For the record: Music and truck driving make a good mix

Since vinyl records began spinning on radio turntables, music and truck driving have made a favorable combination.

The distinct music genre made its appearance as an outcropping of honky-tonk music, which entered its golden age with the widespread popularity of country artists such as Webb Pierce, Hank Locklin, Lefty Frizzell, Faron Young, George Jones, and Hank Williams in the 1940s and ’50s. Stars like Dave Dudley and Red Sovine are considered the unrivaled kings of trucker music, each making a huge impact in the trucker-song heyday of the 1960s and ’70s.

Dudley’s signature hit, “Six Days on the Road,” climbed the charts in 1963, selling over a million copies, and is regarded as the pinnacle of truck-driving songs. In Dudley’s original version, the tune contained a controversial line in the lyrics that said, “…I’m taking little white pills and my eyes are open wide…”—a reference to stimulants that some truckers use to stay awake on long hauls, with the goal always to make delivery on time or else risk getting their pay docked. Sleep as the preferred option never really factors into the equation, because of the potential loss of money. A later remake of the song replaced those provocative lyrics with a reference to looking at “the little white lines” on the road. Other hits by Dudley involving truck-driving themes included “Truck Drivin’ Son-of-a-Gun” and “Trucker’s Prayer,” among others.

Sovine began his long career in country music in the 1940s, but it wasn’t until the mid-1960s that he found his niche with a string of trucker hits, led by “Giddy-Up-Go” (1965), which told of a father-son reunion at a truck stop. His biggest hit may have been “Teddy Bear,” released in 1976, which related the mournful tale of a disabled child’s CB-radio relationship with caring truckers after his dad—a trucker—was killed in a highway accident. Sovine also issued the eerie and ghostly “Phantom 309” in 1967, which tells of a hitch-hiker given a lift by “Big Joe,” a tractor-trailer driver who turns out to have died in his rig in an accident 10 years before while trying to avoid a school bus full of children.

Here are some other major hit records involving truckers or the highway/driving theme:

“Convoy” by C.W. McCall (1975).  The truck driver’s rebellion depicted in this No. 1 pop- and country-chart hit from 1975 was the inspiration for the Sam Peckinpah film of the same name, released later the same decade. Its dramatization of CB chatter between characters “Rubber Duck” and Pig Pen” helped spur on the pop CB craze of that era.

“East Bound and Down” by Jerry Reed (1977). Reed’s classic also became part of the soundtrack to Smokey and the Bandit.

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