Route 66 (song)
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|"(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66"|
Sheet music cover featuring the King Cole Trio
|Single by the King Cole Trio|
|B-side||"Everyone Is Sayin' Hello Again (Why Must We Say Goodbye)"|
|Format||Ten-inch 78 rpm record|
|Genre||Rhythm and blues|
"Route 66" (originally recorded as "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66") is a popular rhythm and blues standard, composed in 1946 by American songwriter Bobby Troup. The song uses a twelve-bar blues arrangement and the lyrics follow the path of U.S. Route 66 (US 66), which traversed the western two-thirds of the U.S. from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California.
Nat King Cole, as the King Cole Trio, first recorded the song the same year and it became a hit, appearing on Billboard magazine's R&B and pop charts. The song was subsequently recorded by many artists including Bing Crosby, Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, Them, Asleep at the Wheel, Depeche Mode, and John Mayer.
Composition and lyrics
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 US 40 and continued along US 66 to the California coast. Troup initially considered writing a tune about US 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.
The lyrics read as a mini-travelogue about the major stops along the route, listing several cities and towns through which Route 66 passes, 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".
"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 later re-recorded the tune in 1956 (for the album After Midnight) and 1961 (The Nat King Cole Story).
Other recorded versions
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. Chuck Berry's version was closest to its R&B roots, with jazz overtones, often blended into his songs by Berry. 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. Little Willie Littlefield recorded a boogie-woogie version for his 1997 album The Red One.
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The song has become a standard and has since been recorded by numerous other vocal and instrumental artists, including:
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".
In popular culture
- Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Record Research, Inc. p. 94. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
- Unterberger, Richie. "The Rolling Stones: Route 66 – Song Review". AllMusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- Kelly, Susan Croce (1990). Route 66: The Highway and Its People. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 148–149. ISBN 978-0806122915.
- 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. Digital.library.unt.edu. Track 4.
- Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research, Inc. p. 234. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8.
- (as a bonus track on the 2002 CD release of the 1986 album Still Standing)
- (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)