40 Truckin’ Songs
This September, The 9513 is saluting one of our favorite topics: truckin’. We had a list long as Route 66, but after much debate, narrowed it down to 40 artists and 40 songs.
Though there is a fair amount of women truck drivers, this list is Y chromosome heavy. You won’t find too many ballads on here, either; these tracks, peppered with CB slang, chug along with the rhythm of the road. Make a copy of this playlist for your next roadtrip; you may not be a trucker, but this’ll go a long way towards making you feel like one.
- 40. “CB Song” – Th’ Legendary Shack*Shakers
JD Wilkes and the boys ask that all important question: “Little honey bunny/Tell me what’s your 20?” Let’s hope he’s not directing his comments toward Dale Watson’s truckin’ queen.
- 39. “18 Days and 18 Wheels” – Gin Palace Jesters
Spending your days on the road leaves a lot of time for your mind to wander. That’s not always a good thing, as Chicago’s honkytonk fools realize here.
- 38. “Diesel on My Tail” – Mark Gamsjager and the Lustre Kings
With a semi tailing him, the rockabilly singer anxiously wonders “Can this compact take the impact?” Another question: how the heck does Gamsjager fit his pompadour and giant Gretsch guitar into a compact?
- 37. “Semi-Crazy” – Junior Brown
He’s a “slap-happy, gear-jamming, coffee-drinking, truck-driving fool.” Maybe you do have to be half crazy to do that day in and day out. We’ll take Brown’s word for it.
- 36. “18 Wheeler Fever” – Scott H. Biram
In 2003, Biram was hit head on by a semi going 75mph. He was back performing—in a wheelchair and hooked up to IVs, though missing a chunk of his intestines—a month later. Thanks to a truck, he’s got more metal in him than C-3PO, but Biram’s still singing about 18 wheelers and the open road.
- 35. “Independent Trucker” – Brooks & Dunn
This trucker doesn’t answer to a boss. He’s a loner, Dottie, a rebel who was allegedly conceived at a big rig dealership. Chrome and mudflaps with naked girls on them are big time aphrodisiacs, you know.
- 34. “Chicken Truck” – John Anderson
Getting stuck behind a chicken truck is hell on the olfactory system, not to mention your windshield. Better top off the wiper fluid at the next stop.
- 33. “Give Me the Highway” – Vince Gill
Gill’s accompanied by the always excellent Del McCoury Band on this track from These Days. He loves those white lines and neon signs. Alas, women are always trying to tie this rambler down, and not in the way he’d probably prefer.
- 32. “Truck Driving Man” – Don Walser
Yodeling Texan Don Walser led quite the interesting life. Although he didn’t focus entirely on his music career until after his 60th birthday, he made enough good music for two lifetimes. Here he tackles the immensely popular Terry Fell tune, which has been covered by The International Submarine Band, Ernest Tubb, David Allan Coe, and many others.
- 31. “Diesel Diesel Diesel” – Jim Lauderdale
Lauderdale’s manning the only lonesome diesel on the highway. Maybe that’s why it feels like “the truck is driving [him].” Or he’s suffering from a crippling case of road psychosis.
- 30. “Roll Truck Roll” – Red Simpson
Several of the songs on this list revolve around two ideas: truckers itching to get home, and truckers itching to get back on the road. “Roll Truck Roll” falls in the category of the former.
- 29. “Brothers of the Highway” – George Strait
America turns on 18 wheels, says King George, and who would disagree? Though his description of truckers as “children of the wind” is a little soppy, “Brothers” is typical solid Strait.
- 28. “The Dying Truckdriver” – Delmore Brothers
If you haven’t heard Alton and Rabon’s harmonies, here’s a good place to start, as a truck driver meets a melodramatic, PSA-worthy end. Ry Cooder has a song with the same title, only his dying trucker is felled by a diner’s meatloaf special.
- 27. “My Big Truck Drivin’ Man” – Kitty Wells
She’s a truckstop waitress resisting temptation ‘til her pinball wizard trucker comes back home. This song went to #35 in 1968, making it Wells’ last Top 40 hit.
- 26. “Highway Kind” – Moot Davis
Jersey boy Davis sure knows his country music, as evidenced on this Haggardesque track from his self-titled, Pete Anderson produced debut album.
- 25. “Truck Stop Girl” – Kelly Willis
This Little Feat song from 1971 is all about a trucker left starry-eyed by a gal “with her hair piled up high.” Alas, he’s too distracted to properly tighten down his load before driving off. Deadness ensues.
- 24. “Semi Truck” – Bill Kirchen & Too Much Fun
Dieselbilly deity Bill Kirchen has a broken heart and his rig won’t start. What a waste of those three bennies he took.
- 23. “Diesel Drivin’ Daddy” – Aaron Watson
This trucker never leaves home without a few things to get him through his haul: the Bible, his log book, and, of course, “The Best of Dale Watson on CD.” Really, that’s all your average Joe or Jane needs for life in general.
- 22. “Widow Maker” – Jimmy Martin
Billy Mack is making the last run of his career Like a movie cop one day away from retirement, this is a sign that Something Bad will happen to ol’Billy. That something occurs when he sacrifices his truck and his life to save other drivers.
- 21. “Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)” – Alabama
Here’s another in a long line of Alabama #1s. “Roll On” was written by Dave “Please Come to Boston” Loggins, but it was the harmonies of this longhaired quartet that made it successful.
