Roadtrips and music go hand in hand. Whether searching the airwaves for local stations of docking your iPod for a pre-arranged playlist, chances are that at some point you're going to be cruising down Route 66 listening to a rich selection of songs. This list is just a small selection of what I consider to be good Route 66 driving songs.
Putting the list together was tough - what criteria would qualify one song over another and how would I ever narrow it down to just 20?! In the end I opted for a mix of old and not so old, songs containing obvious road references and others that just had the right "vibe" for a roadtrip (whatever that is!) In some cases I chose to include songs that had happened to pop up on the radio during my own Route 66 experience. Listen to them while you plan your trip or even download them using the links below and add them to your playlist.
So here, in no particular order (the numbers are there just to help keep count), are 20 top Route 66 driving songs - hope you enjoy!
Naturally, this song had to make the list if this list was to have any credibility! There are numerous versions but in light of the sad passing of Chuck Berry it only seemed right to include his rendition.
Creedence Clearwater Revival are one of those bands that could have had any number of their tracks featured in this list - many of their songs have that indefinable roadtrip "vibe" that I mentioned earlier.
I love this song - simple as that. The lyrics have a definite nostalgia to them that seem to fit perfectly with my idea of many small Route 66 towns of the past.
Whether you call it "classic rock", "hair rock" or "dad rock" this is an absolute 80's classic - perfect for those quiet areas where you can sing at the top of your lungs!
While driving Route 66 I found it hard not to start each leg of the trip by singing the title of this song as I started the engine!
If you've seen the Pixar movie "Cars" then you'll know why this track has made the list! This song, for me, is the perfect Route 66 driving song, especially for those sunny days and warm evenings.
Okay, so it's a novelty song that inspired a movie of the same name, but just listen to that chorus!
One of the more contemporary songs on the list, this track mashes up Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London", and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama". So basically it's a two-for-one and a great track in it's own right.
With it's "standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona" lyric how could this not make the list. There were many Eagles songs that could have been included but this seemed the most fitting.
Where's the Route 66 link? This one is very personal - in the summer of 2007 I drove the road end to end and every radio station was playing this tune. And with the lyrics describing one woman's trashing of her cheating boyfriends four-wheel drive, there's also a tenuous link to the road!
Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda riding across America on a pair of choppers - it's a classic cinematic image with an equally classic soundtrack.
Is this another novelty song? I'm not so sure. With the addition of Noel Gallagher's guitar and backing vocals I think this is a good song in it's own right, even if the image of David Brent isn't far from your mind!
Classic rock at it's best. It was a toss up between this and Back in Black, but the highway theme won through! This is a great video - who else can get away with wearing horns like this!
Groundbreaking and risqué lyrics for the time and an incredibly catchy chorus have earned this song it's place in the list. A perfect track for embarking on an adventure.
Made famous by the 1984 movie Beverley Hills Cop, this is the second song in the list by the former Eagles frontman. A great driving record with a memorable saxophone riff.
Fleetwood Mac could have had numerous records in this list but I settled on Go Your Own Way simply for it's singalong quality. The lyrics reflect the difficult relationship between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks at the time but make for a great soundtrack to a roadtrip.
Like the Carrie Underwood track on this list, this track is a personal selection based on the fact that it came on the radio as I cruised through Texas in the sun, and it's fun, summertime sound perfectly matched the moment.
You're driving on Route 66, following the path that many have taken before you, heading towards California (if you're heading west that is!) So what better song to to cruise to than "California Dreamin'"?
I confess... I hadn't heard this song prior to the release of the movie "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" back in 2004. From that point on this rock epic has come to symbolize fun and having a good time. Plus, the band is called Kansas right?!
A record packed with emotion, that builds from it's gentle opening chords to a memorable singalong chorus. Listen to this record at the end of your trip and try to reflect on your amazing adventure without bringing a little tear to your eye - I dare you! 😀
So there you have it - my 20 top Route 66 driving songs. It was a tough task and I'm sure it would be different for everyone - feel free to leave yours in the comments.
