gov. Charlie Crist has mentioned Florida's Song by Charles Atkins as a contender to replace Old Folks at Home.

On Tuesday, Atkins and the Boys' Choir of Tallahassee performed Florida's Song at an outdoor reception at the Capitol.

Old Folks at Home is better known as Way Down Upon the Suwannee River. Some lawmakers object to it because it refers to "darkeys" longing for the plantation. Crist said he'd sign legislation creating a new state song.

Atkins, 62, said he wrote his song after Charles was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1992. A reporter asked Charles why he didn't sing a song about Florida, like Georgia on My Mind. If someone writes a Florida song, I'll happily sing it, said Charles, who developed much of his musical talent at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.

Atkins was there that day and decided to write such a song. A few months before Charles' death in 2004, Atkins played the song for his idol.

"He said, 'I like that. I like that,' " Atkins recalled. "He said, 'Play it again.' "

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

FAST FACTS

Florida's Song by Charles Atkins

On the southern coast of North America

Just as far to the South as you can go

Under the sun where mighty oceans run

Is a land that I shall always know

(Chorus)

Florida, oh Florida

Your flowers grow, your rivers roll along

When other hopes and dreams are gone

Your blessings will live on

Florida, you're my home sweet home

On the south most tip of North America

Is where begins my fondest memory

Of a land that I know

A place where I must go

And claim for me my liberty

Source: Charles Atkins Blues Band, www.downhomebluesband.com.

On the Web

For an audio clip,

go to downhomeblues band.com/.

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