Route 66

If you’re looking for great displays of neon signs, mom-and-pop motels in the middle of nowhere, or kitschy Americana, do as the song says and “get your kicks on Route 66.”

Get Your Kicks

If you ever plan to motor west
Travel my way, that’s the highway that’s the best
Get your kicks on Route 66.
It winds from Chicago to L.A.
More than 2,000 miles all the way
Get your kicks on Route 66
Now you go through St. Looey, Joplin, Missouri
And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You’ll see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona, don’t forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino.
Won’t you get hip to this timely tip:
When you make that California trip
Get your kicks on Route 66.
Get your kicks on Route 66.

—Bobby Troup

One of the most popular road songs ever written, and a prime force behind the international popularity of Route 66, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” was penned by jazz musician Bobby Troup in 1946 while he was driving west to seek fame and fortune in Los Angeles. Troup consistently credited his former wife Cynthia, with whom he was traveling, for the half dozen words of the title and refrain. The rest of the song simply rattled off the rhyming place-names along the way, but despite its apparent simplicity, it caught the ear of Nat King Cole, who made it into a hit record and also established the pronunciation as “root” rather than “rout,” as repeated in later renditions by everyone from Bob Wills to the Rolling Stones.

If you haven’t heard the song for a while, there’s a jazzy version by Bobby Troup himself, along with some lively Route 66-related songs, on the compilation CD, The Songs of Route 66—Music from the All-American Highway, available at souvenir stores en route.