SONG: (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66
ARTIST: The Nat King Cole Trio
Listen to it here:
(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 was written in 1946 by songwriter Bobby Troup on a road trip from Pennsylvania to California. Troup loaded his wife in their 1941 Buick and wrote the song during their 10 day trip, referring to stops along the way. The only city mentioned in the song that is not actually on Route 66 was Winona, a small town east of Flagstaff and was used because it rhymes with Arizona. The song was first recorded by Nat King Cole and his trio in 1946 and became a hit on the R&B Billboard chart. The song has been covered many times, by the likes of Bing Crosby, Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode, John Mayer and every high school vocal jazz group in North America.
Nathaniel Adams Cole was born in Montgomery, Alabama on March 17, 1919. Nat grew up in the church, with his father becoming a Baptist minister when he moved the family to Chicago. The church organist was Nat’s mom, who taught him how to play the organ starting at age 4. He started formal lessons at 12, learning everything from gospel to classical. As a high schooler, Nat would sneak out of the house to sit outside night clubs and listen to the acts inside. He dropped out of school at 15 and began touring with a sextet, settled with his new bride and joined a big band, then started a trio called the King Cole Swingsters. All this time Nat was a pianist until legend has it a drunken bargoer demanded he sing “Sweet Lorraine”, which he obliged and the song became a hit.
Nat’s star continued to rise through vocal performances in night clubs and on the radio, culminating in 1956 with the debut of the Nat King Cole Show on NBC. The show was groundbreaking as is was the first variety program to be hosted by a person of colour. The show lasted one year, with Cole himself deciding to end it. Tastes began to change with the times and Cole scrapped his ballads for a more rock and roll sound. He recorded a few hits in the 1960s, until he was sidelined by a lung cancer diagnosis in 1964, and passed away in hospital on February 15, 1965.
On Valentine’s Day 1965, Cole and his wife left the hospital to take a drive by the sea. He passed the next day.
Cole injured his back when he was attacked on stage in Birmingham, Alabama. Three men had rushed the stage in an attempt to kidnap him and ended up knocking over his piano bench with him on it. He was also subject to a burning cross on his front lawn when he moved into a swishy all-white neighbourhood in Los Angeles.
This may be an embarrassing thing to admit, but I was unaware that Nat King Cole played piano, let alone was so jazzy! I mostly know him for being a crooner. Anyway, this version is great, I love the trio! Everyone is just chugging along, doing their part, and the band is tight but also relaxed. Nat’s voice is light, clear and smooth, and it sounds like he’s having a good time. Route 66 has been covered no less than a billion times, but I think this is one of the better versions! I remember being a kid and for some reason I really liked this song, and frankly I still do.
You know, I’ve always liked this song, but I’m not sure I’d ever actually heard the Nat King Cole Trio interpretation before, and this relaxed version is great. Nat King Cole has a smooth, kind of treble-y voice (see Kelly’s part of the blog for a better description!), and the trio works really well together. I can’t wait until they mic basses better, but the bass playing is great and Nat King Cole’s piano conversation with himself is a lot of fun! I have to admit, I didn’t know that the Nat King Cole Trio was the original version, and I was way more familiar with the Chuck Berry version, among a whole bunch of others. I like this song, and this version is a fun listen.
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song (include youtube links when possible)
Chuck Berry…the most famous version?
John Mayer’s 21st century rock and roll version
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