Music of the Road Gone By

imageLater this year, my daughter and I will be on a road-trip. That used to mean that we would have to plan the music, but that’s no longer a chore. The car is iPod ready and we both have iPod/iPhone collections of music. Faith has about 4 million songs and I have 25. I do have some that she doesn’t, including the theme song from Patton and Eric Clapton’s cover of Robert Johnson’s “They’re Red Hot” which (video) looks to be more fun than musicians should have.

I remember when road trips were a constant struggle to tune the AM radio in search of a station with decent music or if we were lucky, the Pirates game. Fortunately, the airwaves weren’t that crowded and KDKA had the power (it seemed) to reach halfway around the world. Then, sometime in the late 60’s, my father bought an 8-Track player for the car. Suddenly we had music. Our own music. Music that we could carry with us and control. 8-Track wasn’t the best quality sound, but it was way better than an AM radio signal drifting in and out of the static as we traveled from western PA to central Virginia.

On the first vacation drive with that 8-Track player, my dad decided that we would alternate choices between our favorite tapes. Dad cheated by bringing a 90-minute tape – “The Patsy Cline Story” which may have started my love affair with country music (I still sometimes get “Walkin’ After Midnight” stuck in my head). I had two Neil Diamond tapes that I had picked up in a bargain bin, the album with “Cherry Cherry and “Brother Loves Traveling Salvation Show.” Mom had some musicals. Dad also had a 90-minute country / bluegrass mix-tape a friend had made for him.

I was still listening to 8-track tapes when I moved from NY to Seattle in 1977. Although cassette tapes had started to rule the world of portable music, I stuck with 8-Tracks until I got rid of my Pontiac Catalina in 1979. Auto tape players were expensive, time consuming to install and if you switched formats, you had to replace your music.

Trust me, if you’re driving across Nebraska, you don’t care about
the form-factor of the music, you just crank it up to keep you awake.

Four years later, as I moved back east, driving across Canada and the Canadian version of Nebraska, the car was a 1979 Triumph Spitfire, the media was cassettes and 70’s rock was the music of choice.

Cassettes piled up in the 80’s and coexisted imagealongside my CD’s through the 90’s because I had a cassette player in my truck and I had that truck for over 10 years. Pickup trucks are made for country music. I had lots of country music mix-tapes and country favorites like Highway 101 Greatest hits. On the road trip through Washington State that my daughter wrote about, Faith and I listened to that tape so many times as we tried to put the songs in order of the relationship that must have inspired them. The worst mistake ever was when that band’s founder, Paulette Carlson got all cocky and decided to start her lackluster solo career. I guess that happens a lot in music.

A couple of years later, Faith and I had a music malfunction and the worst road trip as far as music was concerned. We drove along the coast from San Francisco to Portland, OR. We toured around and bombed back down I-5. Faith was in charge of music and had brought a bunch of CDs. Unfortunately; the rental car had a Cassette deck. She had precisely 1 cassette. We listened to Fleetwood Mac “Greatest Hits” 5,000 times.

Two years ago, Faith and I teamed up for another 1,500 mile plus road trip, this time on a loop from Connecticut through Gettysburg and Pittsburgh. We had CDs, a CD player an iPod ready car and devices galore. Music had ceased to be an issue. In fact, while heading home through the middle of Pennsylvania, I added to our playlist when I purchased John Lennon’s “Imagine” on my iPhone. The only bad part about that purchase was discovering that Faith likes “Oh Yoko!

These days, cars have CD/MP3 players, are iPod/device at batcand Pandora ready. My car came with satellite radio, but I prefer my music and I let that contract lapse. I still have an eclectic mix of country music, rock and soft rock CDs to augment the 25 songs on my iPod Nano. One of the things I like the best though is listening to the Pirates game, on KDKA via MLB At Bat on my iPhone. When my brother and I moved my mother from Pittsburgh to Iowa last year, we listened to one of those ball games in the rental truck. Just like old times, only without the static.

