Wichita had the nickname “Cowtown” when it was a trading post on the Chisholm Trail in the 1860s. It became known as the “Air Capital of the World” in the 1920s and 1930s because it was a hub for airplane production.
It’s the largest city in Kansas, so there’s no surprise that it’s inspired a fair number of songs. Read on to discover the ten best songs about Wichita and how musicians pay tribute to this iconic metropolis.
Related: The best songs about Kansas.
1. “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell
The concept of this song might not sound like much. After all, not many people want to listen to the story of a man who works on telephone poles.
But the lineman in this song is passionate about his job, even though it takes him away from his sweetheart and makes him feel lonely.
Glen Campbell’s voice made it a great song, and the record sold millions of copies. It even inspired other musicians to cover it, including James Taylor, REM, and Kool and the Gang.
Something about this blue-collar worker’s story going about his day-to-day in Wichita struck a chord with musicians and music fans around the world.
Related: Read our list of songs about Kansas City here.
2. “Wichita Blues (Going to Louisiana)” by Bob Dylan
“Wichita Blues” is an outtake from Bob Dylan’s 50th-anniversary collection. He only played it for that recording, so it’s a rare gem. Robert Johnson wrote the original song, and Dylan recorded it just for fun, as a warm-up and practice session.
Johnson was a famous blues musician, infamously known for selling his soul to the Devil to become successful. He wrote lyrics telling the story of a man trying to get to Wichita without any money while enduring bad weather.
This man wanted the train operator to let him ride for free, but the operator wouldn’t. At the song’s end, the narrator changes his course for a new destination.
3. “Golden” by Lady A
“Golden” isn’t just the title of this song by Lady A; it’s also the visual you imagine as you listen to it. The band calls to mind the sun shining on an expanse of wheat fields in Wichita.
Its lyrics compare that golden hue with how precious their sweetheart is to them, while demonstrating a deep affinity for Wichita’s natural beauty.
The second verse lists the things the narrator loves about their partner, from their laugh, their cry, and the love they share. Golden doesn’t only refer to the color in this song but also how timeless and perfect their love feels.
4. “Wichita Skyline” by Shawn Colvin
Shawn Colvin is a singer-songwriter who grew up in the Midwest and always loved music. The lyrics to “Wichita Skyline” are somewhat autobiographical, recounting how she felt so stuck and lonely throughout her life. She had dreams of moving away but now feels like her life is flat and low, like the Wichita skyline.
The song conveys a sense of hopelessness, of not thinking there’s anything out there for you and worrying that things won’t get better.
Still, the narrator looks for something bright to help them feel better about the future but struggles to do so.
5. “Wichita Jail” by the Charlie Daniels Band
You might know Charlie Daniels because of his song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” With his band, he created another song based on a location: “Wichita Jail.” Despite the downtrodden lyrics, the song has an upbeat tempo and catchy chorus.
The lyrics tell the story of a man who woke up in a Wichita jail. His head hurts, so he must have had a wild night at a bar, but the reason for the arrest isn’t clear.
He has injuries that imply a fight and claims the other guy looks worse, even though he can’t remember anything. Since he’s stuck in jail for 30 days, he sarcastically sings that he must have had quite a good night.
6. “Wichita” by Gary Jules
Gary Jules is best known for his cover of “Mad World,” which became a hit due to the movie Donnie Darko. “Wichita” has a similar moody vibe and slow tempo.
Jules said he wrote the song after taking a course at UCLA on Native American history. He learned that they used to follow bison herds to find food and water as they were crucial for their survival.
The lyrics paint a picture of a lonely life on the road. It’s very visual, with a red sun during the day and the moon reflecting on the water at night.
The narrator is alone, moving from California towards Wichita but stuck at a truck stop because the terrain has frozen.
7. “Wichita” by Misty River
Misty River sounds like a solo artist, but it’s actually a bluegrass band that uses guitars, accordions, and fiddles to create a unique sound.
Two of the members are mother and daughter, but everyone brings something unique to the group. There are various cultural influences, including Irish and Trinidadian.
Their song “Wichita” tells the story of a woman going home to her parents after her marriage ends. The narrators the woman at a gas station while she is at a gas pump.
They make small talk about their journeys, and the narrator fills in the blanks about the beauty of Wichita fields.
8. “Wichita” by The Jayhawks
The Jayhawks put an alternative spin on the country scene. Although from Minneapolis, The Jayhawks put their own spin on Wichita.
Their song “Wichita” doesn’t portray the same stunning prairie as do many other songs on this list. Instead, they call the land evil and say they won’t be there after 40 days.
However, one part of the song is about smiling fields, and the narrator feels the happiness that he has someone special. Still, the people don’t sing anymore, and things take another turn for the worse.
9. “Wichita” by The Eastern Plain
This mellow acoustic song tells the story of being in love with a city. The narrator sings about how Wichita influenced him, but he also didn’t want to stay there once he was grown up.
He enjoyed sitting by the river and seeing the lights of the city from a distance twinkling as if they were stars. However, life in the city itself wasn’t as great.
Still, as Wichita is his hometown, he knew that he’d always remember it. Coming back to visit would feel like starting all over again because everything seems the same.
10. “Wichita” by Gretchen Peters
Gretchen Peters released this powerfully emotional song about a daughter born with a birth defect. The doctor told her mother as soon as the girl was born, and her father leaves Wichita that night and never comes back.
The girl is the narrator and reveals she has a younger sister who she never wants to witness what happened to her in the city that day. Her mother checks out and can’t care for her daughters, so an unspecified “you” brings groceries and harms the mother and older daughter.
As the girl believes the cops won’t respond to her claim, she takes matters into her own hands as she declares there are worse things than law-breaking in Wichita. This song leaves a question lingering in the listener’s mind—play the track and see what you think.
Summing Up Our List of Wichita Songs
Wichita is a big city, and songs like these ten give it life beyond the limits of its borders.
Listen to this variety of tributes to this city in Kansas to learn more about it, and discover how it has inspired so many great musicians.
Have we missed any songs off this list? Let us know and we’ll add them in!