The Cramps’ “Route 66” Is the Best


“That spring [1947] 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).

San Bernadino Rt 66
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
Joplin, Missouri
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
Flagstaff, Arizona
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.

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David S. Wills

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David S. Wills is the founder and editor of Beatdom literary journal and the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs the Weird Cult.He travels a lot and currently lectures in China. He also runs an ESL website. You can read more about and by David at his blog, or on Tumblr.

2 responses to The Cramps’ “Route 66” Is the Best

  1. Very well written. Learned a lot about Route 66 that I never knew before.

  2. hello

    Cramped !”

    Collective book
    Co-editor: Kizmiaz Records & Super Loto Editions

    Cramped ! is an illustrated anthology of the many bootleg recordings of the American band “The Cramps” who made their indelible mark on the history of rock and roll over a period of four decades since their inception at the end of the 1970’s.
    The book reads like a fan book, on one hand proposing an exhaustive list of pirate recordings of the band (including albums, singles, flexes, picture discs, box sets and even postcards), but also involving the participation of illustrators and comic book authors who have been inspired by the bands output over the years.
    The book itself comes in the form of a 45 vinyl and is accompanied by an album comprising covers of some “Cramps” classics by four bands equally inspired by this legendary group. The collection also includes a “Cramps” family tree, detailing the thirty or so musicians who have passed through their ranks.
    Cramped ! then is not only by the fans for the fans but also essential item for all lovers of authentic rock and roll.

    With the contribution of Winshluss (cover), Moolinex, Imius, Syd Dolby, Nicolas Moog & Matthias Lehmann, Pakito Bolino, Mattt Konture, Oudin Ojjo & Janus Ojjo, Vincent Wagnair, Bingo, Laure Del Pino & Olivier Josso, Romain Marsault (family tree).

    Music by Birds Are Alive, Brat Farrar, King Automatic, Magnetix.

    buy @
    see you soon

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