40 Truckin’ Songs

Juli Thanki | September 8th, 2009

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.

  • The Legendary Shack Shakers - Cockadoodledon't40. “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.
  • Gin Palace Jesters - Honkytonk Fool39. “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.
  • Mark Gamsjager - Way Out There38. “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?
  • Junior Brown - Semi Crazy37. “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.
  • Scott H. Biram - Graveyard Shift36. “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.
  • Brooks & Dunn - Greatest Hits II35. “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.
  • John Anderson - Greatest Hits34. “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.
  • Vince Gill - These Days33. “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.
  • Rig Rock Deluxe32. “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.
  • Jim Lauderdale - The Other Sessions31. “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.
  • Keep On Truckin': 16 Country Truck Driving Songs30. “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.
  • George Strait - Troubadour29. “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.
  • Delmore Brothers - Hillbilly Boogie Best28. “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.
  • Kitty Wells - Showcase27. “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.
  • Moot Davis - Moot Davis26. “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.
  • Rig Rock Deluxe25. “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.
  • Rig Rock Deluxe24. “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.
  • Aaron Watson - The Honky Tonk Kid23. “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.
  • Jimmy Martin - 20 Greatest Hits22. “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.
  • Alabama - Roll On21. “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.
  • Keep On Truckin': 16 Country Truck Driving Songs20. “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.
  • Rig Rock Deluxe19. “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.
  • Wayne Hancock - Tulsa18. “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.”
  • Aaron Tippin - In Overdrive17. “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.
  • Leland Martin - For Trucker's Only16. “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.
  • Dan Seals - Rage On15. “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.
  • Randy Travis - Full Circle14. “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…
  • Cliff Bruner and His Texas Wanderers13. “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.
  • kathy-mattea12. “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.

  • dale-watson-truckin-man
    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.
  • del-reeves10. “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.
  • eddie-rabbit9. “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.
  • jerry-reed8. “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.
  • merle-haggard7. “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.
  • son-volt6. “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.
  • red-sovine5. “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.

  • dick-curless
    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.

  • buck-owens
    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.
  • c-w-mccall2. “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.
  • dave-dudley1. “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.
  1. Lanibug
    September 8, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Lee Ann Womack – A Man with 18 Wheels

  2. Nicolas
    September 8, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    ^ That’s tirst song I thought of before I clicked on this thread

  3. Bill
    September 8, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Steve Earle – Guitar Town ?

  4. Paul W Dennis
    September 8, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    “Diesel on My Tail” – you should have cited Franklin Delano (Del) Reeves or Jim & Jesse for this song

    Also – how could you overlook “There Ain’t No Easy Miles” by Dave Dudley ??

  5. Juli
    September 8, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    To answer both your questions, I’m trying to strike a balance between listing familiar and essential artists/songs, and ones that some readers might not be aware of, hence the inclusion of acts like Moot Davis or Mark Gamsjager while also trying to limit each artist to one song on the list.

    Of course, this means that some songs get left off or cover versions get included so that it’s not a list composed of, say, 50 great Del Reeves or Dave Dudley trucker songs, which we certainly could have done.

  6. Stewman
    September 8, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Son Volt’s “Windfall” always put me in the all night truck drivin’ mood. Painted a very real picture of that type of scene. Great to see Son Volt on here!

  7. Mayor Jobob
    September 8, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Try to find Paul Brandt’s version of Convoy. It’s so cool.

  8. Michael
    September 8, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Good list. There’s so many. Ronnie Milsap’s “Prisoner of the Highway” is one of my favorite trucking songs.

  9. Rimrock
    September 8, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    What?!?! No White Freightliner Blues?????

  10. Peter
    September 8, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Love that Junior Brown…and Juli while I recognize that people are gonna inundate you with suggestions of what shoulda been included, I’d add my two cents with “Willin’” (Little Feat, Linda Ronstadt and The Roadhammers :)

  11. Rick
    September 8, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    That’s a pretty amazing list. I’ve never heard of a few of those artists before, but that’s not surprising. I was listening to an old 1960′s vintage “Opry Transcription” show on WSM recently and when the Willis Brothers got to the line about “Give me forty sticks of dynamite and I’ll blow this rig to…” one of the brothers started making crazy noises like he was having a total meltdown. Great, wacky stuff!

    One of my favorite more recent truckin’ songs is Jon Bryd singing “Frieightliner Fever” off his fine “Byrd’s Auto Parts” CD. Its a high energy gem that name checks a bunch of the artists (and songs) listed above. I love the line “I’ve got a big black pill so long and round, to a driver it’s a West Coast turnaround…”. A truly inspired truckin’ song.

  12. Rick
    September 8, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Just saw Peter’s new post. As for the song “Willin”, last night I saw L.A.’s top new female led mericana group “Leslie and The Badgers” do an incredible cover version of that song. A lot of Leslie’s own songs are pretty darn good, but when she covers country classics she’s amazing. (Okay, I’ll admit I’m smitten. Leslie looks a lot like actress Isla Fisher and has a sweet, interesting voice and a smile that lights up the room. Leslie definitely has that special something…)

  13. Jon
    September 8, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    I’m with Paul on “Diesel On My Tail,” and I doubt many The9513 readers are as familiar with Jim & Jesse’s catalog as they ought to be; they might not realize, either, that the linked version of Jimmy Martin’s “Widow Maker” is a remake that, while fine, is distinctly inferior to the original Decca record. It’s also too bad that there wasn’t room for Lester Flatt’s sensational “Backing To Birmingham.” And choosing “Convoy” over “Wolf Creek Pass” is just wrong.

  14. BUDDYNOEL
    September 8, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    In ways, trucker music has gone the way of western music. A new generation doesn’t find the long, open road or the cowboy riding herd worthy of their time or entertainment. I used to listen to Joe Stampley being cranked out over 50-thousand watt stations from seven states away during the caffeine-soaked trucker shows of overnight.
    While your selection of trucker songs is ok, I don’t think you understand what made those old songs so popular. It’s all about people who serve us on the highways every day and night but never get any respect, minus an occasional ballad or two of an old-time great.

  15. Joe
    September 8, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    LOVE Prisoner of the Highway. Even Smokey Mountain Rain sorta fits.

  16. Noeller
    September 9, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Woulda loved to have seen some Road Hammers on this list. “I’m A Road Hammer” is a rockin’ country anthem for the Kings of the Road.

  17. Ben Milam
    September 9, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    drive by truckers – 18 wheels of love
    dale watson – exit 109
    fred eaglesmith – water in the fuel

  18. T. Scott
    September 9, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    O.K.,I’ve been lurking for about six months. Now I need to put in my 2 cents.

    (.01) You included Bill Kirchen , but left off all the Commander Cody output.

    (.02) Oh well only 1 cent

    Leon Russel has the best cut on Truck Drivin Man(on Hank Wilson’s Back)

    Interesting note on White Line Fever,it was the rare album cut that country radio played in the 70′s. (from the Live In Muskogee album

  19. badrockandroll
    September 9, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    I guess tonight’s the night that the lurkers come out … I love the compilation “Rig Rock Deluxe”, and was pleased to see so many tracks from it because it is an album that everyone should get. My list would not include the Kelly Willis track from it (normally I like her, but this tune just doesn’t do it for me); it would include either the original, something else from Little Feat, or the Marty Stuart song from “Rig”, which is one of the saddest songs that I have ever heard. But that’s all just quibbles – this is a great website for information and (mostly) respectful debate – thanks for the many hours!

  20. BSJY
    September 10, 2009 at 8:44 am

    And the number one truck drivin’ song has to be:

    Mama Hated Diesels So Bad

    by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen

    When you do the top forty sad sack songs, don’t commit the same crime twice. Make sure you have the Commander Cody classic “Down to Seeds and Stems Again Blues” on your list. That stuff is pure heartache and poetry! (and pot).

  21. T. Scott
    September 10, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    BSJY ……glad there are still a few of us lost in ozone..

  22. Dwayne
    November 26, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Does anyone remember the reversing song?
    I cant remember the real name but im sure norman wisdom sung it!

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