Finally, if I could give you one tip... as you embark on your Route 66 adventure, make a note of any great tracks that you hear on the radio that make you feel good. When you get home you can download them and have your own collection of Route 66 musical memories.
Take it easy, Steve
It's been over a year since I published my 20 Top Route 66 Driving Songs - Part 1 and so this time around I've tried to mix it up a bit. Again, this list is just a small selection of what I consider to be good Route 66 driving songs and I've made sure to include a mix of the classics and a few less predictable entries.
I know there's at least one that I might get a bit of a roasting for so please be kind!
So here, in no particular order are the second lot of 20 top Route 66 driving songs - hope you enjoy!
A perfect track to get things started ... the ultimate rock song worthy of any credible list of driving tunes. What a riff and what a vocal! Ranked number 190 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
An all-time classic that always features high in polls of greatest rock tracks. "Paradise City" has been the bands closing song for live shows since 1988!
Window down, volume up, singing at the top of your voice... Go on, you know you want to!
The definitive power ballad. Much like Guns N' Roses' "Paradise City", this track is nearly always used as a finale during live shows, often going well over 14 minutes when played live. Great for passengers who might like to play a little air-guitar!
"I've been drivin' all night, my hand's wet on the wheel" - some have described this as the ultimate driving song - what do you think?
A slight change of pace here, this track has a wistful, melancholic vibe that lends itself to night-time driving. If the voice sounds familiar that's because the vocals are provided by Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet.
Recorded by Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, this song brings back great childhood memories - who fancies a road trip to Walley World! Such a good feel-good tune.
A reminder of Prince's incredible talent as a songwriter and musician. The track is laden with double meaning or you can simply choose to hear a song about a car - the choice is yours!
A great track from a great album with a great music video to boot. "Where The Streets Have No Name" is often voted the best track on "The Joshua Tree" album. A great driving song for hitting the open road.
One of those classic tracks that HAD to be featured. Although it's considered a classic driving anthem all over the world, it's imagery and lyrics and make it specifically perfect for an American road trip.
"Born to Run" ranked number 21 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time which is now small achievement. Springsteen is the personification of the US in music form!
I was a latecomer to the Graceland album but fell in love with it when I heard this opening track. The album contains numerous songs that would make this list but this is a personal favorite so please indulge me!
Another personal favorite - James Taylor is one of those artists that can't put a foot wrong in my opinion. From the opening guitar riff to the uplifting singalong chorus, this track is perfect in every way.
A great country artist this track has obvious appeal to a list celebrating driving songs. In the 1970's Charley Pride was RCA Records best selling performer since Elvis Presley!
Even if you don't know the verses so well it's hard not to sing along to the chorus - a staple of any road trip playlist.
A more contemporary addition to this list (well, 2006 is relatively contemporary!) but well deserving of it's place, "Chasing Cars" is a beautiful track building to an euphoric crescendo. Turn up the volume and let it wash over you as you cruise along...
Another relatively contemporary addition to the list but perfect driving material for those days when you've got nothing but open road before you. But don't be fooled, this isn't a record about taking a vacation, the "holiday" in question here is the one we take when we're apathetic about the decisions taken by our political leaders.
Neil Finn from Crowded House provides the backing vocals to this great driving song. Crow's back catalogue consists of numerous tracks that could have made this list but the title of this one just swayed it for me!
I'm going to take flak for this! I'll admit it's a guilty pleasure but in my defense the tune was originally written as a folk tune before being given the pop makeover and I think it shows! Not convinced? I'll move on quickly...
Have I now earned back your respect?! Inspired by a road trip with David Bowie, and loosely based on a poem by Jim Morrison, this one is surely a credible entry? An evocative and moody track with an earworm of a chorus!
So there you have it - the second part of my top Route 66 driving songs. It was a tough task and I'm sure it would be different for everyone - feel free to leave yours in the comments.
