Putting together your Route 66 playlist

Every good road trip needs a decent soundtrack and Route 66 is no different. So what should you have on your Mother Road playlist? A complete Route 66 playlist would include music from various genres.

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A statue of rock and roll legend and St. Louis native Chuck Berry stands in the Delmar Loop district.
Photo by Ron Clements

You definitely want to start with Get Your Kicks on Route 66. The classic tune written by Bobby Troup was first recorded in 1946 by Nat King Cole, but has since been covered numerous times. Maybe you want to include the versions from Bing Crosby, the Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Glenn Frey, Depeche Mode, John Mayer, or George Benson while traversing the 2,400 miles of Route 66.

There’s a good chance you’ll run into “Joliet Jake Blues” at the Joliet Area Historical Museum. So throw in Sweet Home Chicago, Rawhide, or Soul Man when in Chicagoland.

As you get closer to St. Louis, one of the alignments takes you through Collinsville, where R.E.M. leader singer Michael Stipe graduated from Collinsville High School in 1978. Make sure you’re jamming out to It’s the End of the World As We Know It, Man on the Moon, Losing My Religion, Shiny Happy People, or What’s the Frequency Kenneth.

St. Louis is known as a great sports town with its baseball Cardinals and hockey Blues, but the Gateway City also has a thriving music scene that produced artists like Chuck Berry and Nelly. This would be a good time to play that Berry cover of Route 66, but also a little Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethhoven, Rock and Roll Music, or No Particular Place to Go by the “Father of Rock and Roll.” Drop in Country Grammer, Ride Wit Me, or Hot in Here by Nelly and you should be set while rolling through the Lou.

One cannot drive through Oklahoma without thinking of at least one song from the famed Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. As you cross from Kansas to Oklahoma, have Oklahoma! and Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ handy. The Sooner State boasts a pair of country music legends in Garth Brooks, who grew up in Yukon, and Vince Gill, who graduated from Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City.

The stage at the Museum Club in Flagstaff has been graced by the likes of Willie Nelson and Wanda Jackson.
The stage at the Museum Club in Flagstaff has been graced by the likes of Willie Nelson and Wanda Jackson.
Photo by Ron Clements

Brooks’ song Unanswered Prayers is inspired by the singer attending a Yukon High School football game and bumping into his old sweetheart. Any Brooks song will do for your playlist and he’s got plenty to choose from, like Friends in Low Places, Papa Loved Mama, Ain’t Goin’ Down, or American Honky-Tonk Bar Association. Gill’s catalog is pretty full, too, with I Still Believe In You, When I Call Your Name, and Look At Us among his biggest hits.

Other Northwest Classen alumni are the members of the 1990s R&B group, Color Me Badd. Switch it up from the country music and showtunes with songs like I Wanna Sex You Up, I Adore Mi Amor, and All 4 Love.

Just west of Albuquerque near Tijeras is a short stretch of Route 66 that will play America the Beautiful if you drive 45 miles per hour. That would be a good song to add to your playlist – the Ray Charles version is wonderful.

Flagstaff has an iconic music venue right on Route 66. The Museum Club, colloquially known as “The Zoo,” has had legends like Willie Nelson and Wanda Jackson grace its stage. No road trip playlist is complete without Nelson’s On The Road Again. Jackson retired from performing in 2019, but one can imagine the Queen of Rockabilly singing I Gotta Know or Let’s Have a Party on the Zoo stage.

A few more Rock and Roll Hall of Famers await you in California. Former Van Halen lead singer Sammy Hagar graduated from Fontana High School. Eddie Van Halen formed the group with his brothers in 1972 while attending Pasadena High. Jam out to Hagar’s I Can’t Drive 55 and Van Halen’s Jump, Panama, Poundcake, Right Now, or You Really Got Me while cruising Southern California.

While this collection won’t get you through the entirety of the Mother Road, it should be a nice start to create your own Route 66 playlist.

Ron Clements

Ron Clements

Ron Clements is a Wisconsin native and Green Bay Packers fan who married a Chicago Bears fan from Peoria, Illinois. Despite the rivalry, Ron and Patti make it work and have been living fulltime in an RV since March 2018. They travel the country in search of new adventures and love attending baseball games and exploring national parks. They visited all 30 MLB stadiums in 2018 and have taken their RV to each of the Lower 48 states. Ron is a veteran journalist of more than two decades and a summa cum laude graduate of East Carolina University, which he attended following his service in the United States Marine Corps. Ron has written for USA Today, Sporting News, CBS Sports, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Omaha World Herald, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Fresno Bee, the Montgomery Advertiser, and many other media outlets. The Sports Fan’s Guide to Route 66 is for anyone who has ever driven past a high school, college, or professional stadium, and thought, “I wonder what it’s like to see a game there.” A Sports Fan’s Guide to Route 66 will be in bookstores and online everywhere on August 3, 2021.

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