“That spring  when he [Jack Kerouac] heard Nat King Cole singing the Bobby Troup song ‘Get Your Kicks on Route 66,’ seeing America seemed the greatest kick of all.” (Memory Babe, Gerald Nicosia, 1994, p. 184).
Nat King Cole’s voice was pure silk, smooth and clear, and he possessed a natural grace. He moved from jazz roots to become a huge pop sensation, much to the wrath of jazz fans, and had a hit with “Route 66” in 1946. The song has been recorded by everyone from Bing Crosby to Chuck Berry to the Rolling Stones and many, many more musicians of every conceivable genre, but The Cramps, a CBGB punk band that emerged in New York City in 1976, nailed it. The early Stones sound juvenile; but The Cramps sound like high IQ juvenile delinquents with something new and interesting to say. Their cover is dark and dangerous and rocks from Chicago to LA and back and forth, and kicks big time. (Stones fans, give a comparison listen to Stones versus Cramps.) Hit the road, Jack, and dig this on the way. It quite possibly would have sent Neal Cassady reeling and rolling. Cassady, perpetually in motion exuded energy, muscles, and sweat, so for the man who moves and is on the move, on the road and often on the run, this take would surely have moved and grooved him and whatever automobile he piloted.
And the lyrics (each recording artist changes them a bit) sound like the Adonis of Denver, the slim-hipped Gene Autrey, the young car thief devouring literature at the public library:
Now you go through Saint Looey
and Oklahoma City looks mighty pretty . . .
Nat’s jazz and Bing’s version are somewhat “Main Street of America,” but Bing and the Andrews Sisters swing it, and speaking of swing, swing by the magnificent Manhattan Transfer’s take. Chuck Berry duck walks and talks it (“and I’ll meet you on Route 62”), but The Cramps own it. As Cody Pomeray said, “Yes, that’s right, yes, that’s right, ah hum honey, yes,” (Big Sur, Jack Kerouac, 1962, p. 75), and motivates this listener to jump up, get out, and hit the Mother Road.
You’ll see Amarillo
Gallup, New Mexico
Don’t forget Winona
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino
Check out the Argentine Pappo’s “Ruta 66” YouTube in Spanish. It’s got an easy coolness and hombre dude captures the desert moment with a blonde and red convertible. Apparently, Mr. Pap-po-o-o Napolitano (a cross between rock drummer Marc Bell and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ricky Medlocke?) lived the road life and died in a 2005 motorcycle accident in Buenos Aires.
Sultry Jim Morrison would have done something defiant with “66.” “Van the Man” Morrison R&B’d it. Louis Prima twisted it. Asleep at the Wheel turned out a sweet Austin, Texas, take. Electric Jimi Hendrix would have torched it (“Wild thing, I think you move me”), and the Ramones (1-2-3-4) would have slammed it out of the park. Then in a big collective yawp with the Bard, sing all-together-now, “Punk Rock Your [sic] My Big Crybaby,” and that perhaps would have 86’d it.