Take it easy, Steve
Back in it's heyday, if a business wanted to stand out from the crowd on Route 66 it would need to do something pretty special. If that was a tough task during the day, can you imagine how much more challenging it would have been by night? This is where the neon sign comes in handy!
The neon sign is a nostalgic icon of Route 66. Can you imagine roads, busy with travelers, lined with glowing neon inviting you in? The following businesses have each earned their place on this list for hosting great neon signs on Route 66...
Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket is a restaurant in Willowbrook, Illinois.
A popular stop on Route 66 and with good reason – many glowing online reviews are testament to the quality of the food served here, at this well-frequented Route 66 stop. The building and its classic freestanding neon sign were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
The Munger Moss in Lebanon, Missouri, has been a real icon of old route 66 since the 1940’s and well worth a stop. The Munger Moss’s iconic neon sign was restored in 2010 and is a shining example of the retro neon signs on Route 66.
There are special themed rooms at the Munger Moss and if you’re lucky there’ll be one free on your visit. I was fortunate enough to stay in the Route 66 Room which was adorned with images spanning the whole journey. Read more here.
The Blue Swallow is one of the most well-known and easily recognizable motels along Route 66, largely due to its wonderful neon sign. Built in 1939, the Blue Swallow perfectly encapsulates the classic route 66 feel.
Situated in Tucumcari, New Mexico, the Motel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. Read more here.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, is one of only three surviving “Wigwam Villages” in the US. In the 2006 Pixar film Cars, one of the characters runs a neon-lit motel called the Cozy Cone Motel that is clearly inspired by the Wigwam Motel - except that in the movie each room is a traffic cone!
As if the sight of 15 giant concrete wigwams wasn't enough the whole things is even more eye catching after dark when the lights are switched on.
One of the oldest motels on Route 66, the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri, was built in 1934 and, like many properties in this list, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The landmark neon sign has been standing for over 60 years and is only clearly visible to traffic arriving from the east.
Tepee Curios in Tucumcari, New Mexico, is just a moments walk from the Blue Swallow Motel. Both of which are shining examples of eye-catching neon signs on Route 66.
Formerly a gas station, the building is now home to a fantastic curio shop selling a great selection of Route 66 souvenirs. The unusual design of the building sees a large concrete wigwam fused to tit's front wall!
The neon sign at the Rest Haven Court in Springfield, Missouri, is a favorite for Route 66 photographers, and for good reason. The sign displays a range of colored neon and is very well maintained.
It was this sign that inspired the owner of the Munger Moss at the time to adapt the design for his own motel - the two are notably similar.
The Dog House Drive In has been serving burgers, hot dogs and tater tots to Route 66 travelers for over 60 years. The neon sign is one of a kind with a dog happily chomping on a string of sausages - how do we know he's happy? His tail wags in delight!
In recent times the Dog House has gained wider exposure due to being a filming location for AMC TV productions Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
The Hill Top is a traditional "mom and pop" motel in Kingman, Arizona that opened in 1954. Rooms are basic but priced accordingly, while the full neon sign proclaims that the Hill Top Motel has the "Best View in Kingman".
Waylan's Ku-Ku Burger in Miami, Oklahoma, certainly knows how to grab your attention. The building itself is modeled on a giant cuckoo clock, with a giant yellow cuckoo protruding from the front! And then of course you have the fantastic neon sign that draws in business after dark.
Located just off Route 66, this restaurant remains the only surviving location of an original fast food drive-in chain from the 1960s. Believe it or not, there used to be close to 200 Ku-Ku’s in the US. Read more here.
Route 66 is the selfie-takers dream; jam-packed with weird and wonderful sights, gorgeous scenery, and iconic landmarks. There are some sights in particular that are just so iconic and representative of the Route 66 experience that it's almost impossible to pass them by without bringing out the camera. This list is about those sights - the sights that you ask your spouse/friend/child to stand alongside for a quick pic!