Do you have some memorable road trips or favorite traveling music?

47 thoughts on “Music of the Road Gone By

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  1. Pictures – The music is still an eclectic mix, but it’s easier to organize and move around. The image in the middle is the playlist of Highway 101’s Greatest Hits and the bottom is the screen shot of MLB At Bat.

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  2. Van Morrison (Brown Eyed Girl). If that song comes on while I am driving, I am one happy camper. :) Been traveling a lot pulling our camper behind lately. Making wonderful memories!! Great post!! :D

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    1. Brown Eyed Girl is one of my favorite songs ever. It’s been on every mix-tape dating back to the ones on reel-to-reel. The music and the memories get tied together. Thanks Skye.

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  3. Gosh, I feel like I’ve been on a road trip after reading this! Great music and road trip triggers!

    Everything from Patsy Cline to Fleetwood Mac to Neil Diamond goes in our car with us! We also like Lorena McKennett (Celtic) and Aaron Neville. We have the capability of playing from my I-phone, but it’s just as easy for me to grab the box of CDs – the covers and leaflets get reviewed every time by whichever of us is the “navigator” which usually brings back memories of the last road trip!

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    1. Thanks! Your comment reminds me of one story that didn’t make it into this post. On the way to Iowa, my brother found a CD sleeve with a bunch of songs listed that he liked. Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of mixing the sleeves and the CDs. The CD he wanted to listen to was back in Connecticut in my car’s player. I like the part about the navigator having the responsibility for music – it’s true.

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  4. I had a cassette of Navaho chants that I used to play continuously when we’d drive through Arizona —- used to drive my wife nuts .
    A friend of mine has had a Neil Diamond cassette stuck in her car’s player for three or four years now . I think she’s got it memorized note by note by now .

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    1. Oh, some desert bird would be decorating his nest with that tape. I’ve been known to leave the same CD in my player for months at a time, but I don’t think any has lasted for a year. Although, I like Neil Diamond, so… Thanks!

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  5. Dan, How about driving back from our visit to UVA? About an hour outside of Pittsburgh, one o’clock in the morning and both of us about three quarters asleep? But there is our Humble Pie Smok’in tape! Woke us up and got us all the way home.

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    1. That is one of the classic road trips Paul. Arriving at my Aunt’s house at dark o’clock and having her serve us warm homemade pie is the part I remember most. All that trouble/fun to get accepted at a school neither of us chose to attend.

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  6. Oh, and I have to agree, the MLB app is awesome. Baseball on radio is the soundtrack of the summer, and while I love the Red Sox, it is even better to listen to the Pirates on KDKA.

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  7. I am not much of a car traveler, but I travel by trains and buses. I have my music on my smartphone so I am always tuned in. I have different playlists so that makes it easier depending on my mood. Great post Dan.

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    1. Thanks! You bring up an aspect of road-trip-music that I neglected. I guess it was the Sony Walkman that ushered in the era of personal music. Well, back in the 60’s, transistor radios with their signature (and very uncomfortable) earpiece could be personal, as long as you could tune in a station. It doesn’t matter how you travel. Enjoying some music, capturing some of the sights and creating the memories is what it’s all about. I know you understand that, your travel blog shows that for certain.

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  8. For a long road trip, I love to put my iPod on shuffle, but I really love listening to the radio. I’m not talking SIrius or XM or whatever, but the radio. Back and forth to Louisiana – 50 round trips?, dunno, a lot – I always enjoy getting outside of the big city broadcast area and getting into the smaller stations. Flipping from country to alt to rock to oldies to “today’s hits” as static or commercials creep in keeps me awake — and I love hearing 80s country on the radio. There’s something about the randomness of not knowing what’s coming next that I really like. For a good 10 years, there was a stretch south of Chattanooga into Tuscaloosa where you could catch 2 country stations and 2 Jesus stations; imitating the cadence of a southern preacher in full roar for an hour or so kept me awake on quite a few drives.

