You may not know LeGrande Harvey's name, but if you live in Montana, you should know his song.
Harvey's “Montana Melody” was adopted as the official Montana State ballad by the legislature in 1983.
He currently lives in Corvallis. He will be performing at the North Valley Public Library’s fundraising event “A Novel Affair” on April 14. If you go, you'll be able to hear him sing "Yes, there's no place like Montana."
Harvey wrote the song in 1981 when he lived in the mountains west of Missoula. His brother, Alex Harvey, who also penned Tanya Tucker's "Delta Dawn," had written “No place but Texas.”
LeGrande Harvey knew he could write a song for Montana.
“I went home to my little cabin that evening and sat down and wrote a song,” Harvey said. “It wasn’t hard to write. In about an hour and a half I had all the verses and music in place. I woke up the next morning and put some finishing touches on it then it was done.”
Harvey said he didn’t plan to have it be the Montana State song but just started playing it locally. A fan asked for a recording of it and sent it to a friend - a music teacher in Bonner.
“They sang it at their spring concert and invited me to sing with them and so I did,” he said. “Marcia Dunn was in the audience. She had a children’s program on her KUFM radio show called the ‘Pea Green Boat.’ She recorded it and started playing it.”
From there a fifth grade teacher in Helena heard it and asked if her class could take it on as a project to change it to the state song, replacing “Montana, Montana.” Helena school children convinced Montana Representative Hal Harper to introduce it to the legislature as House Bill 39 in 1983.
“After it was introduced it went to committee and they decided it would not make it through the legislative process to change the state song because so many old-timers like the old song,” Harvey said. “But they liked my song and decided to make ‘Montana Melody’ our state ballad.”
It was passed by the committee, passed by the house, passed by the senate and then signed by Governor Ted Schwinden.
“In the process, I was honored to perform it for the legislature several different times,” Harvey said. “That was a pretty cool experience.”
The opening lyrics to “Montana Melody” are:
“I long to be in the places that I see
in the pictures of my dreams
Where there's mountains full of trees,
meadows carpeted in green
Silent, snow-fall, clear running streams.”
The opening phrase of the chorus is “Yes, there's no place like Montana.”
Harvey, 69, has retired. He moved to Corvallis in October and is the music director at the Center for Spiritual Living across from Hamilton High School. In the summer he plays each Wednesday at Jim and Mary’s RV Park in Missoula.
“I’ve kept a low profile the past 10-20 years,” Harvey said.
He will give an hour and 20 minute show with Rod Brod as the ‘LeGrande Harvey Duo’ at the North Valley Public Library’s “A Novel Affair” on April 14.
The event is a fundraising dinner at the St. Mary’s Center in Stevensville to support library programs and continued library building renovations.
Doors open at 5:45 p.m., for socializing, seating and bidding on silent auction items. Dinner, catered by Romeos with vegetarian options, is 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., followed by entertainment. Tickets cost $25 for children under age 10, $50 for adults, $90 per couple and a table of eight for $350. Tickets include, access to the silent auction, dinner, dessert, one drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) and the entertainment and are available at the library and the Stevensville Main Street Association.
There is also a no-host bar.
Donna Bainbridge, NVPL Foundation Board chair, said the concert came about because she previously worked with Harvey’s duo partner.
“Rod Brod plays mandolin and banjo and is a native from the mid-west,” Bainbridge said. “He will bring a drum and play some drumming songs.”
Bainbridge said the last three years have been a time of rebuilding for the foundation board.
“Our goal is to raise money for the library and we try to do things to support programming and renovation,” she said. “Our seven-member board is very diverse and we’ve decided to have some consistent fundraisers. We decided a dinner with entertainment would be fun and a time to celebrate that spring is, hopefully, coming.”
A large variety of donations will be available for the silent auction.
“There is something for everyone,” Bainbridge said. “We will have students from the high school and families serve the dinner – we’re trying to keep it as local as possible. I think it will really be fun.”
Projects by the NVPL Foundation include sponsoring “Captain Hooked on Books,” handicapped accessible entry doors, children’s programming, renovations of the children’s room and community room. The next renovation will be the adult book area then the foundation will fund the creation of a maker-space.
Bainbridge said the library will stay on Main Street for the foreseeable future
“That’s why we’re doing all of this,” she said.
Fran Schmitz, NVPL Foundation Board member, said the library is hoping the “A Novel Affair” will become an annual event.
“We’ve been encouraging businesses to purchase tables and invite dignitaries in the area,” Schmitz said. “Tickets are available and donations accepted - even if you can’t attend but would like to support us.”