Roundup: Driving Tunes

Maybe it was the time you drove 16 hours to see your girlfriend/boyfriend.

Or the summer you had to visit Aunt Edna in Alabama.

Or that one time you and 4 of your closest friends decided to follow String Cheese Incident (or any other band) across the country in a beat up van.

Chances are you’ve been stuck in the seat of a car for far too long at some point in your life and can at least sympathize with the truckers who haul food and other such goodies.

In this roundup we’ll look at driving of various origin.

Six Days on the Road
One of the quintessential driving songs, it’s been recorded by just about everyone who ever set foot in a honky-tonk. From the ICC to cops, this driver’s got nothing on his mind but making it home. Check out the versions by Gram Parsons and Hank Thompson for two totally different takes on country music.

‘Round the World with the Rubber Duck
– CW McCall
The sequel to McCall’s famous Convoy, this song throws around even more CB radio slang and more antics of the truck driving singer and Pig Pen. The global look on trucking, bad accents and all.

Willin’ – Little Feat
Linda Ronstadt used to introduce this song by saying that truckers and musicians had a lot in common, they both travel a lot and use the same kind of drugs to stay awake… “weed, whites and wine.”
This song also has some of the more varied city names in the chorus, “And I been from Tucson to Tucumcari / Tehachapi to Tonopah” and doesn’t paint quite the picture that some earlier trucker songs do, the singer admitting to smuggling and showing the signs of road wear, “I’ve been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet / Had my head stoved in, but I’m still on my feet and I’m still… willin’ “

Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses – Kathy Mattea
This song focuses more on the wife of the trucker, Charlie, who’s making his last drive before retiring to a Winnebago. He’ll still stay on the road, but at least he’ll have his home with him.

White Freight Liner Blues – Townes Van Zandt
Another driving song that’s been recorded by everyone and their dog, including Joe Ely, Nanci Griffith, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, New Grass Revival and so on. It’s more simplistic, a blues about being on the road and watching the cars go by while wishing one was home. Like most Townes songs, it takes place in the southwest, mentioning Houston (presumably “home”) and New Mexico (which “ain’t bad.)

Ford Econoline – Nanci Griffith
A different type of driving song, similar to Listen to the Radio. It’s a story of a woman (Nanci often cites Kate Wolf as her inspiration) who takes off with her kids and guitar leaving behind a cheating husband. She goes on to become a “living legend” having taught her husband his lesson about his rambling ways.

Too Many Pills – The Corn Sisters
While it’s difficult to lose a husband one doesn’t actually have, if anyone can pull it off, Neko Case and Carolyn Mark can. In this tragic song, Carl Sr. looses his life after getting behind the wheel after a fight on a dark night when he had “no right to be driving.” The intro to this makes it funny, Carolyn explaining that Carl Sr. is Neko’s “first husband,” and Neko adding “I can’t sing it myself, it makes me break down.”

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