One night in 1970, Bill Danoff and his then-girlfriend Taffy Nivert were hanging out with John Denver, and they played a few verses from a song they’d been working on. Denver immediately said he wanted to record it.
“It was sort of like an old movie,” Danoff recalled in a 2010 interview with the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. “You know, ‘why don't we all do it together?’ And I said, ‘okay, well, we got to finish it.’ He said, ‘well, let's finish it.’”
The three of them -- Danoff, Nivert and Denver -- stayed up all night finishing the song. Knowing little about the state, Nivert pulled out an encyclopedia and looked up West Virginia.
“We kept just throwing out lines,” Danoff said. “And then we'd write down the ones that seemed to fit.”