Ventura Highway

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"Ventura Highway"
Single by America
from the album Homecoming
B-side"Saturn Nights"
ReleasedSeptember 19, 1972
StudioThe Record Plant, Los Angeles[1]
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)Dewey Bunnell
America singles chronology
"I Need You"
"Ventura Highway"
"Don't Cross the River"
Licensed audio
"Ventura Highway" on YouTube

"Ventura Highway" is a 1972 song by the band America from their album Homecoming, written by Dewey Bunnell.


Dewey Bunnell, the song's vocalist and writer, has said that the lyric "alligator lizards in the air" in the song is a reference to the shapes of clouds in the sky he saw in 1963 while his family was driving down the coast from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc, California, where they had a flat tire. While his father changed the tire, he and his brother stood by the side of the road, watched the clouds, and saw a road sign for Ventura.[4]

In the booklet for the boxed set, Highway, he states that the song "reminds me of the time I lived in Omaha as a kid and how we'd walk through cornfields and chew on pieces of grass. There were cold winters, and I had images of going to California. So I think in the song I'm talking to myself, frankly: 'How long you gonna stay here, Joe?' I really believe that 'Ventura Highway' has the most lasting power of all my songs. It's not just the words — the song and the track have a certain fresh, vibrant, optimistic quality that I can still respond to".[5] The song has a "Go West, young man" motif in the structure of a conversation between an old man named Joe and a young and hopeful kid. Joe was modeled after a "grumpy" old man he had met while his dad was stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi, at Keesler Air Force Base.[4] He also stated "I remember vividly having this mental picture of the stretch of the coastline traveling with my family when I was younger. Ventura Highway itself, there is no such beast, what I was really trying to depict was the Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 1, which goes up to the town of Ventura."[6]

"That's Gerry and Dan doing a harmony on two guitars on the intro. I remember us sitting in a hotel room, and I was playing the chords, and Gerry got that guitar line, and he and Dan worked out that harmony part. That's really the hook of the song".[5]


Record World said that the "threesome come out of the desert and onto the road in this refreshing number that features those great harmonies and acoustic guitars."[7]

The song went to number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 for America, spending 12 weeks on the charts after debuting on October 21, 1972. It also reached number 43 in the UK Singles Chart, staying in that chart for 4 weeks.[8]


The song contains the phrase "purple rain", later the title of the 1984 song, album, film and tour, from the artist Prince. Whether any connection actually exists, both Mikel Toombs of The San Diego Union and Bob Kostanczuk of the Post-Tribune have written that Prince got the title directly from "Ventura Highway".[9][10] Asked to explain the phrase "purple rain" in "Ventura Highway," Gerry Beckley responded: "You got me."[11]

The song won many fans, including the pro wrestler-turned-politician, Jesse Ventura. Bunnell recalled, "We went and played at Governor Jesse Ventura's inaugural out in Minneapolis. He asked us to — his wife is a horse lady, and she'd always loved 'A Horse with No Name', and he had adopted this name Ventura. So when he put together his cast of characters for his big inaugural celebration, he wanted us to come and play two songs, which we did".[5]

Chart performance[edit]

Sampling and cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ "Album Information - Highway: 30 Years of America".
  2. ^ "Explore: Soft Rock | Top Songs | AllMusic". AllMusic. November 12, 2011. Archived from the original on November 12, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  3. ^ Breithaupt, Don; Breithaupt, Jeff (October 15, 1996). "Earth Shoes: Folk Pop". Precious and Few - Pop Music in the Early '70s. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 78. ISBN 031214704X.
  4. ^ a b Boucher, Geoff (October 1, 2006). "'Ventura Highway' America 1972". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 22, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c Bunnell, Dewey (2000). "Ventura Highway". Highway. Rhino Records.
  6. ^ Dewey Bunnell interview on "Popular Song: Soundtrack of the Century episode - After the Gold Rush"
  7. ^ "Single Picks" (PDF). Record World. October 21, 1972. p. 14. Retrieved 2023-03-29.
  8. ^ "America singles charts history". Official Charts. The Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  9. ^ Toombs, Mikel (June 1, 1985). "'America' still fares well through thick and thin". The San Diego Union.
  10. ^ Kostanczuk, Bob (June 22, 1990). "America Still Alive, Crazy After All These Years". Post-Tribune.
  11. ^ "Q & A With America Singer Gerry Beckley". 12 December 2012. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  12. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  13. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". December 16, 1972. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  14. ^ "Item: 9602 - Library and Archives Canada". 17 July 2013. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  15. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  16. ^ a b c Whitburn, Joel (2015). The Comparison Book Billboard/Cash Box/Record World 1954-1982. Sheridan Books. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-89820-213-7.
  17. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-142-X.
  18. ^ Farber, Jim (June 3, 2007). "Suddenly, after 30 years, respect for crooners America". New York Daily News. MCT Information Services.

External links[edit]