Trucking is often an unforgiving profession: long hours of tedium in an 18 wheeler, propped up in a seat that is destined to ruin your back; not to mention the miles of bad road with nothing to see. It's no wonder that an entire sub-genre of country music evolved over time to help truckers tell their stories and gain a little recognition. Many of the songs bemoan being away from home and their families, while others tell of never-ending highways in a way that paints truckers as modern-day cowboys.
The first country tunes about trucking date all the way back to at least the '50s, but it wasn't until the '60s that the American trucker sub-genre started to come into its own. Some of country music's most famous stars have made contributions to the subgenre, while others (like The Road Hammers) seem to do nothing but sing about trucking.
Here are the 10 best trucking songs of all time to add to your playlist.
12. "Hammer Going Down," Chris Knight
In this song written for the movie Black Dog, Knight's truck driver is falling for a girl in Louisville and doing all he can to get back to her. Knight practically punches the words of this song, and you can hear the sound of the rig shifting at the end of the chorus with a brief drum hit.
The song is urgent and demanding, making it a dark counterpart to "Six Days on the Road."
11. "Truck Driving Man," Terry Fell
Coffee and a jukebox: two things that keep a truck driver going. Fell originally released this fast-paced, harmonica-heavy track in 1954. Buck Owens fills it out a bit, trading the harmonica for a guitar, and drops the fourth verse.
10. "Girl on the Billboard," Del Reeves
"Who is the girl wearing nothing but a smile and a towel in the picture on the billboard in the field by the big old highway?" asks Reeves without pausing to take a breath. Reeves knows enough to slow down when he's passing the billboard, as she often causes drivers to crash. After passing the picture for days on end, Reeves finally stops and asks the painter who she is. It's more than one of the best trucker songs: it's a great song about unrequited lust.
9. "Phantom 309," Red Sovine
This is a haunting tune in which the singer is picked up by Big Joe and his rig the Phantom 309. Big Joe drives the hitchhiker through the night before dropping him off at a rest stop in the morning with some spare change to buy coffee. As he's getting his coffee, the singer is told that Big Joe died years before, having crashed while trying to avoid a school bus full of children.
Sovine also sang such trucker odes as "Big Mack," "Giddy Up Go" and "Teddy Bear."
8. A Tombstone Every Mile, Dick Curless
One of the most haunting trucker songs to impact the mainstream (it reached country's Top 5 in 1965) tells the legend of Haynesville Woods: an area in northern Maine infamous for truck driving accidents. Johnny Cash told a similar story with a 1989's "Monteagle Mountain," which is about those two unnerving stretches on Interstate 24 between Nashville and Chattanooga.
7. "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses," Kathy Mattea
While most truck driving songs deal with the risks of the road or poke fun at truckers in a good-natured sort of way, one of Mattea's signature songs looks at drivers as faithful spouses with a longing to comfortably retire.
6. "Me & Bobby McGee," Roger Miller
When Miller picks Bobby up on the side of the highway, it will change his life as a trucker forever. Together they share stories and beer as they head towards California. However, because no truck driving song can ever end happy, Bobby leaves him by the end of the song, preferring to settle down than spend the rest of her life on the road.
5. "White Line Fever," Merle Haggard
A movie of the same name inspired Haggard's tragic tale of a truck driving man who sees his death approaching but can't quit. The song tells the story of a working man who has never known anything but the lines on the highway, and though he no longer gets any satisfaction from driving, he doesn't know how to quit it.
4. "Convoy," C.W. McCall
Sure, it's a novelty song, but McCall talk-sang his way to a crossover hit in 1975 amid America's CB radio craze. It later inspired a 1978 movie which stars Kris Kristofferson.
McCall's original version topped Billboard's country and all-genre Hot 100 charts. It also had a global appeal, reaching No. 1 in Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
3. "Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)," Alabama
This Dave Loggins original became Alabama's 12th consecutive No. 1 single when it reached the top of the charts in 1984.
In its lyrics, a trucker is coming home to his wife and kids when his rig jackknifes in a blizzard. However, at the end of the song, the family receives a call from the trucker, saying he'll be home, and tells them to keep rolling on.
It was previously recorded by Dolly Parton's brother, Randy.
2. "Six Days on the Road," Dave Dudley
Though it wasn't the first truck driving song, "Six Days" is perhaps the one that launched the sub-genre. It helped solidify country's reputation as music for the working man. All of the other songs on this list owe credit to Dudley's 1963 hit. Sawyer Brown later revitalized the song in the '90s, riding it to the Top 20.
Dudley brought us a number of memorable trucker songs, including "Truck Drivin' Son of a Gun."
1. "East Bound and Down," Jerry Reed
If this isn't the best long-haul truck driver song of all time, Reed will get right up out of his grave to convince you it is.
Written and recorded for the blockbuster movie Smokey and the Bandit, the song has since taken on a life of its own. It spent 16 weeks on the Billboard country charts back in 1977, peaking at No. 2.
Honorable mentions: "On The Road Again" by Willie Nelson, "I've Been Everywhere" by Johnny Cash, "Big Wheels in the Moonlight" by Dan Seals, "Asphalt Cowboy" by Jason Aldean, "This is How We Roll" by Florida Georgia Line, "Prisoner of the Highway" by Ronnie Milsap, "Highway Junkie" by Randy Travis, "Brothers of the Highway" by Tony Justice, "Roll On Big Mama" by Joe Stampley, "Give Me 40 Acres" by the Willis Brothers and "Hello, I'm a Truck" by Red Simpson
This article was prevously published on October 1, 2020.
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