INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – He serenaded hundreds of thousands of race fans for more than three decades. He may not be Indiana born, but he’s a Hoosier at heart.
Jim Nabors is from Alabama and after he sang “Back Home Again in Indiana,” fans kept asking for him to come back.
24-Hour News 8 traveled to Hawaii for an exclusive and candid interview, where nothing was off limits. He talked about his retirement, his health, his career, his home in Hawaii and all those memories about the race and where it all started.
The first time Jim Nabors sang “Back Home Again in Indiana,” in 1972, he thought he was supposed to be singing the National Anthem. The surprise came five minutes before the Indy 500. Nabors said it’s his first memory of singing at the race.
Nabors had no formal training in singing or acting, but one lucky night while he was working at an Alabama nightclub Andy Griffith walked in and asked him to be on his show. The rest, you’d say is history.
Despite health issues later in life, Nabors was unable to perform in person at the Indianapolis 500 after having heart surgery. However, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway flew to Hawaii to record him singing it and IMS played it on the big screen. After more than 35 years he performed the song one last time in 2014.
In an interview with 24-Hour News 8, he said he thinks the fans should sing in his place.
“Let them sing out with their heart because it’s such a wonderful song and it makes you feel like you’re at home,” he said.
When 24-Hour News 8 asked him how we get him back to sing, he laughed. He said if we could offer a private jet he might consider it. He said it would be fun to sing at the 100th running.
This year IMS booked native singer and winner of NBC’s The Voice, Josh Kaufman with the Indy Children’s Choir.
“I strive to make deep emotional connections with my music and on Memorial Day Weekend at the Indy 500, nothing goes deeper with fans than ‘Back Home Again in Indiana,’” said Kaufman after the announcement was made.
While many race fans consider Nabors a legendary figure, he’s quick to say he’s just another fan.
“I never thought about myself as that. I don’t have that kind of ego, and I just always loved people, enjoy being around them. And of course, they are so wonderful here,” Nabors said.
Nabors said there’s a time in life when you have to move on.