Route 66 (song)

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For the Nelson Riddle song, see Route 66 (TV series)#Theme song.
"Route 66"
also known as "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66"
Sheet music cover featuring Nat King Cole Trio
Written by Bobby Troup
Published 1946
Recorded by Nat King Cole Trio,
Chuck Berry,
Glenn Frey,[1]
Pappo (Spanish version),
Perry Como,
The Rolling Stones
and numerous others

"(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66", often rendered simply as "Route 66", is a popular song and rhythm and blues standard, composed in 1946 by American songwriter Bobby Troup. It was first recorded in the same year by Nat King Cole,[2] and was subsequently covered by many artists including Chuck Berry in 1961, The Rolling Stones in 1964, Depeche Mode in 1987, Pappo's Blues in 1995, John Mayer in 2006, and Glenn Frey in 2012.[1] The song's lyrics follow the path of the U.S. Route 66 highway, which used to run a long distance across the U.S., going from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California.

Composition and lyrics[edit]

The idea for the song came to Troup on a cross-country drive from Pennsylvania to California. Troup wanted to try his hand as a Hollywood songwriter, so he and his wife, Cynthia, packed up their 1941 Buick and headed west. The trip began on Highway 40 and continued along Route 66 to the California coast. Troup initially considered writing a tune about Highway 40, but Cynthia suggested the title "Get Your Kicks on Route 66." The song was composed on the ten-day journey, and completed by referencing maps when the couple arrived in Los Angeles.[3]

Location of U.S. Route 66

The lyrics read as a mini-travelogue about the major stops along the route, listing several cities and towns that Route 66 passes through, viz. St Louis; Joplin, Missouri; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Amarillo, Texas; Gallup, New Mexico; Flagstaff, Arizona; Winona, Arizona; Kingman, Arizona; Barstow, California; and San Bernardino, California. Winona is the only town out of sequence: it was a very small settlement east of Flagstaff, and might indeed have been forgotten if not for the lyric "Don't forget Winona", written to rhyme with "Flagstaff, Arizona". Many artists who have covered the tune over the years have changed the initial lyrics, usually to "It goes to St. Louis, down through Missouri..." then continuing on with Oklahoma City and so on. Of the eight states through which the actual route passes, only Kansas and its cities — US-66 spends just eleven miles (18 km) inside the state’s southeast corner — are not mentioned by the song. Chuck Berry famously mispronounces Barstow to rhyme with "cow" instead of correctly pronouncing it to rhyme with "go".

Recording history[edit]

"Route 66" was first recorded in 1946 by Nat King Cole,[2] whose rendition became a hit on both the U.S. R&B and pop record charts. Cole would later re-record the tune in 1956 (on the album After Midnight) and 1961 (on the album The Nat King Cole Story).

The version recorded by Perry Como in 1959 (on the album Como Swings) is more lyrically complete, including the seldom-heard second verse and also the introductory verse.

Two of the leading British Invasion bands included "Route 66" on their debut albums, Them (Featuring Van Morrison) and the Rolling Stones.

Michael Martin Murphey covered the song on his 1989 album Land of Enchantment. His version was released as a single in 1990 and peaked at number 67 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.[4]

American R&B and boogie-woogie pianist and singer Little Willie Littlefield recorded a version for his 1997 album The Red One.

The song has become a pop standard and has since been covered by numerous other vocal and instrumental artists, including:

Anglicised versions[edit]

Essex-born English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg recorded an anglicised version of the song called "A13 (Trunk Road to the Sea)" for a John Peel session. In the song—strummed and sung to the same tune as the original — the landmark cities are replaced with English ones along the route of the A13, with Bragg inviting listeners to "Go motoring, on the A-thirteen". The song subsequently appeared on the CD box set The Old Grey Whistle Test Live in 2012.

The British vocal group, Cantabile - The London Quartet perform another anglicised version of the song, A66, describing this road in the north of England; it is part of their Funny Side of the Street show, and includes the line "Braithwaite, Thornthwaite, Embleton and Cockermouth".

Appearances in other media[edit]

In films[edit]

In chronological order:

In games[edit]

In radio[edit]

  • The song was performed by Ray Ellington and his Quartet on The Goon Show "King Solomon's Mines", first broadcast by the BBC on December 2, 1957.

In television[edit]

  • Mountain Dew had an extreme sports-themed television commercial in the mid-1990s reworking the song to mention various cities across the world sung by John Lydon.
  • The producers of television show Route 66 commissioned a new theme song because they wanted to avoid making royalty payments for Troup's song.
  • Performance artist Kalup Linzy performed the song while guest starring on the daytime soap opera General Hospital.
  • Glenn Frey performed his version of "Route 66" on the Today Show on May 7, 2012.
  • The 2012 Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade featured the song in tribute to Cars.


  1. ^ a b Today, Show. "Glenn Frey on the Today Show". Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 22 - Smack Dab in the Middle on Route 66: A skinny dip in the easy listening mainstream. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles.  Track 4.
  3. ^ Kelly, Susan Croce (1990). Route 66: The Highway and Its People. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 148–149. ISBN 978-0806122915. 
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research, Inc. p. 234. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8. 
  5. ^ (as a bonus track on the 2002 CD release of the 1986 album Still Standing)
  6. ^ "Kentucky's Other Roots Music", music column, Scott Harrell, Sarasota Weekly Planet, Sarasota, 2–8 March 2005
  7. ^ (nominated for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance for the 49th Annual Grammys, also used in the soundtrack for the 2006 Pixar film Cars)
  8. ^ (includes part of Nelson Riddle's theme song from Route 66)
  9. ^ Three Daring Daughters at IMDb

External links[edit]