Did you know Canberra has its own song?
The “whispering baritone” Jack Lumsdaine wrote Canberra Is Calling To You in 1938.
“There was a real craze in the 1920s and 1930s about writing songs about places — songs about Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Woolloomooloo,” Thorsten Kaeding, senior sound curator at the National Film and Sound Archive, told ABC Radio Canberra.
“The Road To Gundagai is probably the most famous example of that.”
Having only been declared the national capital in 1913, Canberra was still a small country town when the song was composed.
“There was a real push at the time to get people to come to Canberra,” Mr Kaeding said.
“Certainly Robert Menzies was very big about trying to build Canberra into the nation’s capital by getting more people to come, and this I suspect formed part of that campaign.”
Lumsdaine was a prolific songwriter and performer on both the vaudeville circuit and on radio.
His ode to Canberra was recorded in a Sydney radio studio.
“That was pre-tape so they would have cut that directly to an acetate disc, and that record then would be turned into a stamper from which you then press 78 (RPM) records,” Mr Kaeding said.
On the record’s B side was a song about the nearby New South Wales town of Queanbeyan.
A second song celebrating Canberra came along in 1981, written by Idris Jones (of the Mixtures’ Bicycle Song fame) for Capital 7.
“Song For Canberra was to promote Canberra and a new image for both Canberra and the station,” Mr Kaeding said.
“They actually put it out as a single, on a seven-inch vinyl single, and on December 28, 1981 it actually hit number 94 in the Australian charts.”
Since then, Mr Kaeding said there had been a few songs referencing the bush capital, “but as far as I’m aware there hasn’t been a celebratory song about Canberra”.
When the city celebrated its centenary in 2013, it was Lumsdaine’s Canberra Is Calling To You that was chosen as the festive song.
So after nearly 80 years, it appears Canberra Is Calling To You remains the capital’s unofficial anthem.
Perhaps it is time for a new Canberra song?