On the Road Again (Canned Heat song)

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"On the Road Again"
Single by Canned Heat
from the album Boogie with Canned Heat
B-side"Boogie Music"
ReleasedApril 24, 1968 (1968-04-24)
RecordedSeptember 6, 1967
StudioLiberty, Los Angeles
  • 4:55 (album version)
  • 3:33 (single version)
Producer(s)Cal Carter
Canned Heat singles chronology
"Evil Woman"
"On the Road Again"
"Going Up the Country"
"On The Road Again" (Remastered 2005) on YouTube

"On the Road Again" is a song recorded by the American blues rock group Canned Heat in 1967. A driving blues rock boogie,[3] it was adapted from earlier blues songs and includes mid-1960s psychedelic rock elements. Unlike most of Canned Heat's songs from the period which were sung by Bob Hite, second guitarist and harmonica player Alan Wilson provides the distinctive high pitched vocal, sometimes described as a falsetto.[4]

"On the Road Again" first appeared on their second album, Boogie with Canned Heat, in January 1968. An edited version was released as a single in April 1968 and became Canned Heat's first record chart hit and one of their best-known songs.

Earlier songs[edit]

"On the Road Again" is based on early blues songs by Tommy Johnson and Floyd Jones.[5] The lyrics to Johnson's "Big Road Blues" (1928) include: "Well I ain't goin' down that big road by myself ... If I don't carry you gonna carry somebody else". In "Dark Road" (1951), Jones "reshaped Tommy Johnson's verses into an eerie evocation of the Delta":[6]

Whoaa well my mother died and left me
Ohh when I was quite young, when I was quite young ...
Said Lord have mercy ooo, on my wicked son

Jones later remade "Dark Road" with the title "On the Road Again"[6] and added:

Whoaa I had to travel, whoaa in the rain and snow in the rain and snow
My baby had quit me ooo (2×)
Have no place to go

Both songs share a "hypnotic one-chord drone piece"-arrangement that one-time Floyd Jones musical partner Howlin' Wolf used for his songs "Crying at Daybreak" and the related "Smokestack Lightning".[6][7]

Recording and composition[edit]

"On the Road Again" was among the first songs Canned Heat recorded as demos in April 1967 at the RCA Studios in Chicago[8] with original drummer Frank Cook. At over seven minutes in length, it has the basic elements of the later album version, but is two minutes longer with more harmonica and guitar soloing.[b]

During the recording for their second album, Canned Heat recorded "On the Road Again" with new drummer Adolfo "Fito" de la Parra. The session took place September 6, 1967, at the Liberty Records studio in Los Angeles. Alan Wilson used verses from Floyd Jones' "On the Road Again" and "Dark Road" and added some lines of his own:

Well I'm so tired of cryin' but I'm out on the road again, I'm on the road again (2×)
I ain't got no woman just to call my special friend

For the instrumental accompaniment, Canned Heat uses a "basic E/G/A blues chord pattern"[4] or "one-chord boogie riff" adapted from John Lee Hooker's 1949 hit "Boogie Chillen'".[9] Expanding on Jones' hypnotic drone, Wilson used an Eastern string instrument called a tambura to give the song a psychedelic ambience. Although Bob Hite was the group's primary vocalist, "On the Road" features Wilson as the singer, "utilizing his best Skip James-inspired falsetto vocal".[4][c] Wilson also provides the harmonica parts.[d]


Releases and charts[edit]

"On the Road Again" is included on Canned Heat's second album, Boogie with Canned Heat, released January 21, 1968, by Liberty Records. After receiving strong response from airplay on American "underground" FM radio, Liberty issued the song as a single on April 24, 1968.[11] To make the song more Top-40 AM radio-friendly, Liberty edited it from the original length of 4:55 to a 3:33 single version. It became Canned Heat's first single to appear in the record charts.[4][e]

