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ELDER MUSIC: Route 66 - Songs from the Mother Road

Posted Sep 06 2009 10:21pm

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles ( bio here ) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.

Bobby Troup, the gentleman who wrote that song. That’s what today’s piece is all about.

If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way,
Take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on Route 66.

It winds from Chicago to LA,
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on Route 66.


The song about Chicago is Sweet Home Chicago by Robert Johnson.

Now you go through Saint Looey, Joplin, Missouri


St. Louis Blues is the obvious choice and I couldn’t go past the great Bessie Smith’s version.

There’s a distinct lack of songs about Joplin. However, it gives me an excuse to play another of the Andre Previn/Itzhak Perlman Scott Joplin tracks. I’m stretching it a bit I know, but these have been rather popular. Let’s do The Entertainer.

Oklahoma is a state noted for tall corn and short elephants. It has a bunch of songs. None seems specifically about Oklahoma City but that’s not going to stop me. With all the Oklahoma songs at my disposal, I wondered which you’d like to hear.

Then I thought, maybe one you probably haven’t heard before. So here is Willis Alan Ramsey with Boy From Oklahoma. This is a song about Woody Guthrie. It’s from Willis’s first album from 1972. I’m still waiting for his second.


You see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico,


There’s an obvious (to me) song about Amarillo. It’s called Amarillo and it’s by the lovely Emmylou Harris.


No songs about Gallup though.

Flagstaff, Arizona, don't forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino.


There are a couple of songs for Flagstaff but I don’t have any so it misses out. The only Winona songs I know are about Winona Ryder which isn’t quite what we’re looking for (in spite of my playing fast and loose with Joplin). As for Kingman and Barstow, forget it. There are some for San Bernardino, but these are sappy pop songs that aren’t worth bothering about.

Route66-Mojave Desert1943

Okay, that photo was taken in 1943; the road has probably improved a little since then. And here it is in San Bernardino.


Won't you get hip to this timely tip:
When you make that California trip
Get your kicks on Route sixty six

Now, if I can just get off this L.A. freeway without getting killed or caught…

Guy Clark, L.A. Freeway.

There is a second verse to the song that’s seldom played. If there are enough interesting places named it could be the basis of another week’s tunes.

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