Saturday, August 12, 2006

They say the Oregon rain will get you down

If you are a native Oregonian and my age (46) or older, then you probably remember the song "Oregon" that became a national hit in the mid 1970's.

You will probably also vaguely remember the story behind that song: it was about the longing for home of a young Coos Bay woman who was sentenced to a life term in Turkey for possession of hashish.

The song burned itself into my memory when I was in high school, partly because of its very rhythmic and plaintive tone, and partly because of the compelling story behind it.

The other day for some reason the tune popped into my mind. It was amazing how much of it I could still remember: every word of the very catchy chorus and a good bit of the verses. I got curious: whatever happened to the young Oregon woman?

Was she still rotting in a Turkish prison?

The wonders of Google - I did a search on one phrase from the song that I remembered: "They say the Oregon rain will get you down ..." and immediately found what I was looking for. One of the musicians who wrote and produced the song, a fellow named Bill Coleman who now lives in
Woodburn, has a section of his website devoted to the song and the story.

Turns out the woman, Jo Ann McDaniels, returned to the U.S. in 1980 in a prisoner exchange with Turkey, and was then almost immediately parolled by the U.S., getting her freedom after six years in prison. Just prior to coming back to the states she married Bob Hubbard, who was imprisoned along with her. Coleman saw her in 1980 when she came to thank him.

On his website, Coleman talks about how they wrote and produced the song, never expecting that it would turn into a nationwide hit. Profits from the song they contributed to Jo Ann McDaniel.

I wondered: where is she now? I did some more googling, but could find basically nothing since her return in 1980.

I contacted Mr. Coleman and asked. I got this e-mail in reply:


I can't tell you how many emails I've received with almost exactly the same statement ... how the song kept roaming around an individual's mind until they decided to "google" it to find out about poor JoAnn.

Yeah, her where abouts is as much a mystery to me as it is to you. She paid me a visit at my home in 1980 shortly after our initial meeting at the Hindquarter restaurant in Salem. She and Bob Hubbard spoke about maybe settling in Southern Oregon ... purchasing a mobile home with the $10K they received from a publisher as an advance on a book they were to write about their experiences.

I saw nothing of the book, nor did I ever hear from JoAnn again.Frankly, it would not surpise me at all if they returned to Turkey, or somewhere in the middle east.

Their homecoming to America, after spending nine years in a Turkish prison, was fraught with an extreme case of future shock and they didn't seem to be adjusting well to the "America" that had developed since their arrest. You understand, they had never seen an ATM machine; a compact disk; had no clue how to operate a computer; never seen email; never spoke on a cell phone; had no clue of John Travolta and Saturday Night Fever; and missed out on a literally hundreds of other conveniences that we daily take for granted.

In that relatively short span of time the baby boomer generation had all gone from irresponsible "hippies" to family oriented "thirty somethings" ..... all, except for JoAnn and Bob. They still dressed and spoke like "hippies" ... it was as if they has stepped out of a time capsule .... like lost children playing grown up, they wandered through that day with little or nothing in common with the America they had returned to.

They were, in all honesty, like ghosts from the past, and they felt very uncomfortable in this future world. During her visit, she couldn't say enough about how much she loved the middle east and, we discussed at length the very real possibility of their returning to Turkey permanently. Perhaps they did ... it would not surprise me in the least.

Sorry I couldn't be of more help. Perhaps you'll find her one day, and can ask her yourself. When you do, tell her I miss her too.

Sincerely;Bill Coleman
Blackhawk County

PS: Thanks for remembering "Oregon" ... pass it along to your friends.

What an interesting story. Go to the web site and dowload the song - Mr. Coleman encourages it. If you grew up here, I guarantee you that listening to the song will bring memories of the 1970's flooding back.


Michael Barton said...

I know nothing whatever about the song or the story, but in my hobby of researching family history I have access to some tools for finding people.

Its a shot in the dark, but could these be your mystery people?