Chart (1968–1969) Peak
Australia Go-Set Top 40[13] 9
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[14] 5
Canada RPM Top Singles[15] 8
France (SNEP)[16] 7
Ireland (Irish Singles Chart)[17] 14
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[18] 5
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[19] 3
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[20] 3
U.K. (Official Singles Chart)[21] 8
U.S. (Billboard Hot 100)[22] 16
West Germany (Official German Charts)[23] 13

On the singles, Floyd Jones and Alan Wilson are listed as the composers, while the album credits Jim Oden/James Burke Oden (also known as St. Louis Jimmy Oden).[f] "On the Road Again" appears on several Canned Heat compilation albums, including Let's Work Together: The Best of Canned Heat (1989) and Uncanned! The Best of Canned Heat (1994).


Although songs inspired by John Lee Hooker's "Detroit-era boogie"[3] had been recorded over the years by a variety of blues musicians, Canned Heat's "On the Road Again" popularized the guitar-boogie or E/G/A riff in the rock world.[7] As a result, "it's been a standard rock and roll pattern ever since".[7] Canned Heat used it frequently as the starting point for several of their extended jam songs, including the 40 minute live opus "Refried Boogie (Part I & II)" from their late 1968 Living the Blues album. When Hooker recorded an updated version of "Boogie Chillen'", titled "Boogie Chillen No. 2", with the group in 1970 for Hooker 'n Heat, it had come full circle.[24]



  1. ^ a b "On the Road Again, Canned Heat: This song ... is psychedelic blues rock that benefits from studio overdubbing technology."[1]
  2. ^ Bob Hite prefaces the recording with "OK ... light and greasy, don't let it go down".[8]
  3. ^ Author Charles Shaar Murray described Wilson's vocal style as "reminiscent of Skip James at his most ectoplasmic".[10]
  4. ^ Wilson's harmonica solo has a note that is not playable without an overblow; he re-tuned his harmonica's six hole up a half step.
  5. ^ Canned Heat's first single, "Rollin' and Tumblin'", appeared in Billboard's Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart at number 115 in July 1967.[12]
  6. ^ St. Louis Jimmy Oden was a part-owner of J.O.B. Records, the label that issued Floyd Jones' singles.


  1. ^ Evans 2005, p. 180.
  2. ^ a b Needs, Kris (January 5, 2018). "1968 Crowns of Creation". Record Collector. Archived from the original on June 29, 2020. Retrieved February 14, 2024.
  3. ^ a b Gioia 2008, pp. 262–263.
  4. ^ a b c d Greenwald, Matthew. "Canned Heat: 'On the Road Again' – Song review". AllMusic. Retrieved May 18, 2023.
  5. ^ Burke 2021, p. 125.
  6. ^ a b c Rowe 1991, p. 2.
  7. ^ a b c Palmer 1981, p. 231.
  8. ^ a b Russo 1994, p. 5.
  9. ^ Palmer 1981, p. 244.
  10. ^ Murray 2002, p. 382.
  11. ^ Russo 1994, p. 9.
  12. ^ Russo 1994, p. 21.
  13. ^ "On the Road Again in Australian Chart". Poparchives.com.au. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  14. ^ "Canned Heat – On the Road Again" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  15. ^ "On the road again in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  16. ^ "On the road again in French Chart" (in French). Dominic DURAND / InfoDisc. July 17, 2013. Retrieved July 17, 2013. You have to use the index at the top of the page and search "Canned Heat"
  17. ^ "On the road again in Irish Chart". IRMA. Retrieved July 17, 2013. 2nd result when searching "On the Road Again"
  18. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Canned Heat" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  19. ^ "Canned Heat – On the Road Again" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  20. ^ "Canned Heat – On the Road Again". Swiss Singles Chart.
  21. ^ "Canned Heat – Singles". Official Charts. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  22. ^ Russo 1994, p. 22.
  23. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Canned Heat – On The Road Again" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved February 18, 2019. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON Canned Heat"
  24. ^ Murray 2002, p. 395.