- 20. “Give Me 40 Acres (To Turn this Rig Around)” – Willis Brothers
Caught going the wrong direction down a one way street in Boston, a trucker lays the line about 40 acres on the cop who pulled him over. This dude is the worst trucker ever. He’s lucky this song is so great.
- 19. “Mother Trucker” – Billy Joe Shaver
A Nashville truck driving school steals a man’s wife away from their daily life of drinking and fighting. But then he writes this truckin’ song on the back of their divorce (pronounced “dee-vorss” in Shaverese) papers, so not all is lost.
- 18. “Highway Bound” – Wayne Hancock
If anyone knows about life on the highway, it’s road warrior Wayne Hancock. On this sleepy little tune from Tulsa, he sings “the road is [his] wife.”
- 17. “The Ballad of Danger Dave and Double Trouble” – Aaron Tippin
Tippin recently released In Overdrive, a high energy album full of trucking songs which he dedicated to Jerry Reed. This song is enough to make me wish I had a cool trucker nickname.
- 16. “Stone Cold Fingers” – Leland Martin
He’s missed out on his children’s lives, but he won’t stop driving until they have to pry his icy fingers from the steering wheel. “They” should probably check for a pulse too, because this might just be a case of an overactive reefer trailer.
- 15. “Big Wheels in the Moonlight” – Dan Seals
This fella’s got a ramblin’ heart; even with “kids and a wife, and a regular job,” he still spends his nights dreaming about chrome and diesel. One of Seals’ most enduring songs, “Big Wheels” topped the charts in ’88. The video—directed by Neil Abramson—is pretty cool too.
- 14. “Highway Junkie” – Randy Travis
This addict needs a different kind of white line to keep him sane and his ex off his mind. A whole bunch of folks have covered this one, but around here we’re partial to Travis’ version. And Chris Knight’s. And…
- 13. “Truck Driver’s Blues” – Cliff Bruner
Ted Daffan wrote this song, which fiddler Bruner and his western swing band The Texas Wanderers (which included the great Moon Mullican on the piano and vocals), made a hit in the late 1930s.
- 12. “18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses” – Kathy Mattea
After a lifetime on the road, trucker Charlie (and his new gold watch) wants only one thing: to hit the road in a motorhome with the woman he loves by his side. If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.
11. “Truckin’ Man” – Dale Watson
Watson sure is a fan of truckin'; he’s got two albums devoted to this very subject, plus a heaping fistful of tracks on his non-truckin’ releases. Really, you could put any of his trucker songs in this slot. After all, it’s Dale Watson.
- 10. “Girl on the Billboard” – Del Reeves
The late Del Reeves is one cool dude: he was named after FDR, after all. It’s near impossible to pick just one of his songs for the list, but we’ve got a soft spot for this ’65 song about the girl wearing nothing but a smile and a towel in the picture on the billboard in the field near the big ol’ highway.
- 9. “Drivin’ My Life Away” – Eddie Rabbitt
Don’t even pretend that you aren’t singing this 1980 hit at your desk right now. “Drivin’ My Life Away” was one of Rabbitt’s #1s and remains one of his best known songs. Bobby Osborne also did a nifty grassy cover on his most recent album Bluegrass and Beyond.
- 8. “East Bound and Down” – Jerry Reed
1977 was a great year for movie theme songs. First, of course, is John Williams’ classic from Star Wars, and then there’s “East Bound and Down” from Smokey and the Bandit. They just don’t make ‘em like they used to.
- 7. “White Line Fever” – Merle Haggard
No, it’s not about coke; for that, give a listen to Duran Duran’s “White Lines.” The Hag sure makes trucking—described here as a “sickness born down deep within [his] soul”—sound awful, though Merle himself has rarely sounded better.
- 6. “Looking at the World Through a Windshield” – Son Volt
Okay, so it’s probably cheating to select a cover instead of the original, but this version is pretty cool. If alt-country isn’t your thing, there’s always recordings by Del Reeves, Ferlin Husky, and Bill Kirchen to sink your teeth into.
- 5. “Teddy Bear” – Red Sovine
Sovine had about 10 songs fighting for placement on this month’s list (give a listen to “Phantom 309”), but we narrowed it down to one. “Teddy Bear,” about a disabled boy talking on his dead drivin’ daddy’s CB radio is like Chicken Soup for the Trucker’s Soul. Don’t even try to blame those watery eyes on allergies.
4. “A Tombstone Every Mile” – Dick Curless
This song is an excellent combination of “Miller’s Cave” and Ice Road Truckers, except it’s set in Maine and there’s a lot more dead people—enough to put a marker at every mile if they ever found the bodies. God help the man who gets lost in Hainesville Woods.
3. “Will There Be Big Rigs in Heaven” – Buck Owens & His Buckaroos
Who wouldn’t want to drive the heavenly skies in the cab of a shiny new Saint Peterbilt? In the afterlife, you never have to squeegee bug guts off your windshield! Unless you’re in hell, in which case the bugs squeegee you for eternity.
- 2. “Convoy” – C.W. McCall
In late December, 1975, this song full of CB slang went to #1 thanks to the truckin’ craze sweeping the nation in the ‘70s. There’s also a movie based on “Convoy,” starring Kris Kristofferson as Rubber Duck and directed by Sam Peckinpah.
- 1. “Six Days on the Road” – Dave Dudley
Dave Dudley’s another singer who had a spate of trucker songs up for consideration on the playlist. But this is his most famous work, and the epitome of the trucker song.