Classic Country Rewind: Kathy Mattea’s ‘Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses’

There’s no shortage of great truckin’ songs in country music history. From Jerry Reed’s jaunty “East Bound and Down” to Red Sovine’s cry-in-your-coffee weeper “Teddy Bear,” country music has long celebrated the caffeine-fueled, six-days-on-the-road lifestyle of the American trucker. But the 1988 Kathy Mattea trucker anthem “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” is a different sort. The song tells the story of a trucker named Charlie who, after “30 years of driving up and down the interstate,” is ready to hang up the CB radio for good and spend the rest of his days with his beloved wife.

The music video opens with Mattea meeting Charlie at The Pie Wagon, a diner just off of Nashville’s Music Row. After giving him her autograph, Mattea loads onto the tour bus and launches into the song. Throughout the video we see Mattea and her crew passing by Charlie out on the road until the highway branches off and Mattea waves one final goodbye to the trucker. At the end, Charlie makes it home to his other half, a dozen roses in hand. The song and video are late-80s country at it’s finest.

Mattea first gained notoriety with her 1983 album Walk the Way the Wind Blows. The record included her cover of Nanci Griffith’s “Love at the Five and Dime,” which featured backing vocals by Don Williams and rose to No. 3 on the charts. She earned her first No. 1 with “Goin’ Gone” in 1987. The next year, “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” became a smash success, spending multiple weeks at No. 1. In 1990,  Mattea won a Grammy for best Female Country Vocal for the ballad “Where’ve You Been.” In 2011, she was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

Most recently, Mattea was featured on John Prine’s album of duets, For Better, Or Worse.

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Classic Country Rewind: Kathy Mattea’s ‘Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses’