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Get Your Kicks on Route 66

The Song linked to the Road

"Route Sixty-six": is an emblematic song that immortalized Route 66 in the minds of several generations: an iconic Road Trip, a journey where the traveler can get his kicks, enjoying and savoring the moment and the freedom of riding the Mother Road. It was written by Bobby Troup in 1946 and since then, it has been a hit evoked by all those who have driven (or long to drive along) Route 66.

Ride the wind
Ride the Wind, get your kicks Olivervalter
 

Bobby Troup

Author and Performer

Cowboy Motel

Old Cowboy Motel sign, by Highsmith, Carol M.

Bobby Troup (1918 -1999)

Bobby Troup was a composer, pianist and singer born in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, is full name was Robert Wesely Troup Jr. He was, besides being a composer, an actor known for his parts in M.A.S.H. (1970), Emergency (1972).

He married Cynthia Hare (1942 - 1952) and then Julie London (1959 - 1999). He passed away on Feb. 7, 1999.

Troup studied economics in the University of Pennsylvania and then served in the Marines during the Second World War.

But his musical talent had always been there: in 1940 he had written a musical ("Daddy") for college and a well-known band led by Sammy Kaye recorded it and made it a hit.

After the war, he decided to follow his career in California, and headed west from Pennsylvania. He took the only decent route available, U.S. 66, and it was during that road trip to Los Angeles that he wrote his famous hit: Route sixty-six.

Route Sixty-six, the song

According to Troup, the idea for a song popped up in his mind a few miles out of Chicago, while he was driving down Route 66. He later recalled that: "I wrote half the song riding along in the car".

According to one version, it was his then-wife Cynthia Hare who suggested the title. Troup penned down the lyrics (which were simple and basically listed the names of some towns located along U.S. 66). It would become his second hit.

Nat King Cole and his trio (Cole at the piano, Moore with his guitar and Miller with the bass) recorded it in 1946. It became a hit. Other versions were recorded by Perry Como, Bing Crosby & The Andrew Sisters; all of them respecting Troup's original jazz style.

Hickory Cafe Vintage Sign

Hickory Cafe Vintage Sign. A. Whittall

The iconic song was recast in a rock and roll version by Chuck Berry (1961) and the Rolling Stones (1964), an anthem for the young and unrestful baby boomer generation.

It was performed by many artists, from Manhattan Transfer and Nancy Sinatra to Depeche Mode, Aerosmith and The Crams; it has been featured in movies like Cars (2006), and RV, starring Robin Williams (also from 2006).

Argentine rock performer Pappo wrote a Spanish version of the song.

Lyrics and review

Route Sixty-six

By

"Captures the essence of a Route 66 Road Trip" by , Written on Feb 27, 2015

Review. The lyrics are simple, and the song's strength lies there. An ode to adventure, to exploring new horizons, mythic towns along a legendary highway, a journey to enjoy... What more can be asked?

Advertisement: Amazon.com, Nat King Cole's Route 66.

Detailed Review of the song

The first stanza of the song goes straight to the point: U.S. highway sixty-six is the best road to travel on when driving to the West Coast. It is, clearly, the one used by the author, who confides: "Travel my way"; and the reason is very clear: "Get your kicks on Route sixty-six", which is precisely the title of the song.

To get one's kicks : to enjoy, have a good time, have fun.

The song and Route 66

Context: the towns mentioned in the lyrics

The second stanza quickly lays down the highway's alignment: from Chicago to Los Angeles and gives an approximate idea of its length: "more than two thousand miles all the way". Which is roughly correct (U.S. 66 is currently 2,278 miles long; and its original 1926 length was 2,448 mi.)

It also gives a clear idea of its town-to-town "Main Street" course by clarifying that "it winds" along.

The next verse mentions the main cities that it goes through, listing them in an east to west direction: Saint Louis, Joplin, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Gallup, Flagstaff, Winona, Kingman, Barstow and San Bernardino.

When it locates some of those towns, it mentions some, but not all of the states it crosses: Missouri, New Mexico and Arizona. It does not mention Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma or Texas.

Saint Louis is referred to as "Saint Looey" to force the rhyme with "Missouri", which is quite a feat.

Arizona is the state with most towns mentioned in the song: three (Flagstaff, Winona and Kingman), with Winona thrown in to the mix because it rhymes with Arizona (both end in "ona").

California is mentioned in the next verse as the destination of the transcontinental journey, a "California trip".

It hints that the traveler will "Get hip to this timely tip... get your kicks on Route sixty-six.", that is, to know about or learn about (get hip to) the tip, and have fun and enjoy Route 66.

Route 66, Lyrics

If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.

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

Now you go through Saint Looey
Joplin, Missouri,
And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona.
Don't forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernandino.

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

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

Words and Music by Bobby Troup, Copyright 1946. London Music.

And the song's magic survives until this day, almost seventy years after it was written: thousands of travelers seek themselves, experience the thrills of a unique road trip and, ultimately "get their kicks on Route sixty-six".

Sources

Port Charlotte Daily Herald News. February 17, 1976 pp 10

Original artwork by A. Whittall.

Lyric of "Route sixty-six" by Bobby Troup, under Fair use.

Image by olivervalter, Public Domain.

Image by Highsmith, Carol M., Library of Congress, the Highsmith (Carol M.) Archive Collection; Public Domain

Image by Vítězslav Válka adapted under its CC BY-SA 3.0 CZ License.