    And, anytime you’re driving and Low Rider kicks on out of nowhere . . . that’s a great thing.

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    1. Sounds of the South! I love it. My daughter blames country music for one of her tickets. The right/wrong song came on and shortly thereafter so did the blue lights. She was heading from Nashville to Iowa. Thanks for dropping by.

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  9. Road trips and music go together. Absolutely inseparable. Especially maybe when the scenery isn’t enough to feed the conversation. I still have lots of CDs and I annoy everyone with my collection of American, British and French rock (yes, French rock does exist!). My husband has XM radio in the car we use when we drive cross country, so I try to switch to the 70s when I have had enough Elvis Presley and classical music. When our children traveled with us before iPod time, they recorded some mixed CDS and I liked that. Year after year it has been more everyone listening to their own music. Except my husband and I who still favor my CDS and his XM radio. Again music is a must for the road, especially long trips. These trips with your daughter are really cool. My husband has done several with each of our kids. I have mostly done California daytrips with them and lots of music. I always listen to some kind of music when I drive alone. And I sing along!

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    1. Thanks. Singing along is a good idea. French rock? I’m going to have to think about that.

      The trips with my daughter are always fun. We’ve done day trips around New England as a family, but the long rides have been just the two of us.

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      1. I bragged a little about the French rock!
        When I was a teen the best band that could definitely be described as rock was Telephone.
        Now they are very much into rap and although I have a hard time with American rap because the language is still hard to understand, I am comfortable with the French rap.
        Again, music makes it perfect when it comes to driving.

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  10. Back in 1987 I bought a Peugeot 205GT. Fantastic little car but way too fast for me after a long hard day at work so it had to go. However, with it I bought a cassette of “road” music. This introduced me to the Eagles and I still haven’t got them out of my system!

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      1. I came home one night at 8.30 in the family Volvo 740. I went out for fish and chips in the Peigeot and nearly killed myself accelerating down the road. The throttle pressure was the same but the result was VERY different :-)

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  11. Not road music but when I was a currency dealer in the 1980s and suffering a quiet day, I always used to sing California Dreaming out load. That normally got me the volume of abuse that you would expect from a trading room!

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    1. Imagining a road trip with four kids is hard enough for me. I have to go back to my childhood and even then, there were only two of us. Did you mix that tape in on occasion of did it loop for the whole trip?

      Thanks for your comments today. Although, now I have California Dreaming stuck in my head ;)

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    1. We had the complete collection of Wee Sing tapes. Some were mildly religious but most were stories and fairy tales. Including my favorite:

      As I was going to St. Ives,
      I met a man with seven wives,
      Each wife had seven sacks,
      Each sack had seven cats,
      Each cat had seven kits:
      Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
      How many were there going to St. Ives?

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  12. Hello Dan,

    I’d be a liar if I said this didn’t arouse that desire in me to go on a road trip myself. It’s been a very long time I’d the pleasure – that was with my uncle. He’s late, though.

    For my fav collection from the oldies … Well, I may be listing some songs that aren’t western (because of my culture and origin), but then, I believe some of the western might ring a bell. Here is my list: Don Williams, Jimmy Reeves, Abba.

    Thanks for commenting on my post. I was composing this when you dropped by. Glad to follow you too.

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    1. Thanks for the follow and the comment. The best part of road trips are the memories. My father introduced me to Don Williams and Jimmy Reeves. As for Abba, well, I have owned some of their music but I don’t think it ever made it to the car. Maybe now that I can pick one or two songs for a playlist :)

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  13. I don’t do much driving (long distance) these days, Dan. And when I did, I had to rely on the radio. Going through mountains was tough because I couldn’t get any stations, just static. Yep, things have definitely changed. LOL Love, Amy

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    1. Thanks for visiting and for taking in a few attractions. The blog does tend to be a little random so any one post isn’t a good indicator of what they will all be like. I also visited yours, and I will be doing that on a regular basis too. That’s what I love about this community.

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