U.S. Public Records Index Record

Name: Joanne Hubbard
City: Myrtle Point
County: Coos
State: Oregon
Zip Code: 97458
Phone Number: 541-572-0419
Household Members:
Name Est. Age Birth Year

Joanne Hubbard
Robert E Hubbard 56 1950

Rob Kremer said...

Boy, that sure sounds like them.
Pretty cool, thanks Mike!

MMW said...

Am I the only one who finds the description of the "culture shock" a bit wierd? First of all, if Joann was back by 1980 she missed the 1970s. Not much happened that would have made the America TOTALLY different to her. Most people were not using ATM machines, compact disks, computers, or cell phones. In fact, most of these things didn't exist in the main yet.

Randy Leonard said...

Great story, Rob.

I too very much remember the song and have also hummed it many, many times over the years.

Do more posts like this!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting this. Though I'm a LOT younger than you (ok, only by 9 years :)) the song has stuck with me, too.


buffalotrim said...

I was stationed in Turkey for a short time in 1978. I got to know Jo Anne and Bob very well during their incarceration. She has been on my mind frequently of late. I was 17. I wonder if she'll remember. Kelvin.

Anonymous said...

This was too easy. I googled Myrtle Point white pages and found Joann and Robert Hubbard. Their phone number and address appear. I guess I feel they deserve their privacy so I am not going to publish the info here. It's there though and easy to find. I remember the song as I was a teen growing up in Woodburn Oregon at the time. Too bad a book or movie never told the whole story.

Lisa D. said...

hey, i thank whomever it is to thank, for me finding this song after all these years. I am 42 years old and have asked many people about it, they knew nothing. As i sat at work , and it was raining, i started singing that song, as it has never left my mind.... thank you, for i never thought it was possible to find this.. it really does my heart good... sincerely, Lisa D

Lisa D said...

Hello again.. I forgot to mention, I only remembered that someone was in prison, and i remember hearing it on KGW 62, and the Casey Kasem countdown...Wow this really makes me happy..... Lisa D.

Anonymous said...

I spent 2 years, 1976 to 1978, in Peace Corps in Ghana, W. Africa, with this song going through my mind. Sometimes I missed Oregon so much it hurt as much as this song does. Tropical green just is not the same green as Oregon green, and if you grow up in Oregon, this green is what you miss when you're away. I was only gone 2 years, and the culture shock an earlier writer spoke of almost killed me. I'm still very uncomfortable in big department stores. Sensory overload and knowing the impacts of our overconsumption on the rest of the world make me feel like vomitting when I'm in a big store. I'm glad to hear that Joann survived her ordeal, and I'm so glad to be back in Oregon's particular green!! Kathleen

Anonymous said...

Scott Riordan, the co-author/songwriter is still in Oregon, the land he loves. If you think the recording is good, imagine him at the piano singing and playing live! Goosebumps!

Stein Goering said...

Here's a link to the People magazine archives - an article about these folks from back in 1974.,,20063836,00.html

My connection to the story was thru the other member of the party - Kathy Zenz who is from my part of Wisconsin. Her plight was a big item on the local news at the time. Like Joann and Robert, she also seems to have dropped off the radar in the years since her release.

Anonymous said...

I have wondered about her and Kathryn Ann Zenz, one of her companions, since I saw a story about them in the '70's on 60 Minutes. This is the first time I got an answer. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

i'm not certain what brought me to this search, but after reading the blogs i felt compelled to respond. i too was moved by the song "Oregon" written Bill and Scott so many years ago.In so many ways it became my mantra. The heart felt lyrics that kept my spirits lifted during times of struggle and hardship. There were also the many letters of support from family and friends which reminded me life is what you make it. Even now i find lifes fast pace a bit overwhelming at times. Though technology has not been a great part of my life,i try to dabble with it and understand its benefits. i have chosen to live a simple existance in the beloved green foothills of Oregon. Mostly i want to take this opportunity to thank ALL who reached out to me with love and support. Life is full of so many treasures, some disguised in a moment, only to be realized later. Thank you Bill and Scott for your song! i still hum it and my heart soars...peace to all jmch