Route 66 (song)
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|also known as "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66"|
Sheet music cover featuring Nat King Cole Trio
|Written by||Bobby Troup|
Nat King Cole Trio,
Pappo (Spanish version),
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, 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. 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
Troup conceived the idea for the song while driving west from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles, California, and the lyrics—which include references to the U.S. Highway of the title and many of the cities it passes through—celebrate the romance and freedom of automobile travel. In an interview he once said the tune for the song, as well as the lyric "Get your kicks on Route 66," came to him easily, but the remainder of the lyrics eluded him. More in frustration than anything else he simply filled up the song with the names of towns and cities on the highway.
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.
"Route 66" was first recorded in 1946 by Nat King Cole, 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).
Re-worked version by Billy Bragg
Essex-born English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg also 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".
Re-worked version by Cantabile - The London Quartet
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 immortal line 'Braithwaite, Thornthwaite, Embleton and Cockermouth'.
Appearances in other media
- Jane Powell performed the song in the 1948 movie Three Daring Daughters; an apparently umimpressed José Iturbi responded with a virtuoso piano rendition of the song.
- The Manhattan Transfer recording of the song appears on the soundtrack of the 1981 film Sharky's Machine.
- Depeche Mode's (The Nile Rodgers Mix) version also appears in the 1988 Earth Girls Are Easy movie.
- The 2006 Disney/Pixar film Cars depicts Route 66 as a forgotten and faded piece of America, rediscovered by the main character. The film was originally to have been called Route 66, and the film's soundtrack includes the popular Chuck Berry version and the Grammy nominated "update version" by modern blues rock artist John Mayer.
- The song is performed by the cast of the 2006 Columbia Pictures film RV.
- 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.
- 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.
- Today, Show. "Glenn Frey on the Today Show". Retrieved 7 May 2012.
- (as a bonus track on the 2002 CD release of the 1986 album Still Standing)
- "Kentucky's Other Roots Music", music column, Scott Harrell, Sarasota Weekly Planet, Sarasota, 2–8 March 2005
- (nominated for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance for the 49th Annual Grammys, also used in the soundtrack for the 2006 Pixar film Cars)
- (includes part of Nelson Riddle's theme song from Route 66)
- Three Daring Daughters at IMDb
- De Lisle, Tim (August 25, 2006). "Drive-time blues". The Guardian