To qualify for this list I took into account just how often these images appear in people's Route 66 photograph collections, and their cultural relevance to the Route 66 experience.
Presented here, in my humble opinion, are ten of the most essential Route 66 photo opportunities...
Your journey starts here! Situated on East Adams Street in Chicago, this sign must be one of the most photographed street signs in the US. You'll often see groups or individuals posed alongside this sign just before setting out on their adventure.
If you start your journey at the official eastern terminus, Lake Shore Drive and Jackson Blvd, then you may just do some drive-by photography as you scoot past. If you're able to stop and get out of your vehicle you could do far worse than to stroll over to Lou Mitchell's - a restaurant that's been serving Route 66 travelers for many years, earning it's nickname "the first stop on the Mother Road.”
For many newcomers to the road they may have been first introduced to Route 66 by the Pixar movie "Cars", and for that reason "Tow Tater" had to make this list. "Cars" merchandise is to be found in many spots along the route, but only here will you find the real-life inspiration for the character of "Tow Mater".
Tow Tater is based at Cars on the Route in Galena, Kansas, along with his friends! Cars on the Route sell sandwiches, snacks, antiques, and Route 66 and “Cars” memorabilia, including several made by local craftspeople and artists.
This iconic sign was the culmination of miles of roadside markings informing you that you're headed towards the Jack Rabbit Trading Post in Joseph City, Arizona. The trading post is from the glory days of Route 66 and is still popular today.
This isn't the only photo opportunity that you'll find here - there is also the giant-sized fibre-glass jack rabbit that allows your subject/victim to jump on top for a quick snap!
You're halfway there! Situated at the geo-mathematical midpoint of Route 66, a well-photographed sign proudly states it’s position as being exactly 1,139 miles from both Los Angeles and Chicago.
If you are traveling East to West the Midpoint sign will be on your right, directly opposite the Midpoint Cafe - a wonderful place to stop for a bite to eat and to refresh yourself for the second half of your journey.
Not the official end of historical Route 66 but a great photo op to say "I made it"! As with the sign at the start of the route, this is frequently to be seen surrounded by happy travelers trying to get that perfect pic.
Head to Santa Monica Pier for this great photo op.
Standin' on the Corner Park opened in 1999 and commemorates the song "Take It Easy", written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, and, most famously, recorded by the Eagles.
The song includes the verse "Well, I'm a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see". Now, you too can stand on the corner give your best rock and roll pose!
From left to right you've got Tall Paul, the Gemini Giant and the Lauterbach Tire Man...
These characters were 3 of many "giants" that were once used by businesses for promotional purposes. They are now icons of Route 66 in they're own right and these 3 are all found in Illinois. Tall Paul is located alongside Route 66 in Atlanta and cannot be missed as you drive past. The Gemini Giant stands alongside the Launching Pad Drive-In in Wilmington and also can't be missed. The Lauterbach Tire Man is found outside Lauterbach Tires on Wabash Avenue in Springfield.
This smiling chap is ready to welcome visitors all year round. He's been given a lick of paint to spruce him up and is a fun stop in Catoosa Oklahoma.
The Blue Whale was originally a play object attached to an outdoor swimming pool. Although the pool is no longer in use there is a picnic area for visitors.
10 Cadillac's buried nose-down in the dirt - in most places this would be a bizarre sight but on Route 66 it just seems to fit in perfectly!
An art installation in Amarillo, Texas, since 1974, Cadillac Ranch has become a popular spot for roadside photography due to it's unique nature - visitors are allowed to spray the cars with their own messages. Although Cadillac Ranch is visible from the road it requires just a short walk through the field on which it’s built for a closer look.
The Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza is a new addition to the route but has made this list for it's historical and cultural significance. Cyrus Avery is often dubbed as the "Father of Route 66" and is located on Southwest Boulevard at Riverside Drive in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The plaza is a great place to pull over and stretch your legs whilst also making for many excellent photo opportunities. Hop on board Will Rogers' car or pose with the landrun horse and wagon!